Watercolor on paper,
Image; 19.5"h x 27.5"w, framed: 28.25"h x 36"w, Item No. 15258,
Hunkpapa encampment, North Oceti Sakowin camp- October 1st 2016 6:30pm
At the time this was painted these two tipis were the most northern structures in the whole
Oceti Sakowin encampment and the closest to backwater bridge which is just over the hills on
the left. In the distance a lone hill rises from the landscape also known as Turtle Island, claimed
by both Standing Rock Sioux and Army Corps of Engineers this land is said to be territory
unceded by the Sioux to the federal government, diminishing the Army Corps claim of
ownership. Through ongoing federal government hypocrisy and the failed consistency to honor
numerous treaties- this sacred hill and site where burial grounds are present and also a notable
location where many actions, prayers and ceremonies take place- has been reclaimed as our
own. To this day the hill still represents the front line as well as backwater bridge, both locations
are abused and patrolled by SWAT/ DAPL Military.
The sun was setting and the air alive with anticipation- the scent of campfire smoke and sounds
of all kinds echoed throughout the camp, it was Saturday afternoon and the camp was growing
for the weekend. I picked this spot for the openness to capture the Dakota landscape- to
capture the beauty that runs through the camp and landscape of Standing Rock. Staring out into
the landscape, studying my view I was transfixed with what I was seeing. As history repeats and
goes this same location had tipis in the 1880’s when Standing Rock was formed some time
before- and even before then when many bands of Sioux traversed these same hills and
landscape and still even prior home to the Mandan tribe.
As I was painting I saw many horse riders travel up a path between the hills on the left, these
hills were off limits to protect the burial sites that rest there, open for travel though on the path.
I saw an older man leading a group of younger students it seemed, all native- collecting and
picking sage around the tipis, later that night I would understand the significance of that outing
as well as the two tipi’s. The painting took a few hours stopping here and there to talk with
people, stretch and read ( Gall, Lakota war Chief ) a good recommended read. I usually try and
paint quickly when doing landscapes, trying to capture the moments atmosphere but letting the
moment work with the flow of the paints. With the setting sun casting its radiance on the
changing colors of the distant fall trees and surrounding plains illuminated -the Missouri river
seemingly created it’s own dominant horizon between past and present.
The night before I had heard a water drum being played in the distance somewhere in camplike
all night outings in camp, sound location is key along with a headlamp or otherwise letting
your eyes adjust. Finding the camp I met a Dinè guy, from Arizona setting by a fire trying out a
new kettle he had just got, tying the hide around the top of the kettle with water inside is how the
drum works and used during Native American Church ceremonies. He didn't have a rattle to
accompany the drum but I did so we ended the night by singing some songs and just like I did,
other people soon found us and more songs and fellowship endured. Chet Stoneman, a
Hunkpapa Lakota and Peyote roadman was one of the people who heard us and told us the
next night he was having a NAC (Native American Church) meeting, north of camp.
I didn't think much about it until the following night when I decided to try and find the Meeting
which usually starts around 10pm and goes till 8 am. I had brought along with me to Standing
Rock my cedar box, with rattle, eagle feathers and all, specifically for such a ceremony. So I
went and found the meeting, the two tipis I had painted earlier. Inside one, we all sat about 20 of
us, the scent of sage filled the tipi where it lined the center fires perimeter. Praying with tobacco
along with four rounds of singing throughout the night we collectively prayed with medicine.
Oceti Sakowin is a prayer camp, it felt like in there that night we were doing the absolute best
for ourselves and camp by having our prayers resonate with the night and carried along with the
smoke into the sky above- we prayed the pipeline not be built, we prayed it not go through the
Missouri, we prayed for our people and we prayed that the hearts of DAPL police be touched.