Donate or volunteer at Standing Rock? Both?
November 13, 2016 5:57 PM   Subscribe

My partner wants to go to Standing Rock to donate and deliver supplies for a couple of days. We both want to do something to help after the election.

We would be flying in from out of state, renting a truck and buying supplies to hand out. It's unclear right now where we'd stay. Probably camping with protestors or staying in nearby casinos. To be clear, we wouldn't be protesting. Just lending a helping hand and donating supplies. We are minorities. I don't feel confident about how safe this will be, at all. I also don't know if us showing up in person would be more helpful than us donating the cost of the trip (over $1k). Would it be really meaningful for them to see us come in person? Please help me figure out what the best thing to do would be. Go in person, donate, both?
posted by rhythm and booze to Law & Government (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would encourage you to donate the funds. You will at least double your on the ground impact by not expending half your available funds on travel and accommodation. The protest is very well organised with supply lines and working groups; the organisers know exactly what is needed where and when, and you do not.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:05 PM on November 13, 2016 [18 favorites]

There is a Costco in Sioux Falls. The cost of warm clothes, etc is incredible cheap compared to requested items on Amazon. It is where I buy all of our serious cold weather gear despite being able to afford REI. Costco has really good quality stuff. There are wool base layers, wool socks, Boots, gloves, etc. at 1/4 the price.
I keep looking at the wishlist on Amazon for standing rock but the prices are just too high. (Costco items online are way more expensive than instore).

I say raise some money and go. Let me know. I will gladly donate.
posted by ReluctantViking at 6:18 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

here is the sacred stone camps supply list. I sent Lowes gift cards a few weeks ago.
posted by brujita at 6:21 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

An extra $1g in donations would be extraordinarily meaningful to the protesters, in my opinion. They could do so much with that! I really think you should just give it to them directly, rather than going out there yourselves.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:49 PM on November 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Hi! I think it's incredibly wonderful you're looking to help and get involved in indigenous resistance, and I think you've settled on an area of activism that can have immediate results after this devestating election. I've been trying to do what I can from (very) afar and thought perhaps passing this along from activists I've been talking with who have been on the ground and are planning to camp through the winter might help answer your question / hopefully guide your decision :)

1) An important thing to note is that Sacred Stone is only one of the camps, and it is not the primary "action camp." Oceti Sakowin Camp is doing very important work but has been getting significantly fewer (very necessary) monetary donations because of less publicity. This is their donation page, and if you're looking to maximize the good you do with monetary or other goods support I'd really encourage assisting OSC.

1.5) Standing Rock is the reservation near which the camps are located, and money donated to Standing Rock does not necessarily directly help this work; activists have been trying to disseminate the message that if you're looking to directly assist with protection in the coming months, don't prioritize donating there. Donate directly to the camps and (especially) their legal defense funds via the links on their official websites instead.

2) Specifically for Oceti Sakowin Camp, camp leadership has stated that, although there is more attention than ever, physical donations (as opposed to monetary support) have not been as helpful recently. They know what items need and have the means of acquiring it, so direct monetary donations through their donations page is often the most helpful method.

3) This question seems most directed about going to a camp in person. The most recent advisement I've seen on that is:

"as far as traveling to the camp, the camp needs self-sufficient people to stay long-term in a harsh winter and do hard work (cooking, serving food, shoveling/blowing snow, chopping wood, building, etc. as well as professional medical and legal skills) on a daily basis, not so much people who drop by for a few days and especially not people who drive all the way there just to drop off donations. Take gas money you might use to transport donations and just donate it directly to the camp."

Obviously that is just the voice of some of the activists on ground, not gospel. If you'd like to join the encampment, though, can you commit to several weeks or even a few months? Everyone has skills, and if you're willing to contribute specialized knowledge you might have as well as whatever brute labor you're capable of, and you have the means/ability to sustain yourself in harsh winter conditions, then going in person as a helper (rather than protestor/protector as your question specifies) could be helpful, and the good works and network you'd be plugging into could help redirect your and other lives for decades to come. But it is a big change and a commitment that shouldn't be taken lightly.

Given that that is the case, I think the amount of good that a $1,000+ donation to Oceti Sakowin Camp could do means that that is the best pathway. You could perhaps pair that with further fundraising & consciousness-raising in your current community and provide more donations at a later point or plan a spring trip to donate labor to the encampments. But the generosity and solidarity of a gift of that size would have an impact you can be proud of.

I currently live in Shanghai, so the best I can do is this sort of work. If you have any questions, I'm happy to answer my MeMail!

