This story is from Cody Hall, a Lakota from the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and former media spokesperson for Red Warrior Camp, as told to Upworthy. It has been edited for content and clarity.

I was there during the siege on sacred ground, when the Dakota Access Pipeline workers came with their earthmovers.

They pushed the earth out, and they dug up rock effigies — what we know as sacred markers of our burial grounds. They pushed everything aside and erased our history. Those meant a lot to us in our Lakota culture, and it was devastating.


I’m a water protector from the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation, next to the Standing Rock Sioux. We are the descendants of Chief Spotted Elk, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull — great chiefs and warriors who weren't afraid to put their lives on the line. But my ancestors always walked with a chanupa (ceremonial pipe) in one hand and a skull cracker in the other. That meant "I’m gonna come to you in peace, in prayer, because I have my chanupa. But if you have to fight? I’ll fight."

‌Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.‌

I was there when a young person on a horse approached the police.

A cop shot the horse with rubber bullets. Then they shot the water protector too.

People were scuffling and shoving on both sides. Law enforcement were pushing some of the water protectors back, and then the water protectors were pushing the cops back. One police officer accidentally popped off a tear gas canister near me. It hit the ground at a 45-degree angle, then ricocheted off the road and bounced into the sky where it burst all over us. I also felt the shock wave from a flashbang, or stun grenade. It sent my body into a panic, a fight-or-flight state.

To me, these are strategies used to provoke us, to make us respond without reason so they can say, "Well, that person was fighting us!" Of course I'm fighting you after that. I'm fighting to protect my safety and the safety of others because we're human beings with feelings and fears and we're going to react, no matter how much we try to stay grounded.

The police force was something we predicted could have happened that day. We tried to prepare ourselves for that mentally. But it's not the same as when you actually go through it. That’s not something you can practice for.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

I even went to jail for the cause.

As a leader in the movement, I was an easy target at the beginning. Then I made myself a bigger target when I was seen on camera with Amy Goodman when they brought out the attack dogs on Labor Day weekend. People throughout the world saw the atrocities.

A few days later, I was driving a journalist back to Bismarck to catch their flight, and all of a sudden, the cops pulled me over and arrested me.

I sat in jail for four days. They eventually said it was for "criminal trespassing," but I think that's a bogus charge.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

When I look at most of these police officers, though, I can tell they’re listening.

I can see it in their eyes: They’re thinking about this work we’re doing. They hear our plight. They also have a job to do, and I empathize with that. You can tell some of them are stuck in a hard place: "Well, I've got to follow these orders but I'm not cool at all with this."

Unfortunately, you can't make them drop their gun and all their gear on the spot and suddenly say, "I can't do this to people. I’m going to go stand with them." But maybe they’ll go home and talk to their families and say, "Hey I’m not going to go back to that." If that happens, I've done my part. We've changed their minds.

‌Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.‌

After my arrest, I kept on doing what I always did: providing aid to people.

I stepped away from the action-oriented camp after their tone had changed to a more militant approach. And a lot of people weren't comfortable with that. So I said, "Best of luck to you guys, but I’m going to stay on my course."

Now, I run supplies. I bring in sleeping bags. I disperse volunteers. I help coordinate support from groups like Greenpeace or the veterans when they came in. Whatever people need. That, to me, is rewarding.

‌Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.‌

It’s been nine months since the camp first started filling up with supporters.

At that time, there was tall grass and it was green, and the Dakota Access Pipeline was first making headlines. I remember feeling a deep connection with people and the planet back in April. I remember knowing that this fight was the right thing to do.

The first people to make their homes there came from different reservations. But many, like me, were part of the Oceti Sakowin, the seven bands of the Lakota and the Dakota people. There was this feeling of, "We’re here. We’re going to assert our authority that these are our lands. We’re going to live off our own system. And we’re going to live just like how our ancestors did."

‌Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

Some people have said they've never felt more alive than they do here. That feeling still persists, even though there’s snow on the ground now.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Recently, we won a small victory: There's a re-route planned.

It’s a small concession, but something to celebrate.

Still, we are not leaving this camp we've created. We need to stay on our guard. Energy Transfer Partners isn't going to move their equipment, and they released a statement that says they're not giving up. They’ll have to pay a reported $50,000 fine for every day they keep construction going, but I worry they'll do it anyway, so they can push the pipeline through.

Eventually that pipeline will burst. They always do. I wonder: Who's at fault when that happens? Who's at risk? The answer, for me, is: "All of us."

When oil leaks onto land, suppose it takes about 1,000 years for the soil to be OK at top level, where the plants are OK for the animals to eat from again. I don’t know about you, but 1,000 years is a long time for us.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

We’ll stay here because the pressure is needed, and the fight isn’t over.

This struggle has brought global attention to Native American issues and the environment on a huge level. This moment in time will be a reminder that a group of people can stand up for change. A group of people can take a corporation on. Maybe that group of people can even win.

It’s unlikely that something like this will never happen again in my lifetime, and it’s really cool to be part of it. To witness it. To feel this vibe. The sleeping giant is awake now.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

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Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

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Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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