Valient Himself here to talk to you about a trip I went on recently.

If you are unfamiliar with our band, then it may come as a surprise that besides making rocknroll, we care about the planet.  And unfortunately as boring as it may seem to some of you, that means paying very close attention to politics.  I could ramble on for what may seem endlessly about the current state of the world, the US, or several of the states in the US.  But I'll spare you all of that.  After hearing about one particular story in the news that concerned one particular group of people residing here in the states, I decided to champion their cause, and figure out some way to help them.  I chose this because not only did this fall into some people's political and even religious discussions, it could just as easily be summed up with my favorite charitable cause/belief system: humanitarianism.

If something can be championed for the good of humanity, then you can throw the political and religious aspects to the side.  Meaning that you should be able to put your political beliefs to the side and team up to help others for the sake of them being on this planet and human and subject to the same natural laws as you or I or anybody.

The cause I'm speaking about was the #NODAPL movement.  The movement started by Native Americans (particularly those from the Lakota Sioux tribe) in North Dakota to stop a Pipeline from going across and/or below the Missouri River right above their tribal land.  If this pipeline were to burst, it would pollute their only source of water.  This started the #waterprotector movement.  When I heard about this, I wanted to do whatever I could to help.  Valient Thorr was in Europe on tour with Clutch at the time, and I told everyone that if I were home in Richmond, I would organize some kind of donations and drive them there myself.

To try to make a very long story short, a lot of people did similar things.  People from all around saved up and took up donations and drove them there.  At one point there were upwards to 12 thousand people there.  I was told that probably for the most amount of time the largest group there was around 8000.  You can look up the story of what happened, but I'm not sure you'll find an accurate portrayal of everything that went down unless you watch hundreds of hours of footage from the people that were there for six months.  But basically, I saw some local sheriffs online overstepping their bounds and shooting rubber bullets and blasting Natives with water cannons in freezing cold temperatures online.  This sparked outrage and the movement grew.  Word of the protestors finally reached the White House in the last days of the Obama administration and he sent word to the Army Corp of Engineers to stop the construction (even though it was almost completed).  Everyone cheered.  But they all knew there was much work to be done.

You see, Trump was to be the new president.  And he owned stock in Energy Transfer Partners (the company building the pipeline).  So no one was going to celebrate and just leave.  So the cops, and the staties, and the feds, AND the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) were all in the middle of a jurisdiction war zone where they each were fighting to say who had say over what went down.  The Natives settled in for a long cold winter's protest.

After coming back home when tour was over and after the holidays, again North Dakota was in the news.  But the time was running out.  They were told to clear out, get off the land.  And I took up money.  Thorriors from everywhere and buddies in other bands reached out and asked their fans to help.  And they did.  And so I had money for supplies.  But there was a deadline.  I was instructed not to bring supplies because they would possible go to waste.  I was told that so many had been thrown in jail that the money was best donated to the legal defense fund.  I was unsure of what to do, but I knew one thing for certain.  I was going there myself to see what the best use of the money would be.


The rest of the story is best told in the videos that i took.

I posted updates for those that donated (but upon reflection, I'm not sure that I ever made those videos public so I'm not sure how far they were seen beyond my own friends and family).

Now that I think on it, I can add that, I was overwhelmed upon arrival.  It was not what I thought was going to happen.  I learned so much that they never told on the news or in any articles I read.  I saw things and confirmed things that were completely wrong in even some of my most trusted news sources. I realized that you could only really understand the scope of this by being there.

I didn't want to bum anyone out or shit on anyone while I was there.  But I saw that there was ultimately a few things that happened that led to the escalation of the police presence.  (Don't get me wrong, they were looking for something to latch onto and use against the people, that's what they do).  But for example, sometimes the bigger a crowd gets, the harder it is to control who is actually in the crowd.  And what I mean by that is that no matter how "well-meaning" a group of people are, they are going to disagree on some things.  They are going to have different ideas of what is right and what is "going too far" and what may help or hinder a situation.

I learned of the incident that blocked the main bridge off from the Reservation to the nearest town and city Mandan and Bismarck.  This left the main source of income to the Native Americans (the casino) blocked off from the citizens and tourists from those cities as well.  And I believe it maybe could have been avoided.  I'm also no dummy, something else would have stirred up a hornet's nest, but it is my belief that antagonizing cops is not a good policy.  No interaction at all would be the best choice.  Anyway, I wasn't there for that, and so its not really for me to comment on further.  

I was expecting to meet a leader or someone there who I could just present the money to.  But that didn't happen.  The leaders had long since retreated back to the Reservation.  They had told a lot of the people who came to go home.  And now I understand why.  Because some that came may have hindered more than helped. But it left me having to figure out what to do with the money that I brought to donate.  It would have been easy to have just pushed a button back home and donated to the legal defense fund, but I had read and been warned about fraud.  Not just here but with every disaster that anyone I'm familiar with had worked around, such as Hurricane Katrina.

It took me several days to get up with the folks who ran the legal defense fund.  They were wary of outsiders, and after eating in one of the local diners, I could very much see some "EASY RIDER" type old school culture clash scenarios happening.  I spoke to them of my concerns and ultimately it came down to this:  When I was at the camp, I only took a few photos, and no video.  That's because you really weren't supposed to.  I was an outsider only there for moments.  But the things that I saw are etched into my mind.  One thing was some dirty faced kids running around.  One popped his head into the mess tent to ask for a peanut butter sandwich.  Five minutes earlier, a weird "REAL WORLD" type reality shouting match had gone down in the same tent.  But I imagine things were heated at the point I showed up.  The Oceti camp had just been shut down and all the remaining protestors had split up and joined the other 2 remaining camps.  I got a sense that was confirmed by a brother/sister journalist duo that the protestors felt a real bond to the camps they had belonged to for however long they had been there.  Being forced to move to a different camp had brought out their "how long have you even been here?" attitudes.  But the little kids stuck in my mind.  Then I watched a video that professor Myron Dewey had put together from all of his pro drone footage.  He had been there for the duration of the protests.  Documenting.  You can see his work by looking up Digital Smoke Signals.  Anyway, I was watching one of his videos that was telling about the clean up effort.  The only thing negatively I heard about when gathering donations was, "why don't you tell them to clean up their mess...etc."  They did.  They had all along, except for what was buried and stuck in ice and snow.  And it wouldn't have been left there either, but they were forced out by the police.  Anyway, at the end of the video is a lady who says that her children may be taken from her.  I didn't like the sound of that, so when I spoke with the legal defense folks, they told me about the freshet collective.  They were there to help families with children who may be taken away, homes, cars, pets, or anything else that may be taken from these families.  I thought that was where the Thorriors money would best be donated.  And that was that.

I'd like to personally say thank you to all those that helped me while I was there on my journey.  You all know who you are.  So thank you.  Alahoyus to all.  If anyone wants to inquire further, you can send me a message here through the site.

To all of those that donated and I promised to make drawings for or personally call or take to dinner if you met the requirements, please send me your info again through the site and I'll follow up with you accordingly.  Thanks for being patient.  AND THANK YOU VERY VERY MUCH FOR HELPING ME TRY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THIS WORLD.

I hope you all enjoy these videos and feel free to share.  thanks, Valient Himself.











Gerald Abernethy