Seek Joy,
posted by Chipmazing at 11:04 PM on November 13, 2016 [10 favorites]

As a rule of thumb, leaving the logistics of buying and transporting supplies to a charity/organisation themselves is much more efficient use of funds. They know exactly what they need (and don't need), where, when, how to store it, where to distribute it, etc.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:05 AM on November 14, 2016

What Chipmazing said. I have a friend who's transporting supplies out there, and they're finally getting good things done after a few trips because they now know what's needed and are working directly with multiple groups within the camps. They also are finally getting their own situation organized so they're not a drain on the camps. The first few trips were... chaotic, in spite of best intentions.

There definitely is a need for people in the camps, but don't go to be a tourist. They have plenty of problems already with folks showing up and simply taking up resources for a few days while attempting to learn to help. If you can't make a commitment to stay long enough to learn to help (and survive in very cold weather), you're probably better off sending cash.

Finally, don't go if you're just looking to stir up trouble. You don't sound like you are, but one person who decides to "take personal action" can pull many people off tasks that are accomplishing something. It's a big problem, though that will taper off once the snow starts flying.
posted by DaveP at 4:21 AM on November 14, 2016

As a further note, don't just show up with supplies without having made some contact first. There are multiple groups at each of the camps, and donations out of the blue by strangers may be treated with suspicion. Not trying to make light, but people still remember gifts of blankets that didn't work out especially well (whether it actually happened or not).

If you're in it for the long-term, consider setting up a recurring donation, perhaps pooling money with others in your area. Once that's up and running, then pay a visit in person so you can bring back stories for the people working with you.
posted by DaveP at 5:42 AM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was one of the people in my office who coordinated charitable giving in the wake of disasters. Cash donations are, in most cases, THE most helpful thing you can do for a cause you want to support, absent some needed skill + willingness to commit a decent chunk of time.
posted by Tamanna at 7:46 AM on November 14, 2016

Here's a follow-up from my friend who's been there:
People going out need to know it’s not like a Ren Fest or something. The camps are spread out, and if you don’t know the layout, you can drive around for a while before you find where you want to be. Morton County Law and DAPL Security do not like people supporting the Protectors. As of now, entering the camp from the South is the only good way to enter. National Guard and Morton Co. Law is at the North entrance, and it doesn’t go well usually. Also, if you want to take photos and videos, remember: This isn’t Disneyland or a Zoo. The Tribe and camps have their own rules for photos and videos. Some camps do not allow either at all. And even if you want to take a pic of the night sky or sunset you NEED a media pass. This is not negotiable. Where you will be going and staying is sacred land, you are a guest really, and abide by the rules of the Reservation and Elders.

Re: What to expect when camping, DAPL is using Psych-Op tactics, I can’t expound now, but when I return from my trip this weekend I will. But, it can be ‘noisy’ and not what you are expecting. It’s not what I expected at all. And as was said: There are many ‘camps’ with different needs. 7 Camps to be precise. My group is founding a camp out there soon, because they at Standing Rock need commitment and physical help sorting items, building things, etc.

All of that said, the people there are very appreciative of help and donations, but you absolutely need contact information which can be found in various places on line. Do not make this about you. Make this about supporting the Protectors in any way possible. Do not call them “Protesters”, they are not protesting, they are protecting. I learned that early on. Prepare for the worst possible weather when you head out. There’s not much close other than Mandan, which brings me to this: BE careful of who you tell where you’re going and what you’re doing. Some people may think it’s great, but once you get to Morton County, especially Mandan, things with the locals can be tense. There is a feeling of outside people meddling in local affairs, and it doesn’t go over well.

End thoughts: If you want to go and network and see how it is, volunteer at different tents, great. If you just want to support the Protectors and their needs, look at donations. It’s really your call, but do all of your research first. If you go, it will change you. I’m not the man I was before I went. And that’s a very good thing.

Finally: Oh, and no alcohol, drugs, or weapons. At all.
Sorry for the chain posts. I think that's everything.
posted by DaveP at 8:23 AM on November 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

From this interview with Standing Rock Tribal Chairman, David Archambault II:
"van Gelder: How can people outside of here best support what you’re doing?

Archambault: A lot of people ask how to help or how to contribute. I say: Follow your heart. If you want to be here, you’re welcome. If you want to pray from home, pray from home. If you want to send a letter of support, send a letter of support. If you want to send a contribution, send a contribution. But I’m not soliciting any donations. I would just say whatever you want to do to make you feel like you’re contributing comes from within, that it comes from your heart.

If you want to know more about what we’re doing as far as the political scene or the legal scene, we do have a website, It also lists the different nonprofit organizations that are there who can receive donations and who can make sure they get to individuals at the camp that need them.

If you wanted to donate to the tribe, we’re not soliciting them, but people want to just give to the tribe. What we do with those funds is apply them toward our legal fund and to accommodate people with waste management down at the camp. Or for safety, because of the cold weather coming."
Hope that helps.
posted by culfinglin at 1:48 PM on November 14, 2016

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