Congratulations, you're going to Standing Rock! You're taking your social media posts to the next step and heading to South Dakota to join the water protecters in their quest to keep the Dakota Access Pipeline from potentially poisoning their drinking water and off their sacred lands. Whether you'll be there for just a few days or indefinitely, there are a few things you should know about how not to act at Standing Rock, because your presence there should be a help, not a burden, to the water protecters.
As the DAPL protests have gotten more publicized, more white people have been showing up to "help," bringing mostly good intentions but not necessarily following through on them. "White people are colonizing the camps. I mean that seriously. Plymouth Rock seriously," one activist commented on Facebook. "They are coming in, taking food, clothing etc. and occupying space without any desire to participate in camp maintenance and without respect of tribal protocols. They are literally subsisting entirely off of the generosity of the native people... who are fighting to protect their water just because they can."
Hopefully, I don't have to explain why that's problematic. If you're going to Standing Rock to help, you should not be taking anything material from the Natives, and you should not be expecting anything in return. What water protectors need most right now is financial help, not physical, so providing the latter without the former is serving you and not the water protectors. And while it's great that you want to be there in person, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons and you're ready to do anything the hardest core protestors would do, including get shot by the police and spend nights in below-freezing temperatures.
The word solidarity gets thrown around a lot lately, but take time to consider what it really means to live in solidarity. Internalizing the struggles of the Native people and living as they live, with the singular goal of protecting their land and water, is how you can really support them. Don't hold anything back — plenty of Natives have put themselves in harm's way to fight this pipeline and you should do no less. Going there in solidarity means surrendering your privilege and yourself to the same hardships they face.
Just remember, the Sioux are dealing with enough right now, and they shouldn't have to take the time to educate you about why your behavior hurts more than it helps. Do some research on tribal history so you really know what you're getting yourself into. If you don't feel ready to commit 100 percent of your time and energy to the protest at Standing Rock, save the gas money you would have used to drive out there and donate to the protestors instead.