The Wopila Brigade (thank you in Lakota)

I’m grateful for all the members of the Wopila Brigade, pictured below, who answered my call to prepare and serve a feast for the Water Protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Thanksgiving Day, 2016. The brigade was made up of 35 people from 12 states.  Chef Jeremy Stanton of Great Barrington, MA, took responsibility for overseeing the preparation of the feast, including roasting turkeys on spits over an open fire. The dinner was held at the Standing Rock Community High School where we pulled resources with the school staff and actress Shaliene Woodley to increase the size of the dinner to 2000 meals.  We were also joined by Angela Kirkman who organized a caravan from New Mexico bringing vegetable dishes from Santa Fe restaurants. Kei Kurimoto, from Philadelphia, a volunteer at the Oceti Sakowin camp since the spring, was our contact on the ground, who helped plan and receive the food supplies, including pasture-raised turkeys from Bill Niman’s ranch in California and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which was contributed for dessert.  Jodie Evans, cofounder of Code Pink, who helped organize the brigade, brought in Jane Fonda who drew media attention for the cause.  We stayed at the native-owned and operated Prairie Knight Casino Hotel on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation near Cannonball, N.D.

Children’s Cards of Thanks

To provide decoration for our dinner, I asked teacher friends to organize school projects for students to make Thanksgiving cards that expressed gratitude to the Water Protectors for defending Mother Earth and protecting our water, soil and air. We placed the cards on the tables at the feast and strung them to cover one whole wall of the gym.  Later they were distributed at the Oceti Sakowin camp.

Those teachers who organized students and sent hundreds of beautiful cards to Standing Rock were:

Laura Birdsall of River Valley Waldorf School in Upper Black Eddy, PA

Lou Ann Merkle and senior Rachel Rodrigo of Crefield School in Philadelphia

Nellie DiPietro of Shady Grove Elementary in Ambler, PA, who also brought cards from her husband’s students at John Hancock Elementary and LaBrum Middle School in Northeast Philly.