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Standing Rock Medical and Wellness Space

Klara Miller

Written by Standing Rock Volunteer Sarah Matuszak

My journey to Standing Rock was riddled with anxiety, doubt, and even fear. For weeks before I travelled to camp, my heart was called to Standing Rock. I researched the resistance, I lit candles, I prayed. I had vivid dreams about Standing Rock. I cried for Standing Rock. But I was held back by many things, the greatest of these being my vocation. Before I made the decision to stand with my brothers and sisters, I was working full time for my local sheriff's department. Yes, you heard that right, I was them. I was hopelessly lost. And even more dire - I was losing the battle for my soul.

One day, I walked into work with a letter. "Effective immediately, I am no longer an employee of **** county." I walked out with a weight sitting on my chest. I was quite sure that during the drive home I would have to pull over to vomit.

The next day, I set out early in the morning for Cannon Ball, North Dakota. My jeep was jam packed with supplies and motivational mantras. I arrived to camp 13 hours later in the dark and alone - knowing no one. Now, I know that for the first time in 22 years, I am home.

What I have come to realize during my time here is that it doesn't matter where you come from or what you bring. If you are called to camp, just show up. I was invited by the elders to speak about my former life as a law enforcement officer. I shared my truth as my voice shook and tears rolled down my face. The ceremonies and the prayers at camp called to my soul and eventually ended up in my arrival. My brothers and sisters spoke to my heart from 1,000 miles away and called me home. The power here is a deep vibrational hum reverberating throughout the world and throughout history.

I am forever grateful for everyone who was at camp before me, who had the wisdom to wake me up from my nightmare. A little over a month ago, I was a monster- a danger to myself and everyone I met. Today I stand with all of my relatives, with a full heart and an open mind. Now wrapped in a protective cloak of sage and blessings, I am a proud water protector who was saved by a family I didn't even know I had.

Overview of the Medics Work

The Standing Rock medical / wellness space is held by a group of about 30 individuals who are determined to come together to provide comprehensive care for all individuals occupying the three camps. The medical space includes a mental health area, a body work area, an herbalist space, the Western Medicine space, and midwifery. Certifications of volunteers here include MD, DO, PhD, PA, Nurse, Paramedic, EMT, Midwife, Doula, and Wilderness Medic. This space is truly one of a kind because skilled practitioners from all over the world have come together to serve the needs of the Standing Rock community.

There are two main functions of the Standing Rock medics. The first is to provide clinical and routine care for daily wellness needs such as vitamins, over the counter medicine, diabetes management, asthma management, and minor illness relief. The second function is to be the first line of care during direct action where we have treated hypothermia, severe lacerations, internal bleeding, concussions, and broken bones - all injuries suffered at the hand of law enforcement.

We are centered on consent-culture, a holistic wellness approach, and patient rights.

A Day in the Life of the Medics

A normal day as a Standing Rock medic looks like deep love, unconditional service, education, and digging in. Our days start at approximately 5:45am. The sacred fire burns with intense magic as an elder coaxes us out of bed - err, off our cots. "Good morning relatives, it's time to get up", he encourages. The chilly morning air smells of sage and cedar. We dress quickly, suck down some coffee, and eat a light breakfast.

Someone from the medic team begins managing the ger (Mongolian indigenous word for yurt) by organizing supplies, inventorying donations, and double checking volunteer coverage for the next 24 hours at all three wellness locations.

Another medic begins the trek around camp to wipe down all the port-o-potties. Yup, hospital-grade disinfectant for the toilet seats, and door handles. The first step of getting people well is keeping them from getting sick.

Two or three more medics (per ger) standby to treat patients. Generally in the morning there are many blood pressure checks, blood sugar readings, and nebulizer treatments to alleviate asthma symptoms.

At noon we begin to educate. First up is medic orientation. New volunteers get a chance to plug in with our space, share their knowledge, and contribute to the wellness of Standing Rock. At 1:00, we invite all of our relatives to attend chemical weapon training which teaches them how to handle mace and pepper spray, as well as how to flush out the eyes of someone who has been exposed. At 2:00, there is direct action training for anyone who is considering going to the front lines to protect the water. Direct action training involves learning passive, peaceful, and prayerful technique. This training breaks down expectations and replaces them with reality and the experiences of people who have been on many direct actions.

From 3:00 until sundown, the medics who are not assigned to a wellness space for the day do chores. We wash dishes, do laundry, cook, clean, check on the elders, chop firewood, and restock supplies. Generally, once the sun sets, a relative from one of the kitchens will bring us something to eat. They take such good care of us because they know that we will spend all day working - giving little thought to food. We eat, we laugh, we love each other so hard. We remind each other of the good work done during the day and the hard work that will meet us in the morning. We share stories and prophecies as old as language itself. We ensure that all of the medic staff is keeping their inner flame lit and well-kindled.

When love hangs thick in the air like smoke, and the number of patients filing in for care begins to dwindle, two or three medics set up their cots in order to hold the space for the night. We keep the fire hot, and the light on so that anyone who needs care, or even just to talk, during the night can come in and join us.

Where the money goes

All money raised during this auction will go directly to the medics of Standing Rock. We are so blessed to have many supporters and donations but it is unbelievable how fast supplies go. In two months, camp has bloomed from approximately 2,000 people to over 15,000 people. During an intense action such as what was seen on Sunday 11/20, we go through the majority of our medical stores. On this one day, we went through over 300 pairs of goggles, 150 bandanas, 100 packs of gauze, 200 water bottles, 100 bottles of milk of magnesia, 200 bandages, and a myriad of suture, splinting, and stabilizing supplies. That was all in a 6 hour period. It is because of generous donors that we are able to supply water protectors who are going to the front lines, and that we can care for them when they are injured by the police. I am so grateful that I have never had to deny someone excellent care due to shortage of supplies, and your support ensures that it will never happen. Anyone who needs help will get it.

The money raised this week by TRIBE de MAMA will ensure that the medics have a sufficient amount of goggles, bandanas, eye flushing materials, and trauma supplies to get through the cold months ahead. With police promising to ramp up aggression toward protectors, we in the medic tent are braced for impact.

Please help our response to their violence be rapid and effective by participating in this auction.