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Summit County vet travels to Standing Rock 

Charmian Wright ‘felt compelled to go’ help in effort to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline  

Charmian Wright, who is a Summit County veterinarian with a mobile equine practice, drove nearly 900 miles the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to help in the effort to protest the Dakota Access Pipelines proposed route.
(Park Record File Photo)

Last weekend, when Charmian Wright learned that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had denied an easement that would have allowed the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross Lake Oahe in North Dakota, she immediately burst into tears.

“I was overwhelmed because it’s not the total fix, but this is what everyone has been fighting for,” Wright said. “The fact that people could make a difference over a multi-million corporation is what we all need.”

The Dakota Access Pipeline Project is a 1,168-mile system designed to carry up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil from the Bakken and Three Forks production region of North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois, according to the Army Corps of Engineers website.

Dakota Access, LLC, had requested a permit to allow the pipeline to cross 37 miles, including land near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, under the Army Corps of Engineers’ jurisdiction.

Last month, Wright, who is a Summit County veterinarian with a mobile equine practice, drove nearly 900 miles to the reservation to help in the effort to protest the pipeline’s proposed route. Lake Oahe, on the Missouri River, is a critical water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

‘I felt compelled to go’

Wright said she had been following the protests about the Dakota Access Pipeline on social media, but when she started seeing footage of horses being injured during the demonstrations, she decided to help.

“I had not known a single person up there, but I had been following the issue and I felt compelled to go up there,” Wright said. “I don’t know how else to describe it. I just felt compelled to do it.”

On Nov. 6, Wright drove her veterinary truck and a trailer resembling a wagon, loaded with medical supplies and donated items, including a collection of winter clothes donated by a client, to the main camp at the reservation.

Twenty-four hours later, Wright went to work showing horse owners, including members of the Crow Creek Spirit Riders, how to handle emergencies and treat different wounds their animals may sustain. Wright also taught medical personnel how to administer fluids to horses through an intravenous catheter.

“I’m very passionate about the issues involved in this whole situation and that was the one way where I could best use my skills,” Wright said. “I knew how the horses are so important for the moral, and for the healing and they are such a huge, integral part of the culture.

“And, believe me, I saw that firsthand how bonded the people I worked with were and what extraordinary horseman they are,” she said.

‘It gave me chills’

For 10 days, Wright taught people how to be equine first responders.

“That camp is such an extraordinary experience,” Wright said. “It is really not like anything else I had really ever experienced. There is such a unity of thought and such a common purpose.”

Wright started a GoFundMe page, which, to date, has raised approximately $17,000. However, she admits she spent “thousands of dollars before I even got those donations.”

“We should be able to cover all the supplies plus have a reserve if a horse needs to go see a veterinarian. We can pay for them to go to a local veterinarian and also to replace the supplies as they are used up,” Wright said.

A few days after she returned home, she heard a horse sustained a “pretty bad injury” to his leg. An artery was bleeding profusely, but the owner was able to stop it thanks to her training sessions.

“They would not have had that knowledge,” Wright said. “That was everything that I was after. It gave me chills after I heard that because that was my entire goal was to be able to prepare the owners. I couldn’t have been happier. That was very gratifying.”

Bravery admired

In the days and weeks since returning to Summit County, Wright said she continues to admire the bravery and cohesiveness she witnessed at Standing Rock.

“I think it was just the overwhelming generosity that was so powerful because it was everyone that was there who contributed,” Wright said. “I left for two weeks. Some of these people had left everything behind because they are so passionate about these issues to protect what was sacred to them and should be sacred to all of us.

“I felt like I was in the middle of how our respect for the planet should be,” Wright said. “To see that resonate with people all over the world was extremely extraordinary.”

But, the battle is not over, Wright cautioned, despite the denial of the easement.

“Energy has declared they are going to keep drilling and they will just pay the fine,” Wright said. “So no one in the camp is leaving. They are all staying because they know it’s not over today. They say, ‘We celebrate today, tomorrow we stand again.’”

To visit Wright’s GoFundMe page, go to https://www.gofundme.com/helping-the-horse-nation.


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