Arts&Culture2, ArtsandCulture, Feb2017
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Beatrice & the Tipi

On December 4, 2016, Quest University Students Wesley Lapointe and Emmy Cole travelled to Sacred Stone Camp on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, North Dakota, the site of a major protest against Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline project. The two first-years brought a car full supplies to the camp, where they stayed until December 18th. The following account is based on their experience.

 

When Emmy and I first arrived at the Sacred Stone Camp, we made our way right to the donations tent. My Subaru was bursting at the seams with contractor bags of donations, and it took a few hours to unpack and distribute the supplies to their respective tents. As we worked that first afternoon we befriended the kind and gentle guardian of the supply tents, Beatrice. She would become our beacon and close friend at Sacred Stone.

A California soul, the first two blizzards of the winter had taken a heavy toll on her spirits, and the weather was only getting harsher, faster. So she requested the help of our “young brains” to winterize her tipi. As Emmy and I worked, our love for Beatrice grew exponentially, and I was amazed again every time we spoke. Beatrice became more visibly radiant and good spirited too, as we gave her company and warmth in her home once more.

She left her entire life in the West to live at Standing Rock, and doesn’t plan to leave anytime soon. Many of the people we met at Standing Rock, like her, came from puzzling and unbelievable corners of life to stand in Solidarity. Yet the solidarity was the only context we knew them in. The familial connections–to others and to the land–that I saw blossoming were inspiring in and of themselves. And the fact that the love and empathy of which I speak was the force standing in between DAPL and the Missouri River is hard to fathom. Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is home to entire tribes of Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people. And the camps in the valley have become home to a new community, of water protectors.

I cannot give you the explanation of the oppression and state of affairs at Standing Rock, for we were there just 2 weeks and it’s even harder to know the real deal from the outside than it was from on the ground. But I will never forget Beatrice, and I felt compelled to illustrate her impact on me, in a poem.

 

Beatrice’s Tipi

Mind, Body, Soul, and tipi.

If the first three are to be comfortable,

so must the last.

The gutter punk turned yoga punk

Ojibwe-Ecuadorian

told us she was part wise sage and part Calvin,

from Calvin & Hobbes.

I think you’re Hobbes, Beatrice.

She’s alone in her tipi but

for the invasive white winds.

The December prairie wind is

the resentful cousin of

the San Francisco breeze-

Beatrice’s old lover.

Look into her eyes.

Her soul is overexposed

to the bitter cold that’s always sneaking

into her tipi,

colonizing and extinguishing

the flame

from the red-brown wood.

Her mind, body and soul

need insulation.

We tear out the interior.

Hang wool.

Canvas.

Space blankets.

Nails, and rope.

I mean, it feels warmer right?

Like a sauna.

In daylight,

we labor.

As our extremities lose feeling,

our souls are thawed

by her lullaby voice,

and pre-school teacher energy.

The fruitful conversation

and laughter

spark embers in her soul too.

A snowdrift begins

to melt from her shoulders,

trickling into our headwaters,

then downstream to our souls.

Stories, and wisdom splash

on my pale skin,

flowing,

painting

narratives darker than

the deepest shadows of my own.

Like the forest floor

under rain,

my veins swell.

Mni Wiconi.

Water is Life.

We drive to Bismarck.

She tells Sasquatch,

ever so gently,

to please be silent for the duration of

the Superfly soundtrack CD,

Curtis Mayfield.

The Prairie Knights Casino & Hotel

couldn’t have wished

for a better location.

Middle of fucking nowhere,

North Dakota.

7 miles from Standing Rock.

‘This facility is reserved for

registered guests.’

The casino buffet food is

the unwarranted prey

to our bestial hunger.

We feast.

Beatrice laughs.

Her face aglow behind

a berry patch

of dark freckles.

Look into her eyes.

Her tipi has been sealed

with Curtis Mayfield,

friendship, buffet food,

jokes, and space blankets.

We drive back home.

Full, and far too merry

to be in the middle of fucking nowhere,

North Dakota.

Now, when she closes her

eyes in the tipi,

she remembers her warm

Golden lover on the sea.

But she feels a

prairie pheasant’s wing on her cheek.

Attention friends!

Send punk band buttons!

The walls of my tipi

Are bare!

Home.

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