On November the 16th 2016 I flew to San Francisco to make my way across country to North Dakota to stand with the Native American water protectors and peacefully protest against the ‘black snake’.

I wrote several fb posts during my time there as a way to keep friends and family updated  – these posts reached far more people than I imagined and even led to a joint article in Spinoff. 

I have copied the entires below as I am beginning to play around with the idea of narrative and character in my artwork and this will stir up the observations I made over there that were not relevant to write about but were magical to me.

We have hit South Dakota after 3 days of car travel. Just purchased the rest of the supplies we are taking in…One of the trolley loads below. We also have winter sleeping gear and coats to take in. The people who are staying through winter will need them because it is super chilly here. The first night we stayed with Rose Little-Butler and Brian and their beautiful family in Winnemucca Nevada, we were very grateful as they shared their Native knowledge with us and prepared us for the camp. Their wisdom and generosity was a gift. We picked up supplies from them to take in which included some kind of root (I have forgotten the name for now) which has great healing powers and is very hard to come by. Brian gave me some dried cedar in case I started getting sick…like I said, we were so grateful to have stayed with them. We have eaten mostly from gas stations and supermarkets and I have been sampling all kinds of American delicacies. … see the chocolate covered chips below 😁.
I am always suprised by the vastness of the landscape when I travel through the States and this is no exception. It is stunning and I feel very comfortable in such dry openess.
We have laughed, philosophied, snapped at each other …Ok maybe mostly I have snapped, especially in the mornings before eating, no suprises there.
We have listened to Nina Simone, Bob Dylan and Fat Freddie. Interviews with the likes of David Crosby and Neil Young and podcasts on lucid dreaming.
We have made rules so we remain friends after 3 weeks of travelling together….oh ok I made the rules…like when you eat in the car the music has to be loud enough so I can’t hear you 😂😂.
We have seen or heard nothing of the election…yet….. apart from discussing it with Rose. We have spent 90% of our time in Trump territory though.
Well we will be at Standing Rock in a few hours. Reception is patchy there but will do my best to keep updates happening.
Thank you to all who donated not only monetary but also supporting me by loaning me warm gear, looking after my kids, pets and all those who listened to my endless chatter about the pipeline


Made it to Standing Rock Camp. We are safe with our new friends in their tipi. Have been through orientation and will be attending a decolonisation meeting this afternoon before a women’s meeting. Tomorrow we start work. Donations were very gratefully received by Gramma Diane. We took the boxes to Winonas tent Rose Little-Butler 😀 . The rest is indescribable at the moment….incredible is all I got xx love to Daisy Friis, willow and max xxx

last night the police tried to take the bridge. It is what separates the highway they have closed and the camps. Doug and I spent the night taking people to the medic tents back at camp and bringing blankets to the soaking people that were drenched with the water cannon. The people were injured from rubber bullets, tear gas etc. A woman had her lower arm blown to bits with a deliberate concussion grenade aimed at her as she was retreating. We got a bit of sleep before we were woken at 5am to come and help. We arrived down here to a few police and in the last half hour I can count about 50 police cars that have come down the hill, state troopers etc. We are safe up in the hill . This is a peaceful protest on our side and the elders are just incredible in controlling this movement and making sure it stays non violent…from this side anyway. It is all about love and respect . Really hard to watch what is happening. Very surreal. Don’t worry we are staying safe. This clip is not to sensationalise this at all but rather show the truth as we just heard how the news have reported this and of course it was completely inaccurate. Remember this is treaty land this is happening on, it is illegal. Oh and down in the camp it is an example of how working together and caring about each other can work. No money is exchanged and people are fed and working hard to make sure everyone is ok..its inspiring. Pretty impressive for a gathering of over 7000.
Ok my fingers have almost frozen off. It is about minus 10 degrees.
Be kind to one another.

