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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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I am an English, Writing major with a double minor in German and journalism. I'm also pursuing my TESOL certificate while working for Housing and Residence Life. I love to travel and meet new people.

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Sal Wiertella March 1, 2024

A story of Standing Rock


Assistant professor of Native American studies, Jud Sojourn returned to NMU the Tuesday before spring break after he was arrested at Standing Rock the week prior.

Sojourn was welcomed back to the Center for Native American Studies Office with cheers of “to freedom” as faculty and students lifted black and white striped cups in a toast.

“It’s a conflict zone,” Sojourn said, describing the Standing Rock camp where protesters stood against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. “When you’re there it just seems like you’re in a war zone.”

Each individual could decide for themselves whether or not they wanted to stay at the camp after an eviction notice was sent warning protesters that they could be arrested after 2 p.m. Wednesday Feb. 22 if they stayed. The eviction cited flooding as a safety hazard but many were encouraged to stand and remain in prayer because they didn’t see any chance of a flash flood, Sojourn explained.

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“Every 10 feet is an opportunity for conversation, it’s an opportunity for a song and it’s an opportunity to make a heartfelt appeal to their hearts, you know what I mean? A heartfelt appeal to their being, to their person,” he said. 

The burning of Oceti Oyate, translated to All Nations Camp, was a ritual performed after the initial eviction notice.

“I was there after the fires had already begun,” Sojourn said. 

He said that the burning of the camp was meant to send the prayers, experiences and good thoughts held in many of the structures into the air in the form of flames and smoke. The ritual was controlled and some buildings were intentionally left alone if they contained potentially hazardous materials. 

“It carries all those dreams as you slept up and away. It also keeps your adversary from taking personal items and—in a sense—putting bad feeling in them if they carry negativity,” he said.

The plan was to regroup about 100 feet up the road from Oceti Oyate after the burning. This was where Sojourn was later arrested when he followed an elder woman into a wall of law enforcement.

Sojourn said law enforcement and private security hired by the Dakota Access Pipeline used fear tactics including heavily armed security and threats of felony charges to scare protesters away.

“The point is to wear people out, make them tired so that they will leave. And, it also is meant to give you a sense that the entire place is toxic and dangerous,” he said.

After Sojourn was arrested in a group of 10 he was taken to the Morton County Courthouse, which doubles as a jail. He said he was transported in a van with his hands ziptied. When they parked, they were taken down an alley into a garage, patted down and stripped to one layer of clothing.

“Some of [the guards] are actively trying to be mean to you and some of them are just nice, as if they were told to be mean to you but they can’t quite pull it off,” he said. “They don’t have the heart to. They’re just North Dakota everyday people, everyday police.”

After about an hour, the group was given back their boots and put back into the van, still in one layer of clothing. Sojourn said the heat was turned off and the guards didn’t talk at first but eventually warmed up to them and turned the heat back on. He felt as if the guards were told to intentionally try to make them feel as if they would be killed.

Once booked, they were held for several hours in a hallway with the door unlocked so they could try to escape at any time, Sojourn said. 

When Sojourn was taken to his cell, he said the inmate in the bottom bunk took his mattress.

“If it’s true—what he said—he was a murderer and he had killed a man in a drug deal, shooting through the front door of a car and injured the man in the back seat,” Sojourn said. “So he was looking at prison time.” 

“He proceeded to be one of the most racist people against Native people I have ever met, saying things that I could not repeat. He was also very friendly.”

Sojourn said he gave his pendant to his cellmate before he was bailed out, hoping to leave the man with a piece of compassion.

“In a sense he represented the underbelly, the dark side of North Dakota racism,” Sojourn said.

There were many eye-opening moments during his experience, Sojourn added. He said even one of the guards thanked him for protecting the water. 

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