Camp-Horinek shows where a Morton County, S.D., police officer
numbered her before detaining her in the basement of their
jail on Oct. 22. (Photo by Lisa Snell)
TULSA She orders her coffee black and indulges in a thick
slice of carrot cake, which she agrees would best be enjoyed outside
near the fire pit blazing on the patio of this mid-town Tulsa coffee
shop. Casey Camp-Horinek, Ponca, has made the more than hour long
drive south into the city from her rural home near Marland. She's
here to talk about getting arrested, of all things, and to speak
at a peaceful rally a little later downtown.
Arrested? Yes. A few weeks earlier, this near 70-year-old woman
got herself zip-tied and locked in a basement. Her offense? She
was praying and wouldn't move.
She holds up her arm. The number 138 is written in black marker
between her wrist and elbow. She laughs.
"Standing Rock 138. My new Indian name!"
She smiles behind the rim of her white coffee mug as she takes
"I've kept it darkened in so I can show people what they did
to us," she says.
"They" are the private security and police forces employed by
the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the state of North Dakota
to deter and control the crowd of Water Protectors assembled at
a construction site near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The
pipeline is mostly complete, except for a section that would delve
under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir near the reservation.
The tribe fears a leak would contaminate not only their drinking
water, but the water of millions living downstream. Protests have
been ongoing near the site of the proposed reservoir crossing and
to date, about 500 people have been arrested and Camp-Horinek
is one of them.
As she sits in a metal patio chair sipping her coffee, the image
is incongruous with her new arrest record. Her black, long-sleeved
T-shirt is embellished with the graphic of a traditional water bird
and the Ponca words for Water is Life.
She's wearing deep turquoise colored moccasins her daughter
made for her beneath a ribbon skirt patterned with turtles and geometric
designs. A young woman passing by compliments her on her beaded
earrings, unaware that this woman wearing the great earrings will
most likely be on the news later.
A long time Native rights activist, environmentalist and actress,
she is the traditional Drumkeeper for the Ponca Pa-tha-ta, the women's
Scalp Dance Society. In 2008, she was a delegate of the Indigenous
Environmental Network and chosen to speak at the United Nations
Permanent Forum on indigenous Issues and present IEN's global platform
regarding the environment and Native rights.
This evening, she is in Tulsa to address a "Standing for Standing
Rock" rally, an event organized by community members to show their
support for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the Water Protectors
camped near the DAPL construction site.
Camp-Horinek has a long relationship with that part of the world.
She and her family has been traveling to Sun Dance at Crow Dog's
Paradise near the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, for
the last 44 years.
"Right after [the] Wounded Knee [occupation in 1973] my three
brothers made a relationship with Leonard (Crow Dog) and over time,
our family grew to a 43-tent camp. We call it the Oklahoma Camp,"
She credits the Sun Dance with her spiritual connection to the
earth and all things upon it.
"Ultimately, when one Sun Dances, one is sacrificing without
food and without water and praying 24/7 that week that you are there.
In doing so, one begins to understand not only in the physical sense,
but in the spiritual sense as well, the necessity for the sun to
rise every day for us to have another day. And the importance
of the sun to give us the energy for everything that involves the
cycle, the sacred cycle of life. One understands the rhythms of
the moon and the strength of the Earth Herself and the fact that
She provides for us the foods that we eat," she says.
Water is essential to this cycle.
"You get the truest understanding of what water does for us
when you connect on the physical level of your mouth getting cottony
and your body dehydrating. Then you can truly pray for the essence
of water itself," she says.
She and her family was on the road toward home from the Sun
Dance when she received a call from her son, Mekasi Camp-Horinek,
informing her of the call to action from Standing Rock. They had
48 hours before the pipeline company moved in. According to Casey,
by August 10, the camps were organized into direct actions
they stood in roadways and erected barriers, blocking DAPL from
entering Army Corps of Engineers land or Standing Rock Sioux Treaty
"I don't think any of us realized at that moment that any of
us were taking part in a historical moment of change, not just within
Indigenous America," she said. "This has grown into the statement
you see today, with hundreds of different nations involved
not just Red Nations but nations around the world. You see
that slogan everywhere, "Water is Life," because that consciousness
has caught fire," she says.
The slogan was prominent Nov. 10 at the downtown Tulsa rally
held in Veteran's Park. Individuals and families gathered around
the Drum and lofted signs decrying the pipeline, big oil corporations
and pollution. People chanted "Water is Life!"
Camp-Horinek steps up to the microphone. She has been introduced
as the 'Native Rosa Parks.'
She smiles a little at this and announces that her hero is her
"I know I speak with her voice, with her heart, with her spirit.
And with what she wanted me to do to carry on," she
Camp-Horinek is surrounded by children as she addresses a
rally in support of Standing Rock Nov. 10 in downtown Tulsa.
She calls the children to the center of the semi-circle the
crowd facing her has loosely formed to best hear her words. "It
is because of you that we are here. Let yourselves be seen. Let
us honor you in the best possible way," she calls out. "I'm a mother.
A grandmother, a great-grandmother and hopefully I'll be a great-great
while I'm still here."
Her hands sweep around the circle of children surrounding her.
"These are the reasons we are all here tonight. This is the
strength of the Nations to come."
Camp-Horinek then tells of her arrest on Oct. 22. She was at
Standing Rock for a Tribal Historic Preservation meeting. She and
other tribal officers arrived at the protest site to observe and
told officers who they were and why they were there. They were told
where to safely gather to watch. Within an hour, she says, there
were military tanks on the hill, snipers everywhere and All- Terrain
Vehicles racing through the gathered Water Protectors.
Camp-Horinek says an elder with set broken fingers called out
for a prayer.
"'We need a woman with a Pipe to stand in prayer here as they
"As it was, I was standing there with my Sacred Pipe so I knew
it was me. I knew that I had that honor. And they came at us like
Custer's 7th cavalry," she says.
Pepper spray, tear gas, percussion bombs and sound cannons were
"I stood with my Pipe in a sacred way and sang songs and prayed
as they came. And I was only one of thousands. As they came, they
divided as if water around a stone, and flowed past us as the men
and women bent over the Sacred Pipe and protected me. All of those
things were happening around me and I was being sprayed and maced
and smoked and bombed, and I could feel nothing because of the prayers
of all of you and the prayers of the people up there being so very
incredibly strong through the sacred pipe and we endured. All of
us endured," she says.
Camp-Horinek was among more than 140 arrested, ziptied and numbered
"It was a remarkable and powerful feeling. Then the fools put
us where are strength was. They put us down on Mother Earth and
told us to sit here," she says.
Instead of feeling defeat, she found humor. The police had put
her next to her sister-in-law who had been with her brother at Wounded
Knee. She jokes that gave them the opportunity to "catch up" since
"it seemed we would have plenty of time to talk."
Her gentle humor saw her through the ordeal and her strength
will see her through the days ahead for the fight is not over.
"What do you do when the water is under attack?" She cries to
the crowd. "... what do you do for the future generation's life?"
"Fight back!" The children reply. "Fight back!"
"Prayer will lead us in the struggle. We are warriors of the
future. We are warriors of the generations of the past. We have
arrived and we are ready. We are Protectors, not Protestors ...
we are the prayer warriors ... and together we stand," she says.
Water is life.