Lil’wat Bear Dancer to join protest at Standing Rock

Jackie Andrew plans trip to North Dakota to show support for water protectors

A member of the Lil’wat Nation will be travelling to Standing Rock, North Dakota on Thursday (Dec. 1) to show her support for the Indigenous communities and allies that have been opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline for months.    

Jackie Andrew said she plans to offer whatever kind of relief she can to the peaceful protestors over 10 days, along with bringing the Lil’wat Nation flag to display next to hundreds of others in a show of solidarity. As a bear dancer she will also bring her traditional wear to dance and offer “good medicine.”

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“I’m a bear dancer traditionally because I’m a twin and I’m part of the St’at’imc Bear Dance Group,” she explained. “We get called to various places, sometimes it’s a birth or a return home, a funeral or repatriation, people request us there. This is something that I want to do to show our support by bringing one of our flags there from Lil’wat and bring our bear songs.”

The logistics of preparing for the trip — which she will take alongside an elder from Nelson whom she connected with at the annual International Indigenous Leadership Gathering near Lillooet over the past seven years, as well as Ta’Kaiya Blaney, a youth advocate and speaker — have been daunting.

Andrew has had to acquire a birth certificate and passport in a short time period, rent an RV and plan to bring her traditional wear — a black bear and a cinnamon bear, and ideally, a grizzly if she can purchase it in time — across the border, which could potentially be a challenge. To that end, a crowdfunding site in support of the trip has raised $1,225 of the $2,000 goal.

“I feel like it’s all coming together,” Andrew said. “This is something I need to do as a mother and as a First Nations woman — to do this on my own and see where that leads me. It’s about following our hearts in a good way. That is what’s working. It’s a peaceful protector gathering. Everyone knows they’re unarmed (at Standing Rock) they’re not there to be violent. They’re there for a purpose and a cause.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation initiated the protest back in the spring opposing the pipeline, which they say will pose a risk to both burial sites and their water supply. Thousands of people have since passed through the camp to show support, but the Army Corps of Engineers said last week that it will close the area on Dec. 5 and those it considers to be trespassing will face prosecution.

There have also been violent clashes in recent months, with activists facing tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and other police deterrents. According to the New York Times, last Monday (Nov. 21) alone, 300 people were treated for injuries that resulted from police force.

“My elder and I want to bring some relief to people on the frontlines,” Andrew said. “We just want to show them some love, really — sharing good medicine and support for the people who are there. Some people have been there for months. The seasons are changing and it’s getting cold.”

While that risk is part of the reason why she’s choosing to leave her 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son at home, she said she plans to go in peace and remains undeterred.

“It’s taken a lot of time and energy to prepare for this,” she said. “My elder told me this morning on a call, she has a friend who is down at Standing Rock on the frontline and she sent us a whole letter of how to prepare yourself. She said you have to be prepared for anything. I’m going in peace and I’m not there to fight. We’ll go in a peaceful, prayerful way.”

To support Andrew’s trip and to learn more visit gofundme.com/woman-bear-dancer-at-standing-rock or protectingthesacred.ca.

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