"We are water protectors:" Lawton man at Standing Rock protests

"We are water protectors:" Lawton man at Standing Rock protests

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - A Lawton man just got back from North Dakota, where Native American tribes are protesting the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Eric Poemoceah has been to the Standing Rock protests twice now. He and everyone camping out at the site of the construction believe the pipeline will harm the environment, and taint the Sioux Tribe's water resource, Lake Oahe. The lake is also culturally important to the tribe. The tribe also says the 1,000-mile pipeline would go through sacred burial grounds and other significant Indian sites.

Poemoceah is actually getting ready to head back out to North Dakota again this week, but this time for a longer stay. He says he was so moved being out there, and wants to stay until the fight is won.

So he is gathering supplies so his group "Comanches in Motion" can get back to the camp, and back to the land that they are fighting for.

Poemoceah played back a video of a victory song being sung for Native American youth that just got back to the camp out in North Dakota from a long Spirit Run.

"It was a good day," said Poemoceah.

Watching the video brought him right back to the Sacred Stone camp.

"I almost shed some tears out there," said Poemoceah. "It's so beautiful. This kind of stuff right here. People getting thanked people being honored. Happiness out there all day long. Like I said it was the most beautiful, most spiritual thing I have ever done in my life."

Poemoceah says the word "protesters" isn't a word they use out there.

"We call ourselves frontline protector warriors," said Poemoceah. "We are water protectors."

He says while the nights are full of prayer and song, the day where they position themselves on the machines to prevent the workers from making progress on the pipeline is where it can get dangerous.

"The worst thing that I've seen at all while I was up there was an officer tackle a man," said Poemoceah. "You have one officer do it, and the next thing you know you have four other ones jump on him. You got one guy."

At the end of a day of preventing construction, Poemoceah says his group had to make a quick decision to get out of potential danger.

"We've seen them coming down the hill with their swat gear on with their shields in front of them like we're some kind of animals, you know?" said Poemoceah. "That's when an attorney ran up to us, and told us we needed to leave. Per his advice we left."

The Sioux Tribe Chairman has required all protests to be peaceful, and Poemoceah says they get instructed on how not to engage in any violence.

As Poemoceah gets ready to make his third trip out there he reflects on why he is doing this.

"There is no words for the experience I had up there," said Poemoceah. "The experience was so spiritual that yes, that is the calling for me. I understand now that the calling for me is to protect. I'm a protector. And so I'm going to go up, and I'm going to protect."

Poemoceah says he knows not everyone that can help can make it up to the camp, but his Comanches in Motion group has set up a GoFundMe page so you can help them get supplies up to North Dakota. He says because the cold, winter weather will soon be setting in, they need to purchase as much winter supplies as they can.

You can also donate directly to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Monday, a federal judge denied the tribe's request to officially recognize the federal agencies' request to voluntarily stop work on the pipeline. The pause in construction would be near the river at Lake Oahe.
Construction near the protest site has stopped until a scheduled hearing on Friday.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.