SOUND ROCK SIOUX PROTEST VILLAGE, N.D. — Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president, stepped out of her small tent at the edge of the Missouri River here, where she’d slept in an encampment of protestors the night before. The tent and tarps of her small entourage had been procured second-hand right before this visit, and the plan was to leave the items behind as a donation to the cause.
It was still early in the day, and a warrant had not yet been issued for her arrest — that would come much later. For the moment, this least known and most quixotic of the presidential candidates was but one of thousands of people who’d gathered to try to stop the construction of a planned $3.8 billion, 1,200-mile Dakota Access Pipeline, which they fear will desecrate sacred burial lands and potentially poison the water source for millions downstream.
It’s Stein’s kind of place. After years of work as a physician, her full-time job has become running for offices she isn’t likely to win. Her campaign is itself a protest movement, both makeshift and permanent — much like this camp, which sprung up months ago when a small group of Standing Rock Sioux pitched tents just north of their reservation and refused to leave. The camp has grown into a small village, with dirt paths named as if they were bona fide streets, a school for children ages 7 through 12, a kitchen that serves upwards of 500 breakfasts a day. Stein can’t help but hope this is all a metaphor for her campaign, which has been growing of late, but which still hasn’t broken 5 percent in the polls.
The road into the camp is lined with the flags of hundreds of tribes whose members have arrived here in solidarity, reportedly making this the largest gathering of Native American tribes in more than a century. Trucks rumble past the flags with deliveries for the donation center, an Army-issue tent where piles of goods are arrayed for taking — the usual jumble of things that are truly useful and things someone simply wanted to give away. Among those is a tub filled with branches of fresh-cut cedar. As Stein stood by the river, a woman draped in a colorful woolen shawl approached her with a small tin bucket of smoldering cedar and sage. Stein, tall, trim, silver-haired, and dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved purple T-shirt, extended her arms as though in flight, as the woman waved the bucket about, swirling smoke around the candidate, offering a protective blessing.