Betty Osceola's call to action didn't come from a phone or Facebook. Instead, the Miccosukee grandmother says she sensed that her help was needed. When Osceola heard that hundreds of Native Americans were camped in North Dakota defending sacred reservation land from an oil pipeline, she knew that she had to make the 32-hour, 2,100-mile drive and stand in solidarity with her brothers and sisters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Now, Osceola is accepting food and water donations. Friday morning she will drive to North Dakota in a U-Haul she rented to deliver the supplies. She believes she will be the first Miccosukee to join the protest.
"We're very spiritual people, and our method of communication is different from other people," Osceola tells New Times. "In my heart, I sensed that it was our time to help them."
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.8 million project that will funnel oil from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. It will pass very close to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's reservation. Tribe members fear it will taint their drinking water and jeopardize their sacred sites. Last week, hundreds of Native Americans protested at the construction zone, and work was temporarily stopped. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are now camped at the site, waiting for a district judge to decide if the Army Corps of Engineers failed to properly inform the tribe and review the environmental impact.
"People keep calling this a protest, but we believe we were put on Earth by the creator to be guardians of this creation," Osceola says. "We're defenders of the creator's creation."
The Miccosukee have had to protect their own land, Osceola says. Most recently, it was against the construction of a 76-mile paved bike path that would run through the Everglades. To protest the plan, Betty Osceola, tribe members, and other Native Americans walked the proposed 76-mile route. Osceola, though, remembers one Native American man who carried a Lakota flag.
"Two years ago, when there was an issue here in Florida, a Lakota-Sioux member was here," she says. "The Sioux need help, and it's our turn to help them."
The Miccosukee have already penned a letter in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Earlier this week, Betty Osceola wrote her own letter to President Obama asking him to intervene:
Photographer JohnBob Carlos will be accompanying Osceola on the drive. They will leave early Friday morning. Osceola says she can't stay on the grounds for too long because she needs to watch over her local lands.
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"People are coming together — not just tribes, but all citizens — because now we understand the value of protecting the environment," she says. "Because in doing so, you're protecting yourself."
Donations are being accepted at TaoZen in Miami (1325 SW Seventh St.). They will process donations at any time with a one-hour notice.
In Broward, the Upper Room Art Gallery will be taking donations of water, trail mix, nuts, and dried fruit or meat — nonperishable, healthful items only (no junk food accepted). Sheets, blankets, and pillows are also accepted. The gallery is located at 300 SW First Ave. #123. There's an easy-access loading zone in front of the gallery. Hours of intake are 12 p.m. to 3p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and other times by appointment.