National Nurses United

National Nurse magazine October-November-December 2016

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of U.S. military veterans who had—in response to the violence— come to stand in solidarity. "I'm a Vietnam veteran, and I didn't like the way [the authori- ties] were treating my brothers and sisters here, using force when people were trying to do things differently," said Gary Quaderer, Sr., of the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation, Ojibwa Nation, in Hayward, Wis. Quaderer traveled more than 500 miles with 15 other veterans and spouses for a single day: Dec. 4, 2016. As it turned out, vets and nurses arrived just in time to celebrate a victory: The Obama administration announced on Dec. 4 that the Army Corps of Engineers would not grant the project a final permit to drill under the Missouri River, pending further investigation. "It was awe inspiring," said Rachel Gitas, an RN at San Francis- co's University of California Medical Center (UCSF), of being there to witness the historic moment. "The Standing Rock Sioux have worked so hard and the land and water protectors have worked so hard to hold their ground. Everyone was excited. But there was also this underlying tone that this isn't the end." Though Energy Transfer Partners, the main corporation behind DAPL, released a statement that it was "committed to completing the project" (a goal which President Trump advanced by executive action on Jan. 24), the decision to deny the permit was still a critical win. "Our way is victorious in that the people of America know what [Energy Transfer Partners] are doing is illegal," said Lance King, an Oglala Lakota Headsman from Kyle, S.D. Steeling for additional corporate threats—and the potential of the DAPL project to continue moving forward—may have put a damper on a feeling of all-out victory, but what really cut celebration for the camps short was Mother Nature. "I was not prepared for the magnitude of the harshness of the North Dakota winter," Bowen said. "I'm from Missouri, and I've never seen anything like that before!" A march by veterans to the front lines, at which Bowen and Gitas helped provide first aid, was deluged with heavy snow, which rapidly became a raging blizzard. Many camp members and veterans sought shelter 10 minutes away at a nearby reservation casino, where Nygard and McKenzie were helping to set up a first aid station. Bowen and Gitas, however, braved the storm to help out at camp. "At the time I didn't really think about it, I just reacted. That's what we do in medicine, I suppose. You train and prepare so your response becomes instinct. When we came across people in dire medical need, we provided it," said Bowen. For example, when a kitchen tent collapsed in the middle of the night, everyone pitched in despite 50 mph winds to repair it. "No one complained or assumed someone else was going to take care of it." Gitas described being housed in a yurt and woken up by a securi- ty advisor asking medics to help search for people who may have become buried in the snow. "We needed to go from yurt to yurt, tent to tent, getting people out of the snow drifts they had been stuck in. It was a way to pull together as a family and make sure everyone was taken care of," said Gitas. "I had icicles on my eyelashes!" Eventually, all four RNRN volunteers reunited at the casino, where the remainder of their deployment was spent helping staff a first aid station that nurses joined in setting up during the days-long blizzard. "We saw people who had not had access to their normal medica- tions, who had respiratory illnesses, cold injuries, minor injuries," said Nygard. "It was a true team effort because we had really awesome resources: nurses, doctors, interns, EMTs, medics, herbalists, and nat- uralists. It was unique to be able to work together in a partnership, so what Western medicine couldn't accommodate, we were able to have our partners there to help with herbal and natural medicine." A powwow was taking place in the same hall as the first aid sta- tion, in honor of the veterans, so RNs also had the opportunity to witness dances, prayers, drumming, and speeches from some revered Native American leaders, including Bellecourt, who stopped to talk with the nurses. "I felt so privileged, honored, and humbled to be there to speak with him," said Nygard. As their deployment drew to a close, nurses said they were struck by a feeling of love and deep community at Standing Rock, between disparate people from all over the world, who were drawn to the #NoDAPL movement out of a drive to protect others. "I am still in awe of the commitment of the water protectors," said Bowen. "They believe it is in everyone's, not just the Native Americans,' best interests to fight this fight. They have given up comforts that most Americans wouldn't dare. They're toughing it out and living basically outdoors in minus 40-degree windchill weather, surviving on whatever food is donated that week, and yet, rejoicing and sharing a love I have never felt before. The water pro- tectors at Standing Rock are walking the walk, not just talking the talk to ensure our children and our children's children have safe, clean drinking water." For a movement so driven to give, nurses were also struck by many water protectors' inability to receive basic, primary healthcare (See story on Mni Wiconi Clinic). "I think the nurses were all pretty united in that we were going to be back here to help whenever we're needed. The Native people still need healthcare that works for them," said Gitas. "We're not leaving." And so RNRN is "on call" for its next shift to provide care at Stand- ing Rock. Nurses' values call for nothing less. It's what protectors do. O C T O B E R | N O V E M B E R | D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 6 W W W . N A T I O N A L N U R S E S U N I T E D . O R G N A T I O N A L N U R S E 11 Pushing the Boundaries of Care Standing Rock's Mni Wiconi Clinic models new vision of healthcare for all " I 'll never see again." A dark blue bandana hangs diagonally across Vanessa Dundon's face, covering her right eye—the one that was blinded in a blur of exploding tear gas canisters and doctor's office waiting rooms. "I was targeted. I don't understand why." A 31-year-old Navajo mother of four from White Cone, Ariz., Dun- don, who also goes by the name "Sioux Z," is one of thousands of Native American and allied protestors ("water protectors") who camped, over the course of months, at the Standing Rock Sioux reser- vation in North Dakota, resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). In late November, as camp members attempted to remove a highway barricade, which they say was impeding emergency vehicle access, Dundon—who typically volunteered as an information dis- patcher at frontline actions—was shot in the eye with a tear gas can- ister by local authorities.

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