The video below is one from you tube, it is of the night described above – I did take footage but cannot upload it so for now this will be a good representation

Standing Rock Update
A very quiet day. We came back to camp pretty bewildered by what we had seen last night and this morning. It didn’t feel right. The drama was taking over the real cause. Last night’s casualties felt futile. I couldn’t get a grip on why this all felt so wrong. We helped out at camp sorting donations, went to sleep to the sound of the elders singing prayer songs and woke up for dinner. Gramma Diane addressed the people who came to eat at her kitchen tonight (there are many kitchens to eat at, we love Gramma Diane so always go there). She reminded every that this is a protest centered around prayer and to not go to the frontline but rather stay at camp and pray. Then a Lakota elder who blessed the food calmly reminded us we were on his land and therefore now part of his family and it saddens him greatly to see us hurt…I cannot begin to do justice to what he said and the story he told, it is not mine to repeat . This will be our last update for a few days as we put our energies into community support and cleaning up our thoughts. If you would like to help, send your good vibes this way to both the injured and the ones injuring as they need support as well.


Today a group of 6 or 7 indigenous NZ Maori folk turned up swinging their poi’s and bringing their good vibes into the camp. It was so uplifting to get big warm hugs from them and it made camp feel that little bit more comfortable. It put a big grin on my face. They will be performing at the thanksgiving. ..or thanks – taking on Thursday where Jane Fonda has donated food and will be serving it.
We came into Bismarck today (nearest big town) to bring a sick lady to the pharmacy and also pick up supplies for ourselves and others. Mostly sewing supplies so we can insulate the teepee we are staying in so it is winterised for the next people. We are getting used to the cold and way of life, the way of being of service, often in the way you were not expecting. We have gotten over our egos of needing recognition for being here (Dougs need 😂) and helping, something that is not uncommon to go through, which leaves you in a relaxed state of letting things happen and knowing the little things you can do all contribute to the overall wellbeing of the camp. That said, our tolerance is being super tested right now as we wait in Bismarck coming up to 4 hours for something out of our control. Well hows that for not putting an update on today 😊 Just heading back to Bismarck and have found out the water protectors have gone to the frontline again and authorities are blockading with concrete? Maybe we were held up for a reason …..

Standing Rock Update
Happy Thanksgiving. ..or thanks – taking. We have woken up to snow, exited out teepee to a white wonderland, alot has melted now in the photos . strangely it’s not so cold.
Have been to the Sacred Fire this morning. We are woken at 6am with someone yelling through a megaphone ‘get up get up this is not a vacation, time to start praying, get to the Sacred fire’. You want to get up because starting the day at the sacred fire, setting your intentions, giving thanks and sending prayers is the best way to start the day. We also hear very wise words from the elders and get cleansed through sage and song.
I believe there is action on the frontline today but we are staying to help prepare thanksgiving dinner.
We were up until midnight stuffing garlic into all sorts of beasts – deer, buffalo and elk, with Gramma Diane. Lots of laughs and and stories shared. We met a man who was a huge rugby fan, I didnt offer him much in the way of conversation on this subject but Doug did NZ proud and held up the convo and took me by suprise at how much he knew…closet rugby head 😂.
People are pouring into camp due to a long weekend for Thanksgiving. This is a real test and excellent lesson as we get frustrated at the new long lines to use to toilets and the huge lines for dinner. Of course we are locals now having stayed all of 6 days 😂😂 . So the thing is , the Lakota people have warmly welcomed all who come here onto their land, they feed them and appreciate them being here. They have to cook for more and more people each day. They are exhausted but you never hear them complain. This day, thanksgiving, is the day the Pilgrims made into a celebration because when they arrived in this country and struggled to find food, the Native people fed them and helped them Just like they are doing today.
That’s what you call forgiveness. To put this in perspective , the genocide that was unleashed on the Native Americans was on a unprecedented scale (that includes the history Hitler created ) yet here they are opening their home and hearts to everyone.. its is really astounding. It is healing for both sides.
Last night after food prep we walked out to the dining room and stumbled across a small group of people singing. The guy on the guitar (I am terrible with names) was from a band that plays all around the world, Womad type of gigs. His band is from South West Africa and is a traditional band with a blues street twist. He was a stunning musician and we sat around making up songs about grammas kitchen. It was a good night.
We tried to go and have and shower at the rec centre down the road but it was shut – went to the servo to wash in the bathroom instead and rearrange the layers of clothing, made us feel like we had clean clothes on. A lady was in front of me in the food line last night and before I realised I was sniffing her, she looked at me and I told her how good she smelt… She laughed and said she had just arrived… i felt like a vampire but I really couldnt help it. I am going to have such am new found appreciation for so many little things in life…. like showering.
Doug has gone down to help put up a teepee with the man who loves rugby, he is excited to get the opportunity to help.
I am off to the kitchen.
We never know what time it is or what day. I love this life. I do miss my family and wish they were all here to experience this .

