This article was written on occupied Duwamish Land. Recognize and Respect Indigeneity and the eternal knowledge bound within culture and its relationship to land. No pride in genocide.
“That place [Standing Rock] was the future. That place is a blueprint to what is going to be needed to survive in our country the next four years under this presidency.”
Sitting in his bedroom eating tiramisu gelato, D.J. Martinez and I deepen a relationship formed when I gave him a cigarette at a Capitol Hill bus stop in Seattle. D.J. spent the whole of November and part of December last year at the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock. That protest was the single largest protest of indigenous people in the history of the Americas.
Temperatures at that time of the year range from -5 to -16 degrees Celsius. And that’s not accounting for when law enforcement regularly sprayed water on protesters. As Three Stacks would say, that’s ice cold.
When I asked him about the ambience of the camp, D.J. told me of the inherent connection he felt with the relatives who surrounded him there. “It’s embedded in my DNA. You know, wow, this is where I am meant to be right now.”
D.J. is transgender and uses both him and they pronouns. He is also a member of the Two Spirit nation. “That camp is all about decolonization and this whole gender idea in the first place is colonial. So that place is a different place.”
D.J. describes Two Spirit as “an umbrella term coined in the 1990s to express the fact that some indigenous tribes recognize the two spirit, including multiple genders.” This community grew as a spiritual safe space for brown indigenous LGBTQ people.
At Standing Rock, D.J. lived in the Two Spirit camp. He highlighted the transcendental role this protest gave native people in this nation. “It’s a healing place. Us as Indigenous people, as brown people, as queer people have a lot of healing to do. I learned that it was the first step to being on the path to winning the resistance.”
I was with D.J. on inauguration day. We met up early, groggy enough from the morning, let alone the oncoming reality of the day. We went to the town hall to watch the heist of the oval office by megalomaniacs sponsored by the Russian government as part of a global scheme to swing political power toward authoritarian regimes that ‘cuck’ other countries.
Seeing through the rows at the town hall was easy since it was only at one third of its capacity. I noticed an elderly man two seats in front of us. We realized he was an avid Trump supporter. As the speech ended, he gave a solo standing ovation. This was my first experience with a Trump voter. D.J. told me to get used to it.
D.J. and I often reflected on the nature of collaboration. Standing Rock was a harmonic display of the power that comes when individual subjects realized their objective unison.
As D.J. put it: “It’s amazing. It’s historical. It’s beautiful. You know it’s like it’s time. And when you get there, there’s an energy that you can feel. It’s incredible, spiritual energy”. When the world is poised to divide us, it seems collaboration is the future.
The Standing Rock protest was a response to the construction of a pipeline through sacred land and the Sioux nation’s main water source. Obama halted the construction. But that was before Trump. The camp is dismantled and construction has once again resumed.
When asked about this, D.J replied, “There’s camps popping up all over the U.S. There’s one in Iowa and one or two in Florida fighting over pipelines. Pipelines are going to keep popping up.” But the wave is rising. As with surfing, timing is everything. As D.J. said, “Standing Rock really woke people up spiritually. To learn what it’s going to take to win these fights.”