Standing Rock benefit draws hundreds to the Grange

Sebastopol, California — An inspiring Standing Rock benefit to support Native Americans and others seeking to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) happened November 6 from early in the afternoon to past 10 p.m. at the Sebastopol Grange in Northern California. A steady stream of animated folks of all ages coming and going was estimated to be around 600 people. The event raised thousands of dollars through donations, food and drink sales.

The 1,172-mile-long pipeline currently is scheduled to cross both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers to carry oil that was obtained by fracking and would be an environmental disaster. It also crosses Native American sacred ground. In the last seven months, over 50,000 people have participated in actions at the site and encamped at the nearby Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Around 10,000 are currently on site.

Police, National Guard, and security guards from throughout North Dakota and beyond have terrorized the peaceful water protectors, including using attack dogs and riders on horses. They have arrested hundreds, yet the encampment continues to grow, despite such brutality.

It has been a classic David vs. Goliath struggle with members of around 100 tribes and their allies on site. Amy Goodman of the radio/TV program “Democracy Now” was among hundreds arrested. Eventually released, her reports can be heard on her program and at her website.

“The tremendous outpouring of support for the Standing Rock Water Protectors was inspiring,” commented Sonoma State University Professor Debora Hammond. “I was particularly moved by the drumming, and the comments by Adam, the drum leader, about the enormous significance of this movement and the coming together of people from all corners of the earth to challenge the militarized assault on the indigenous peoples, their water and their sovereignty, and to hold the vision of a different kind of future in which the earth and all of her children are cared for.”

“It was heartening to see that massive turnout. I think people are feeling so alienated by this ugly election process that it was really great timing to be able to act positively and hopefully make a difference. The overflowing donation jars were certainly inspiring,” said Anna Ransom of Friends of Atascadero Wetlands.

At 150 years old, the Grange is the oldest agricultural-based organization in the United States. It manages hundreds of Grange Halls, some of which have become community centers for cultural events. This event was a dog-friendly family happening, with children and adults holding signs like “Water is Sacred,” “Love Your Mother,” and “Water is Life.”

Outside the Grange Hall, two tents were set up, with tables for supporting groups, such as Vote Yes on Measure M, against GMOs, and the Peace and Justice Center.  Most people gathered outside in and around the tents, surrounded by rural, pastoral beauty.

A fire circle outside started the evening. Then indigenous people led a prayer circle inside, after which people returned outside for lively Aztec dancing. Food from around the world, including Puerto Rico, was sold. A water blessing, music, dance, and art were offered.

Information on direct actions to support the Standing Rock protectors were circulated. For example, people were encouraged to boycott DAPL funders, which include Wells Fargo Bank, Citibank, and Bank of America. Energy Transformation Partners, a Texas-based company, is building the pipeline and contends that it will create thousands of jobs.

The day after the Grange event, journalist Thomm Hartman reported that the military/police were destroying medicine supplies, slashing tents, and illegally jamming cell devices,” according to Janus Matthes of Wine and Water Watch.

“They targeted older women, who were strip searched. Their medicines were taken away, and they were housed on cement floors. Some had to be transported to medical facilities after being left for days without help. This is a combination of police from several states, National Guard, and private police contractors doing this to citizens,” Matthes added.

“An SSU Student’s Journey to Standing Rock” banner headlines a long front-page November 1 issue of the weekly Sonoma State Star here in Sonoma County. “There is an ancient Native American prophecy that speaks of a great black snake that will one day run through all the valleys and rivers, desecrating life in its path,” Noah Treanor writes. “From east to west, tribal elders have warned for generations this monster was coming. And today it seems it is finally upon us.”

“We could see men, women and elders being grabbed and body slammed to the floor,” reports Treanor. “Everyone was locked in arms and still in prayer.”

“A wonderful event!” Angela Ford said of the Grange gathering.  “Lovely energy, so many young people and elders.”

Shepherd Bliss ( is a retired college teacher who has contributed to 24 books. Read other articles by Shepherd, or visit Shepherd's website.