In the photos if you look behind the big white box shaped tent out teepee is directly behind it.


Standing Rock Update
Big lessons in discrimination the last 2 days.
We came to Bismarck yesterday, the closest biggish town to standing rock. Doug was getting sick and trust me when I say, we really needed showers.
It was too early to check into our hotel so we naively decided to check out the mall so we could buy some more thermals. Firstly we had no idea it was black Friday, a day where consumers go crazy at sale prices. Luckily we missed the ugliness of frenzied panic shopping. What we did encounter was a very hostile and paranoid environment. It was very difficult not to catch this fear based mindset, we stuck out like a sore thumb in our standing rock clothes. Actually just our scent would have given us away 😁.
I saw a native woman get dragged away by two huge policemen for chanting water is life and then was almost sick to my stomach hearing the crowd that had gathered like a lynch mob reciprocating the chant with ‘go the blues’. They were not referring to the Auckland rugby team.
I had promised my family I would not put myself in a position to be arrested, I also may want to come back to this crazy country one day, so I walked through the ridiculous amount law enforcement to the other end of the mall. I passed groups of water protectors huddled planning their next move. It was difficult to walk on by and not join. I felt like a traitor.
I was meeting Doug at target so after looking around I went out to meet him and set off the the security beeper on the way out……a group of heavily armed police nearby looked at me, I stared straight back for what seemes like eons. I felt weirdly calm although when one tried to grab my arm to escort me roughly back to target I did gruffly tell him to get his #**#¤ hands off me…..One time i was thankful my accent could not be understood. He did let go of me though.
The security lady in target was horrified and told them I was fine but they insisted on patting me down and making me empty my pockets…. In the foyer of the store. A crowd gathered and I began to sense that one false move and I would be arrested. This was confirmed by Doug who was for the first time afraid as he watched this go on. He told me later that they were scouting the mall arresting any water protectors. I think my foreigness and calmness threw them as they looked like they had no idea what to do with me. It was surreal. When discussing it afterwards Doug made me laugh when he admitted he was fearing his safety because I had the car key…how would he have got to the hotel …😂😂😂
So we went back to the hotel and again were discriminated against as the woman overcharged me among many other things. The Native man who actually comes from standing rock that checked me out this morning confirmed that he has had to comfort many water protectors after being treated badly at the hotel.
Now I am at the laundromat and when we walked in we listened to man loudly claim how they should just dig a big pit and throw all the protestors in it or wait until it is minus 20 and go and hose the whole camp down so we all get sick and die.
I spoke to the man with him about how to work the machines, he looked pained by what turned out to be his brothers words and helped us. His brother was then proclaiming how he had never seen one of those protestors and he wish he could because everyone else has……..He then asked me what I was doing in these parts 😂😂😂 another stare down as I told him. Funny thing is, in about 10 minutes the place was swarming with water protectors doing their washing and man who wanted us all dead was staring quietly at his clothes going around and around in the dryer. I remembered what the elders advised us to do and spoke to him because I actually felt bad for him. He was the only one in the place looking miserable and uncomfortable . By the time he left he was chatting away with all of us and although he remained unchanged in his views on the pipeline I feel he went away with a different perspective about the water protectors.
Doug has now made a friend at the laundromat and he wants us to come to his place and meet his sister, get warm and and have a meal. Things can change so quickly, a town we wanted to escape as fast as we could only an hour ago has showed us some loopholes of kindness.
Long post today and only a fragment of what’s happening but I wanted to give a different view of how this movement has affected Bismarck.
Looking forward to getting back to camp today. Washing is almost dry….clean clothes…what a treat!

