“What people are missing is how peaceful the camp really is, and [that] there are people risking their jobs and risking their lives at home to support this cause,” Chad BrownEagle, of the Shoshone Bannock and Spokane Tribe, told me by email. A junior at IAIA, where he studies cinematic arts and serves as the president of student government, BrownEagle traveled to the reservation with his fellow students. One of his friends, he told me, described the camp as “like a time before we were colonized.”
The students raised money to support their journey independently of the school, which is federally funded and cannot officially participate in the protests. But they all felt a strong desire to make it to the camp. “For a lot of us that’s our family up there, that’s our friends, our tribal members,” said Grey Eagle. “Just watching from afar, that’s really hard.”
The students also collected donations to buy canvases, paint, and brushes in order to hold workshops with the children living in the camp. “When we arrived, we went to the school they had there, and when we mentioned the workshop, they were so excited because they needed their youth to focus on something fun other than the Dakota Access Pipeline,” BrownEagle said. Grey Eagle described one of her favorite pieces, a work created by a small kid who wrote “this is bad” over black and blue paint. “You could see how much they were absorbing around them,” she said.