surfing, sunset, dakota pipeline

Professional surfer and activist Kassia Meador’s first-hand account of Standing Rock

Words: Josh Rakic
Photography: Dawn Olivieri/Kassia Meador

Meador takes a quick break from the waves to stand in solidarity with peaceful water protectors

The months-long standoff between authorities and water protectors at Standing Rock could easily be classified as a land rights issue, but more importantly according to professional longboarder and environmental activist Kassia Meador, the peaceful resistance stands as a beacon for human rights and conservation.

A Los Angeles native whose plank-walking skills have earned her worldwide attention for the best part of decade, Kassia has long used her notoriety to promote environmental conservation issues and sustainable living. So when the Dakota Access Pipeline protests were brought to her attention, the 34-year-old wasted little time getting involved, and called on like-minded friends to help feed, clothe and sleep a good chunk of the 12,000 protesters - including putting on a Thanksgiving feast for 3,300 of them. It’s water that’s at the centre of the protest. And having recently returned from 12 days at ground minus-zero temperatures, Kassia explains why the ongoing campaign should matter to all of us.

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THE RED BULLETIN: You’re a long-time environmentalist and sustainable living advocate. How’d it come about?

KASSIA MEADOR: Being a surfer my whole life and having the opportunity to travel the world since I was 15 years old, it opened my eyes to the broader scope of our planet and the state it’s in. We live in a beautiful world but that world has become increasingly littered by our waste and unconscious behaviors as humans. The earth is at a breaking point and won’t last much longer going the way we’re going. And I feel it is our duty as citizens of this planet to do what we can to lighten the load and enlighten each other on doing so - for a future.

Like most of us, it wasn’t until September that you first heard of the Sioux tribe’s plight…

Which was quite a while after the first water protectors started sitting to protect their land back in April. I wasn’t aware of it until friends of mine were going to sit because the mainstream media wasn’t talking about it. The real story started to come out through Instagram, social media and word of mouth. And ever since I heard about Standing Rock, my heart was there with the people. For me, it was getting out there to help and stand with them and be like “hey, you guys have been standing in solidarity for 500 years and continue to be exploited by broken treaties. We’re standing with you.”

“…because it’s not meeting aggression with aggression or fear with fear. It meets fear and aggression with stillness.”

In one word, how would you describe what the campaign is about?

Water. Water is life. We can all sustain living for 30 days without food, but we can only live for three days without water. And a lot of those water veins in our country are drying up. And the ones that are flowing are becoming so polluted it threatens our existence. A dream of everybody there is to live sustainably - the way indigenous people all over the world have always tried to. They’d done that since day one. But they’ve been brutalized and become victims of warfare, being forced into pigeon holes to a point where they’re barely surviving. But none of us will be able to survive without clean water.

You didn’t just help support the camp with critical supplies but got involved…

The silent women’s meditation march, which I was a part of, was one of the most powerful things ever - because it’s not meeting aggression with aggression or fear with fear. It meets fear and aggression with stillness. And in those still waters, people see themselves. Within the camp itself, I saw so much love, community, camaraderie and prayer. The one thing about the camp that was definitely misconstrued by mainstream media was that it’s a protest camp. It was a peaceful prayer camp of water protectors. There were 12,000 people there in the three different camps working and helping together, proving community and consciousness are the way of the future. Nobody was left hungry or left out in the cold, everybody was there to protect the water.

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What was the most disturbing thing you witnessed?

People were getting shot with pepper spray and tear gas. I’m talking female elders and people who are disabled, sitting there and praying in silence, being attacked with tear gas and things like that. I got crop dusted when I was up there standing in peaceful protest. They were flying over, basically creating weather warfare. Authorities attacking its own citizens.

You were there for Thanksgiving of all days and helped feed thousands of people…

Travis Lett of Gjusta donated 100 loaves of bread, restaurateur Steven Arroyo, plus Amanda from Moon Juice helped cook 48 turkeys that fed 3300 people during Thanksgiving. And we raised money to winterize supplies. But it wasn’t just those people, so many people from the community also donated sleeping bags and clothing, and milk of magnesia for the pepper spray victims. Yogi and chef Tabitha Rose, and Dawn Olivieri were a big help, too. There are too many people and businesses to mention.

What was your main motivation and why should people removed from the situation care?

Thing is, no matter what happens to the Earth it will be fine in the long run and regenerate - even if it’s millions of years from now. Whether we are going to stay here or not is the question. And at this rate, we’re not going to last another 100 years.

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