We left standing rock 2 nights ago. I woke on Sunday morning (Monday for NZers) knowing we would be going that day. Although this was a calm and determined knowing, my heart felt very heavy while my mind scrambled for reasons to stay.
As we drove away after a very uplifting free concert by Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, in a snow storm that has still not let up in North Dakota. Had we stayed, we would not have made it out of camp

I will stop there as I have written this last post, lost it, re written it over the last few days.
I wrote of our last day at camp which was very enjoyable, so very tough to leave but a great day.
I have decided not to write the details of that day and how much we gained from going Standing Rock etc in light of the new developments at camp.

The blizzards have not let up, the camp is covered in snow and the Governor has closed all access into the camp. This means necessary supplies such as water and firewood will run out. Emergency services have been banned entering and evacuation will begin on the 2nd…2 days before the 2000 veterans are turning up to protect the water protectors.
Apparently this is for the safety of the water protectors.
The water protectors are standing strong in their determination.

The thugs that will be performing the evacuation process are a combination of the police and the blackwater – these are Dick Chaneys vigilante Corp, a group of highly trained individuals from all over the world with very little regard for human life…oil protectors.
The same men who doctored the concussion grenades that took the arm of a water protector.

There is a Hopi prophecy about the black snake (the oil pipelines) that calls together people from the world to learn the Native American ways from the elders in order to save the planet from the greed that is destroying it.

If you feel like you would like to help I urge you to look these prophecies up.
A good little video if you ignore the strange voice over is
It is a good overview of the whole situation at standing rock at well. It is a couple of months old but still relevant.
Keep informed about standing rock and talk about it to people that may not be aware.
In whatever form you choose, pray for the people at standing rock and for their success. Also pray for those who choose to protect the pipeline, having looked into some of their eyes, they are lost and live in fear.
Write letters, sign petitions etc
Look at our country and what is happening there, are there things you feel are hurting the land? Stand up and voice your concerns.
Do not buy products made with oil.
Learn how to live as self sufficiently as possible
Teach your children the traps of materialism

We need to take back our planet from the greed of destructive corporations so our children have a safe place to bring their children into the world.

By the way Doug and I are in Boulder Colorado, a beautiful town, we are making our way back to San Francisco to fly out on the 5th.

We want to thank you all for your support and taking this journey with us. Your comforting words and concern for our safety were much appreciated as we sat on Facebook hill in the car with the heater blasting .

We both are trying to stay positive as we think of our friends back at camp. It is so difficult to not be there and our hearts remain in a contradictory state of heaviness but also immense gratitude for all we have learnt and experienced.

I will sign off with the words I heard from an elder that have stayed with me during this week.

Let you aura speak first

xxx Paula and Doug


‘A journey I had to make’ – New Zealander Paula Friis on why she joined the Standing Rock protest in the United States

The Standing Rock protest against the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline officially opened on April 1st this year. It has grown into the world’s biggest pipeline protest, and the largest gathering of Native Americans in 130 years. As winter sets in and a violent December 5th eviction looms, Kristina Hard talks to Auckland woman Paula Friis about life in the encampment.

In an unprecedented gathering not seen since the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, more than 90 Native American nations and tribes have united at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation on the border between North and South Dakota, to protest the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. There is an old Native American Lakota prophecy, circa 1890s, that speaks of a zuzeca sape (black snake) crossing the land, bringing with it destruction and devastation. If it goes ahead, the pipeline will cross the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s ancestral lands, desecrating sacred Native American sites and jeopardising their single water source, the Missouri River.

Indigenous leaders have vowed to protest through the harsh Dakota winter, fighting temperatures that can fall below -37 degrees Celsius and safeguarding peace in the face of illegal concussion grenades, rubber bullets, freezing water and tear gas assaults from police. The perpetration of police violence on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe lands violates the Sioux Treaty of 1869 (also known as the Treaty of Fort Laramie). People on the frontlines have confirmed that multiple water protectors (the protestors’ preferred nomenclature) have been injured, leaving them bleeding and/or unconscious. Law enforcement have shot down three media drones and targeted journalists with less lethal means according to sources at Iŋyaŋ Wakháŋagapi Othí (Sacred Stone Camp).

Očhéthi Šakówiŋ Camp, Standing Rock. Photo: Paula Friis

Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, (Seven Council Fires), an overflow from Iŋyaŋ Wakháŋagapi Othí (Sacred Stone Camp), is now the largest camp of water protectors. One hundred per cent off-the-grid with the help of solar and wind power, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ Camp has a population of more than 10,000 residents and visitors. Hundreds have poured in from overseas to offer support and supplies. Paula Friis, from Auckland, is one of them.

Paula’s goal as a non-native supporter of Standing Rock is to amplify the Indigenous voices from camp, not to speak for Indigenous people or replace their voice. Because Paula is not from Standing Rock, she cannot speak for those in the struggle or represent the struggle, but she can share her own experience.

What motivated you to join the protesters in Dakota?

I have been following the Standing Rock movement since April with a strong feeling that it’s going to be a game changer for the well-being of the planet. Why did I come to Očhéthi Šakówiŋ Camp? The same indescribable pull that the majority of people here felt, it wasn’t so much of a choice but a journey I had to make.

I have great respect for the Native American Indigenous people, their teachings and way of life. I have participated in Native American ceremonial sweat lodges in New Zealand with a Lakota friend. I understand my position as a white woman at camp is a humble one. I bear witness and participate where appropriate, while the water protectors peacefully fight for what is their right.


Paula Friis at Standing Rock

What is the atmosphere in Očhéthi Šakówiŋ Camp?

The atmosphere in camp is one of generosity. The Native Americans have been so welcoming; we arrived late at night and they fed us and made sure we had shelter. They thanked us for coming so far. We get thanked all the time for the journey we have made, people are so grateful and it’s infectious. The way of the Lakota is to give more than you receive and this protocol creates a very loving environment. Of course the atmosphere changes.

Last night [when police fired water cannon at water protectors in freezing conditions] was a very difficult night for many. The police tried to take the bridge. It’s what separates the highway they have closed and our camp. I spent the night taking men and women injured by rubber bullets and tear gas to the medic tents and bringing blankets to soaking people who were drenched by water cannons in freezing temperatures. A woman had her lower arm blown to bits by a doctored concussion grenade, deliberately aimed at her as she was retreating. She might lose her arm.

This violence saddens the elders greatly and the atmosphere can turn sombre. This is when we increase our prayers around the sacred fire, for both the water protectors and the ones harming them. A Lakota elder, who blessed our food at camp, reminded us we were on his land and therefore now part of his family and it saddened him greatly to see us hurt.

There’s a lot of misinformation regarding the protest, what is the truth of the matter?

In the past the water protectors have been accused of many false things. The media, if they report at all, generally have no idea what is really going on. It was reported police used water cannons on the water protectors in freezing conditions, [in order to] put out fires we had started on the bridge. It is a ridiculous claim as a number of people filming that night show the fires were lit hours after the people were blasted, in order to warm them up so they did not get hypothermia. This is just one example of media manipulation. Fortunately social media is a little better at reporting alternative views. The truth is that this is a peaceful protest. The water protectors are determined to carry this out in a peaceful way; there is never any anger here at camp. The elders are incredible in controlling this movement and making sure it stays non-violent, from our side anyway.

What is the general mood of the water protectors?

The water protectors are in shock from the events of last night, but camp life continues. Three hundred gathered at the sacred fire this morning, in temperatures of -4 degrees Celsius at 5.30am, for the biggest prayer circle we have had so far. We set our intentions for the coming day, gave thanks and offered prayers. We were gifted wise words from the elders and refreshed through sage and song. The spirit of camp can never be taken, for many this is utopia as far as being around like minded people who care about the planet and Indigenous rights. It is truly a giant family and the familial bond is a very hard one to break.

