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Protector Tales from the Protector Trail

The Mrs. Kim Wheeler went and set up our tent in Oceti Sakowin Camp in Standing Rock last month with a couple members of the CBC radio show Unreserved to gather some stories. She would message me a few times a day, making a trek up an incline to a high point in the camp where the protectors found they could catch a cell phone signal and access their social media. They gave that incline a name -- Facebook Hill. It made me laugh and reminded me of some of the lighter moments in the 40 plus years I've been cognizant of Indigenous resistance.

If you've ever been on a tour of Alcatraz you may have seen a short documentary on the history of the island that includes, after the prison was shut down, the Indigenous occupation in 1969. There's an audio recording and some old footage. The lone sentinel on the island at the time was a guard/ caretaker and he spotted a zodiac streaking across San Francisco Bay towards the island from the guard tower. The employee cried out in distress over the radio, "Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! The Indians are coming. The Indians are coming!"

In the Zodiac a rag tag outfit of warriors, pony tails and hair flying in the wind, bounced across the choppy water.

There was much clucking of tongues from most of the tourists on the tour that day, save for one Indigenous family laughing at the back. I was with them.

The Mrs. described the bright lights from the DAPL construction site shining on the protector camp all night long, obscuring the stars. It reminded me of a story my aunt Marji told me years ago about the Wounded Knee occupation back in '73. Known as Carla Blakey down there she was dating an AIM member from Pine Ridge and wound up in the mix. One night the U.S. military/police side had a spotlight up, shining brightly down on the occupation. They had arms inside the occupation of Wounded Knee and my aunt had a rifle and was shooting at the spotlight. A Lakota man came up behind her and asked, "Carla! What the hell are you doing?"

"I'm trying to shoot that light out," she told him.

The Lakota man stood tall and faced the glare. "Hey!" he shouted across no man's land. "Turn off that ******* light!"

Moments later the light went out. The Canadian military used bright lights in Oka too, from helicopters as they rose from the river below. 

They also parked their helicopters in random places as one Mohawk warrior discovered when he was scooting about. The Canadian military helicopter was left unattended with the helicopter equivalent of the keys still in the ignition. Being a Veteran, and having flown helicopters in Vietnam, he jumped in and took it for a ride. He set down some distance away some time later and walked away safely off. This happened in the days before the Indigenous side was pushed to the Treatment Centre. In the treatment centre they found a box of condoms. So they did the natural thing, filled them up with water and threw them at the Canadian soldiers. The Canadian soldiers threw them back and a water filled condom fight ensued. Both sides had a great time until an NCO came along and shut the fun down.

Speaking of veterans, during the occupation of Anishinabe Park in Kenora in 1975, the Indigenous side found an elderly, Indigenous chap passed out under the dock. They sobered him up and it turned out he was a veteran of the Korean Conflict. He taught the young warriors some military know how and became the primary strategist for camp defense.

Now I don't want to make light of or trivialize what were at times tragic events. People have died -- Buddy Lamont, Dudley George. People have been hurt. People live with PTSD. My aunt told me frightening stories. Stories when the bullets flew and the men would laugh when they whizzed close by. I was nine when I first heard these stories and tried hard to process them. 

"Why did they laugh?" I asked. 

"Because that?s what got them through it," she told me.

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