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Mni Wiconi Benefit Concert

Adam Krause

I just returned from North Dakota, where my wife, Marielle Allschwang, and I played a benefit concert in the gymnasium of Standing Rock High School, just a few miles from the intense stand-off against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The night before the benefit, it had been too late and too dark to drive to the camp and try to set up a tent without being a nuisance to people sleeping off the sting of rubber bullets. So we stopped in Bismarck, pulled into a hotel, and saw that more than half the parking lot was filled with police vehicles. Scared, we went to another hotel. This one was better. Instead of more than half, just slightly less than half the lot was cop cars. We stayed there. In the morning, not knowing the best way to the venue, we drove for half an hour and encountered a blockaded road. We backtracked and found a new route. There were no blockades on this road, but helicopters flew overhead, and trucks on their way to the camp had been pulled over. It's rare that getting to a venue feels like such a subversive act.

We arrived. All the musicians playing the benefit were packed into a van and brought to the Oceti Sakowin Camp. From the window, I was stunned by the camp's size, cleanliness, and orderliness. But exiting the van, and setting foot on the straw-covered soil, the smell of burning wood, and the ever-present prayer-circles made it feel unlike any place I have ever been. It seemed like the ground was vibrating. Maybe it was.

When it came time to perform that night for people who have been shot with rubber bullets, pepper sprayed, and then hosed with water in sub-freezing temperatures, yet still maintained the most magical environment I have ever inhabited, I knew I needed to put on the greatest performance of my lifetime. Maybe I didn't succeed. But goddammit I tried. A man the police had recently sprayed with water thanked me for coming. After all he had been through, it was the least I could do, I said. He said, no. You don't understand. After all we've been through, we need this. We need some joy.

So I may not have been attacked by the state, but I cheered up someone who has. It ain't much, but I'm proud.

-Adam Michael Krause

This drawing was taped to the door of the gymnasium: