Thanksgiving at Standing Rock

Connor Johnson, Staff Writer

As winter approaches, the protests surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline continue at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, located an hour south of Bismarck, N.D. With the deadline for the government contract of construction expiring January 1, the protestors will have to deal with the unforgiving cruelty of a North Dakota winter, out in the barren plains, if they wish to succeed.

However, they soon will be given aid in their struggle. Alex Aman, a senior at the University of North Dakota, is working with Red Lake Nation rap artist Thomas X to organize a donation for the Standing Rock camps come Thanksgiving. The goal is to collect 100 pounds of canned food, as well as warm clothing to weather the frigid temperatures. The group also consists of other donors in the Twin Cities and Fargo, including Minneapolis resident Carla Alarcon, who knitted 100 hats for the donation.

“The main goal overall is to redefine what Thanksgiving means,” Aman said about the drive, referring to the original Thanksgiving in 1621 Plymouth, Mass.

The purpose of the original Thanksgiving, as taught in elementary school, was an expression of gratitude by the Puritan colony of Plymouth to the local Native American population, who helped them escape starvation during their first winter. Almost 400 years later, the spirit of the holiday remains intact, but now it will be the “settlers” assisting the native group.

There was a part of me I didn’t know was asleep, (and it) woke up when I went there.

— Alex Aman

Aman, Thomas X and others will leave for Standing Rock on Thanksgiving Day, delivering their collected donations at the main support camp, Red Warrior (it is not located in the path of the pipeline, as the “direct action” camps are). Alongside their donation, the group plans to volunteer to help with any civic projects in the camp, as is usual for visitors to the camp.

Aman, from Minnesota, is one of the co-founders of the media group Sandbagger News, along with Will Beaton. The two formed the group in 2014 after leaving employment at the Dakota Student and Studio One. Last month, the duo accompanied VICE News to Standing Rock to provide camera assistance and drone operations.

“It’s very real to me, and I’m really passionate about it,” Aman said about the protests. He described the first time he went to the camp:

“There was a part of me I didn’t know was asleep, (and it) woke up when I went there.”

Donations are being accepted in Minneapolis, Fargo, and Grand Forks. The Grand Forks dropoff location is at 531 Hamline Street, the Sandbagger News “headquarters” (the house with the sign in front of it).

Connor Johnson is a staff writer for The Dakota Student.  He can be reached at [email protected]