PORT TOWNSEND — It is Standing Rock or bust for the 30 or so members of the Standing with Standing Rock Thanksgiving Caravan, which is scheduled to embark this morning from Port Townsend on a 1,350-mile journey to the site of a protest camp in North Dakota.
Ranging in age from 7 to 70 — men, women and youth from throughout the North Olympic Peninsula will take more than $20,000 in donations and supplies to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, Megan Claflin, Pacific Northwest Stands with Standing rock media liaison, said Saturday.
The caravan will include two buses, a 20-foot trailer and support vehicles.
“Not only will we be showing up with these supplies, but we will be showing up with a great and united spirit,” Claflin said.
Members of the public are invited to attend a sendoff ceremony at 7:30 this morning at the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2333 San Juan Ave., in Port Townsend.
Food, clothing, supplies
“Our caravan is carrying food, clothing and winterization supplies for those at camp,” said Daniel Milholland, founder of Thunderbull Productions, who is leading the caravan along with Paul Magid, a co-founder of the New Old Time Chautauqua.
“Our efforts out there will consist of daily labor, material provisioning and general assistance at camp.”
Demonstrators, who call themselves water protectors, oppose the construction of a pipeline under construction by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) that would transfer oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois. The $3.7 billion pipeline would transport about 470,000 barrels of domestic crude oil a day.
The 1,200-mile, four-state pipeline is largely complete except for a section that would pump oil under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in southern North Dakota, The Associated Press reported.
The Standing Rock tribe fears that a leak could contaminate the drinking water on its nearby reservation and says the project also threatens sacred sites.
The Port Townsend money donated to the cause, and to purchase goods and gear, was raised during a recent fundraiser, Claflin said.
“It is important to understand that everything we raised … none of that is being used by the caravan,” she said.
“That fundraiser was done solely to benefit the water protectors and all the monetary donations and donations of supplies through that cause are going directly to the camp.”
The funding to pay for the trip was raised through other means, Claflin said.
From Port Townsend, the caravan will travel to Bellevue to gather additional members and supplies before continuing on to Standing Rock.
It will take the caravan between 24 and 36 hours to reach its destination, Claflin said. The group expects to return by Nov. 27, Magid said.
“Our intention as a group is to assist and support those campaigning to halt the development of the [pipeline] through the land of the Lakota Nation and under the Missouri River and to raise awareness about the threat this pipeline poses to the environment, human health and human rights,” Claflin said.
The “emphasis is on community,” Magid said over the phone Saturday. “We are not only representing Port Townsend, but also the Peninsula and its many multicultural manifestations.”
Magid said he is “incredibly inspired,” by the Native Americans who have united to oppose the pipeline.
Demonstrations began in April and have grown to include hundreds, and at times thousands, of activists, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Protesters say they have been pepper-sprayed and shot at with rubber bullets. About 500 people have been arrested, according to The Associated Press, which also reported Nov. 1 that the state of North Dakota had run up a $10 million line of credit for law enforcement costs.
The protesters “are standing up to the violence of the police and of this company which seems to be hellbent on making this pipeline happen,” Magid said.
“I think it is a beautiful thing and they are doing it in a peaceful, spiritual and healthy manner. Even if violence is done upon them, they just stand there and take it. Worlds get changed by peaceful, non-violent protest.”
Some members of the caravan are willing to risk being on the receiving end of violence should it befall them, Claflin said.
“There are people in our group willing to go to the front line and understand the risks that may be involved in that,” she said.
“Our leaders have emphasized that this isn’t a vacation. This isn’t a camping trip, per se. We have all committed to being sure. We all had to have that conversation with ourselves. I had to have that conversation with myself — am I strong enough physically, mentally, emotionally for what we might encounter?”
However, this trip “is not about any one individual,” Claflin said. “Our group is not looking to bring attention to the challenges we will face.”
On Nov. 1, President Barak Obama raised the possibility of the pipeline being rerouted, something that Dave Archambault, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, has said would be acceptable as long as the new route wouldn’t take it near the reservation.
Last week, Kelcy Warren, the CEO of ETP, told The Associated Press that rerouting is not an option for the company.
The Army Corps of Engineers in July granted ETP the permits needed for the crossing, but the agency decided in September that further analysis was warranted given the tribe’s concerns. Last Monday, the Corps called for even more study and tribal input.
ETP responded the next day by asking U.S. District Judge James Boasberg to declare that it has the right to lay pipe under Lake Oahe. The judge isn’t likely to issue a decision until January, at the earliest, The Associated Press said.
Magid is concerned that President-elect Donald Trump will not side with the protesters after taking office in January.
Trump, who owns stock in ETP, has said he wants to rebuild energy infrastructure, The Associated Press said.
“With the change of administration, I think it might be more difficult to come to a more hopeful outcome,” Magid said.
Features Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at [email protected].