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Raymond Lee Alvarez
Interviewed by: Samantha Anglen
What is your name?
The U.S. Government knows me as,
Raymond Lee Alvarez, but my people
know me, as Bulleiwi LahIssDennakaji
(porcupine, Head person at the Gate).
Tell us who you are:
I am an enrolled member, of the Pit River Tribe,
of California. I also carry Kokawas Modoc, and
Winnemem Wintu blood. I have served on the
Tribal Council as the representative for the Hewisedawi (on top people) for 10 years. I have dealt with many issues regarding protection, of our Lands/Waters/Air.
How did you hear about the Dakota Access Pipeline?
Like many others I heard about the issue that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was facing regarding the Dakota Access Pipe Line through social media (FB). My heart hurt for all the praying natives being subjected to the brutal tactics; of the police, national guard, and private security, just for trying to protect their waters/burial grounds/land. Soon after I learned about what was going on we, (pit river tribal council) received a letter from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe requesting support through a tribal resolution. We immediately drafted, and passed the official resolution of support, for them. Our Tribal Council also decided to contribute financially to the cause with a donation of 10,000.00 dollars in camping supplies, for the water protectors camp on site. They didn't want to just send a check so they decided to send a Pit River Tribal delegation to the Standing Rock Reservation to assess the situation and purchase supplies to contribute were they saw the most need. Myself; two other Councilmen, and our Tribal Chairman, were selected to be the tribal delegation.
I was excited and nervous at the same time, excited to be able to contribute to the cause by being there first hand on the front lines with all the other water protectors and also to be able to donate supplies to all those already there but I was nervous because I had never been on a plane in my life and I hardly ever travel so this would be the farthest I've ever been from home and we were staying there for a full week! none the less I conquered the whole flying thing and made it to Bismarck North Dakota. Our first sign of the Battle against DAPL was on our way from Bismarck to Standing Rock. We were stopped by a national guard road block that identified the driver then asked if we were, “headed to the occupation?” That made it seem real! We said yes and they let us go on warning us to watch out for "protestors camping along the road". We traveled for about 45 minutes through beautiful rolling hill country and even saw some buffalo grazing in passing fields. We started seeing some tents, campers, and a few teepees along the road side, thought we had arrived, but when we stopped to ask they said the main camp was about 5 minutes up the road. We drove on and came upon the most beautiful site I have ever seen, nothing but thousands of native people, and water protectors of all race. Hundreds of teepees, and countless tents! We wanted to stop but kept on driving because The Standing Rock Tribal Office was located about 30 minutes passed the camp. Out of respect we wanted to meet with The Standing Rock Tribal Council Chairman (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe 2018) to get permission to stay on their lands. Luckily for us they were having a meeting that day, so they added us to their agenda. Our tribal chairman let them know that our tribe passed the resolution of support for them, and that we stand in solidarity with them. We asked permission to stay at the camping grounds for a week, and they said we could stay if we wanted. Then we returned to the main camp and found our Tribal Flag. We had sent it over with a Wintu delegation that made the trip in previous weeks, and set up the "Pit River Camp" right under it. During this time the violent action had simmered down. There was nothing, but an overwhelming feeling of Love throughout the camp. There were so many different beautiful cultures present and on display, every day we participated in "prayer walks", 20-mile walks to the site were DAPL had desecrated burial grounds, and exposed Native remains Prayers, tears, and tobacco were offered at these sites. (Standing Rock Water Protectors 2018). We listened to the medicine people speak, and pray over us. Then we all walked back together there were 500-600 walkers. We even conducted one of these walks Back in Bismarck across the Veterans memorial bridge. As we marched across the bridge we were subjected to a few racist hateful people that kept turning around just to yell racist slurs, and profanities at us. Mainly the passerby's showed signs, of support with piece signs, and thumbs up signs. During the evenings I spent most of my time walking from camp to camp listening to the different styles of songs/dance and meeting new people from all over the world. One camp even had a large generator that powered concert style stereo equipment and performers from all over performed music from all genres, it was amazing!!
How did you directly impact the people at Standing Rock?
After a couple of days at camp we could identify some needs of the camp so we again went to Bismarck and purchased many supplies from chain saws to school books totaling 10,000.00 dollars, and delivered them on behalf of the Pit River Tribe to all the different areas of the camp like; the kitchen, fire wood cutters, security, sacred stone school, and children's entertainment. (The Week 2018). They were all very grateful for the donations, and it was wonderful to see everything being utilized. We stayed for 7 days, and then I made my air plane adventure trip back to, Pit River Country. When I returned I felt like the fires within myself had been fueled, and I was ready to take on the issues right here at home.
What is happening now?
My tribe has been fighting a Geothermal company for over 20 years to protect the waters of our sacred Medicine Lake, and even more closer to home we are now fighting the Modoc Forest Service. We are going to get them to stop allowing commercial obsidian mining in the North Warner Mountains, and stop the commercial collecting of the flat lava rock on the Devils Garden, of Modoc County. All these things are sacred to us, and need to be protected. The agencies have no right allowing our waters to be contaminated, and no right to sell our nonrenewable resources like our obsidian and lava rocks!
National Geographic. Sierra Nevada Geotourism. Accessed on: Feb. 10, 2018. https://www.sierranevadageotourism.org/content/obsidian-mines/siefaeb194d18124a5af
No DAPL Archive. Standing Rock Water Protectors. Accessed on: Feb. 10, 2018, https://www.nodaplarchive.com/sept-daily.html. Scholarly Article.
Pit River Tribe. Official Home Page of the Pit River Tribe. Accessed on: Feb. 10 2018, http://pitrivertribe.org . Web.
The Week. Fund for Dakota Access Pipeline reaches 1 Million. Accessed on: Feb. 10, 2018, http://theweek.com/speedreads/658578/fund-dakota-access-pipeline-protesters-reaches-1-million. Web.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Tribal Council. Accessed on: Feb. 10, 2018, https://www.standingrock.org/content/tribal-council. Web.
United States Department of Agriculture. Rockhounding. Accessed on: Feb. 10, 2018. https://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/modoc/recreation/rocks-minerals/?recid=71240&actid=73
Photo by Chase Voirin