Why I Took My Kids to the DAPL Protest Camps

by, Raychel Chumley

When you google the phrase, “Should people of faith be involved in social issues?”  you will come up with 145 million results. 145 million. That means a lot of people are wondering whether faith and social issues mix. I think they should. And it’s why I this mom took her 3 kids to the DAPL protest camps.

Arguably, mixing faith and social issues is a hotly debated  topic within faith communities with people screaming their points on both sides.

One side says YES because Jesus cared about PEOPLE. All people. No matter what. The other side says NO because we are to be “in the world not of it” and getting involved with social issues means we “compromise” our faith and convictions.

According to Wikepedia a social issue is described as “a problem that influences a considerable number of the individuals within a society.” 

Right now in Bismarck, ND we have a “social issue” happening right in our own backyard…

What started as a small movement has swelled to over 9,000 (at one point) people camping in protest camps against the Dakota Access Pipeline. It’s being said this is the first time since the 1800s the Seven Warrior Societies of the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota people have come together in solidarity. 

What started simple, over the course of months, has turned this state upside down. It’s now a weekly occurrence to see warnings of roads blocked with protesters, information check points run by the national guard, fighting between the farmers in the area and the tribal people, hundreds of arrests, and more blatant hatred and racism than we can shake a stick at. If you’ve been listening to our courageous nation podcast you will know we’ve been talking about this in a few episodes, lately. 

We Crossed the Faith and Social Issues Line at the DAPL Protest Camp.

Last week, I chose to get involved simply because my faith, my heritage, and my convictions wouldn’t allow me to ignore it. So, I took my kids to the DAPL protest camp. My faith and a social issue were about to collide in a big way.  

I went out  to visit the main protest camp with my kiddos and other family members who had been there before. As I went over the hill and saw the hundreds of tepees, native flags from countless tribes lining the camp borders,and makeshift shelters all I could say was, “Oh. Wow.” And, I had to fight back tears.

It was peaceful and oddly quiet at the main DAPL protest camp.

I parked our pickup, grabbed my littlest by the hand, and started walking towards the the main circle area. There was a gentleman praying is his native language to his Creator and giving encouragement to the people sitting and standing around the fire.

I saw people of every color, sex, and nationality within a few feet of each other. Some were quietly discussing the day. Others were returning from the front lines where the active protesting was taking place. Many were eating in the kitchen tent. A few were visiting with neighbors. And, most were going about the daily tasks required to run a camp this size.

We started walking towards the river heading straight for a tepee and a few tents and shelters. In the middle was the purple and white flag of the Iroquois nation. A symbol of the Five Nations that make up the Iroquois nation. They are: the Mohawk , the Oneida (me!), the Onondaga,  the Cayuga, and the Seneca. When we arrived at the Iroquois section of the camp we got to hear from our own people, who came to help, what is really happening on the ground level. And, how we can help in practical ways. 

The stories I heard were very different than the ones being reported in the media. 

While we were visiting, two medics came by doing rounds. They were compiling a list of people who would be staying through the winter and what kind of medications they were on. After about an hour, we left. On our way home I thanked the 3 Indian men “guarding” the entrance to the camp. I also thanked the national guard men running the information point for all their work.

It was definitely a different feel to be there but fear wasn’t one of those feelings… We of course didn’t bring the kids to the front lines where they were out “on action” that day. Instead, my kids laughed and played in the dirt by the Cannon Ball River while I visited. But, I’m thankful they are now able to say they’ve been a part of a historical moment. 

Final Thoughts on our day at the DAPL Protest Camp…

As the wife of an oil man, the granddaughter of farmers, a woman of deep faith, and a proud part-native woman, I understand there are many sides to this fight. However, not everything is as it seems. I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears the plight of my relatives.

My kids and I experienced a rare moment in history. Because we crossed the religion, culture, racism, and fear barrier I got a lesson in mixing my faith with a social issue I will not soon forget. And, I taught my children a lesson in empathy, compassion, and social justice when I brought them to that DAPL protest camp.

We all have a choice on whether or not we will mix faith and social issues.  Me…I’m always on the side of getting messy and loving people. Always.

~ Raychel 

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