Bob: a case study of Standing Rock frustration with the Water Protector Camps

I first spoke with Bob in late January. He is from Cannon Ball district and was riding around in his black truck surveying the main camp’s lumber. He asked me about the ownership of a particular set of flooring nearby and he began to explain his frustration with the Backwater Bridge remaining closed due to the recent actions. I held off on giving my own perspective and listened. He explained that he did much business in Mandan and Bismarck and his drive time was considerably higher. He also pointed out that he used more gasoline with the bridge remaining closed. Bob continued to degrade the camps and the intentions of the camps yet he was very interested in gathering up the excess supplies in camp for his local ranching business.

I understood some of the frustrations coming from Standing Rock and the Cannon Ball district in particular. One report noted a funeral service in the Cannon Ball district community center had been disrupted by a camp dog or a few campers acting disrespectfully. Other reports included the major financial hit to the Prairie Knights Casino with some hopeful that a reopening of the Backwater Bridge would help the profits. Others believe that the key financial hits will be long-term from the backlash of the publicity and actions regardless of the drive time and alternate route to the casino.

It was not until early February that I saw Bob riding around in camp again. He was surprised to see us and wanted to speak more on his frustrations. He explained that he did $180,000 of business per year in Mandan and this was being hurt by the camps remaining. He asked me what the sentiment in camp was and I did not hold back. In a deceivingly genuine tone, I explained,

“Many in camp whose grandparents were murdered at Wounded Knee are starting to pack up. It seems that this whole Native American Sovereignty and environmental concerns are no longer important in comparison with your extra 15 minute drive time to Mandan”

I thought about adding “to get your Happy Meal” to the end, but I thought it would hurt the piercing style I had delivered my message in. At first, He did not understand and it clicked about 20 seconds later when he was continuing his speech. He paused and said, “You must be getting cold” and he rolled up his window and drove on. I smiled in a small way hoping I had at least made him think about the complex nature of the considerations for those still camped here.