HICKORY – Two local women headed to North Dakota on Friday to help deliver supplies to people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Myfawny Sierra Ruiz, who had been following news related to the pipeline, said she was moved to take action after President Donald Trump signed an executive order resuming construction of the pipeline.
President Barack Obama issued an executive order in December blocking the pipeline.
Ruiz said she asked Paul Hume, a friend of hers who had previously delivered supplies to the camps, if he was going to deliver supplies again.
Hume said he would and Ruiz decided she would head out to help.
Ruiz set up a GoFundme page to help raise money for the supply run to North Dakota.
Brandi Geddings, Ruiz’s long-time friend, decided to accompany Ruiz both out of concern for the situation of the camp as well as a desire to support her friend.
They left on Friday for North Dakota, carrying only hats that had been donated by Jo Boone on the flight with them, Ruiz said.
While Hume would be bringing foods like meats and vegetables to the camps, Ruiz had placed an order for foods like oatmeal and mashed potatoes at the Wal-Mart in Bismarck, ND.
Both women are concerned about the water supply, specifically the possibility that a break or a leak would harm Lake Oahe on the Missouri River, a major water source for the Sioux tribe.
While the pipeline itself does not cross through the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, it does cross under Lake Oahe.
In addition to bringing supplies, they also plan to help with clean-up efforts, Ruiz said.
Ruiz and Geddings, who are both of Cherokee descent, also are concerned about the effects on tribal culture and the mental health of the Sioux.
Geddings, who works as a counselor, says the history of mistreatment of Native Americans has left enduring psychological scars.
The recent activity surrounding the pipeline, with one president halting the construction and another resuming it, has contributed to the psychological harm.
“We’re re-traumatizing our Native Americans, and we’ve done this over and over,” Geddings said.
Another issue is the effect of the pipeline on land the Sioux considers sacred that lies outside of the Standing Rock Reservation.
“Imagine one morning you wake up and Arlington Cemetery is going to get bulldozed,” Ruiz said.
“Well, that is what the Standing Rock sacred site is to the people who live there.”
Southerners in particular, who have a historical attachment to their own heritage through the land, should identify with the concerns of the Sioux, Geddings said.
“If Southerners could look at, put ourselves in that situation, they could really understand and empathize because the Southerners, we as Southerners kind of feel the same way,” Geddings said.
The women, who were interviewed Monday, said they did not entirely know what to expect when they arrived.
They had heard that raids of the camps were planned, Geddings said.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that a camp had been cleared by authorities, with several arrests being made.
In organizing the trip, there was a great deal of community support, with more than 50 sponsors contributing, Ruiz said.
Boone said in a phone interview that she donated the hats because of her friendship with Ruiz and her belief that the Sioux are being treated unfairly.
In addition, several hundred dollars had been raised from members of Exodus Church, Ruiz said.
Rev. Reggie Longcrier of Exodus Church said in a phone interview he had been following news related to the pipeline and was personally interested in the situation.
“I’m just empathetic to that cause, and it seems that nobody is hearing, especially the powers-that-be,” Longcrier said.
Seeing the outpouring of support has been an important motivating factor, Ruiz said.
“It’s just really inspired us,” Ruiz said. “This will not be our last project.”