Is there support for Standing Rock in the surrounding towns?

I have ventured outside of camp to Bismarck, a town that refused the pipeline be put under their land. A hot shower and clean clothes beckoned as we ventured into day six unwashed. The atmosphere there is one of paranoia and hostility. Police scout the malls for water protectors, I saw a Native American woman dragged away by two huge policemen, for chanting “water is life”. I was sick to my stomach to hear a crowd of people reciprocate the chant with “go the blues” in support of the police. It is difficult not to catch a fear-based mindset when one false move can put you under arrest. I have promised my family I will not put myself in a position to be arrested, so I thought I found a safe place at the other end of mall but I was harassed by the police and had a narrow escape. I passed groups of water protectors huddled, planning their next move. It was difficult to walk past them and not join in, I felt like a traitor. Forty innocent people were arrested that day. This is surprisingly good news for the water protectors as police overload the jails, which increases the ascending cost of opposing the defence of the pipeline.

How would you describe your experience at Očhéthi Šakówiŋ Camp?

This experience so far has been one of the most profound of my life. I am still processing how this is affecting me; contemplating the lessons I have learned and how I will honour the Native elders’ request to bring the knowledge back to our communities. I have engaged with incredible people from all walks of life and I feel a sense of peace, purpose and awareness that is often overlooked in the craziness of everyday life. One of the most interesting aspects of this experience is how words are often irrelevant here. As an elder put it, “let your aura speak first”.

What do you hope for Standing Rock’s future?

I hope our peaceful prayers inspire more law enforcement to put down their weapons, for a peaceful resolution and the safety of all those at camp. I hope this protest has set a precedent for people all over the world to stand up for the planet so our children can have a better future.

Očhéthi Šakówiŋ Camp, Standing Rock. Photo: Paula Friis

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s fight to save their ancestral lands and protect the Missouri River is ongoing. The Army Corps have now issued an eviction notice to Očhéthi Šakówiŋ Camp and will move in on December 5th to remove the water protectors from their land. The notice claims this act of force “is necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontation between protestors and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions.”

In response around 2,000 war veterans have pledged to come to the aid of Očhéthi Šakówiŋ Camp and hold the frontline. The group has been advised via social media platforms to remain peaceful in the face of oppression and come equipped with gas masks, face shields, earplugs and other protective gear but no weapons. Aggressive police violence is expected, along with the use of less lethal rounds in the form of rubber bullets, bear spray, concussion grenades, water cannons, long range acoustic devices (sonic weapons) and CS gas (a riot control agent which side effects include severe headaches, ocular trauma, coughing, burning sensations in the throat and nose, retching and shortness of breath).

Misinformation from mainstream media is beginning to spread. Multiple news sources are reporting The Army Corps erroneous claim that ‘dangerous groups have joined this protest and are provoking conflict in spite of the public pleas from tribal leaders.’ This misrepresentation paints a picture of an out of control rabble but it is a smokescreen for law enforcement to justify their illegal acts of violence.

Big corporations continue to trash our planet for their own greed, disregarding human, Indigenous and environmental rights. But we can help, we can challenge misinformation, we can speak to those on the opposite side to incite a change of perspective and we can offer financial and social support to the water protectors. If not me, who? If not now, when?

Get involved:

This one-page factsheet is a good introduction to the Dakota Access Pipeline, and why it is being opposed.

Donate money or supplies to the water protectors here.

Like Očhéthi Šakówiŋ Camp on Facebook

Like Iŋyaŋ Wakháŋagapi Othí (Sacred Stone Camp) on Facebook

Follow Iŋyaŋ Wakháŋagapi Othí (Sacred Stone Camp) on Twitter

#HonorTheTreaties #NoBakken #OcetiSakowinCamp #OcetiSakowin #SacredStone #STOPDAPL #MniWiconi #SacredWater #NoDAPL #RezpectOurWater #StandWithStandingRock