Portland Climate Activists are Building a Medical Bus and Sending It to Standing Rock

“It will be a place for wounds, a place for cuts, sores, flus, cold, hypothermia, these kinds of things for people trying to protect their land.”

The Portland Climate Action Coalition isn't just checking into Standing Rock. It's bringing Standing Rock a place to check in—and get help.

The Portland CAC, a coalition of local social and environmental justice groups, is working to retrofit an old school bus into a makeshift refuge and medical care unit to be driven to to the oil pipeline protest at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Complete with beds, heat, and medical supplies, the bus will provide a warm space and limited medical services to protestors allied with Native American tribes trying to block the pipeline.

The Bunk Bus project began when CAC members Mike Horner and Harlan Shober made a trip to Standing Rock to drop off supplies in the end of September. Hauling a load of wood stoves, tents, food, and other supplies, Horner and Shober were floored by the 30-mile-per-hour winds and severe weather conditions they encountered.

"The wind was howling," says Horner. "Tents were falling down. Just by looking we could see that it was going to be unbelievably cold in the winter."

While dropping off supplies Horner and Shober realized that facilities and supplies are a key need. "We met a medical team—a lot of indigenous folks that are doctors and nurses," says Horner. "They have a good medical team but they need facilities because it's out in the open on the prairie. It's about 20 miles to the nearest town of any sort."

When they arrived home to Portland, they began working with the CAC crew to spearhead the development of the Bunk Bus for Standing Rock.

"The main purpose is to keep people from succumbing to the elements outside and having medical provisions and a warm place for respite," explains Rick Rapport, a CAC member who is helping to organize the project. Rapport says. "It will be a place for wounds, a place for cuts, sores, flus, cold, hypothermia, these kinds of things for people trying to protect their land."

They drummed up funds to purchase an old bus they found on Craigslist for $4,500 and went from there. Rapport says that there has been an outpouring of support for the project, including at least 30 volunteers who are helping reconstruct the bus.

"We put the word out into our groups and they show up. We have and a small army of mechanics, craftsmen, and artists," says Rapport.

The project has been supported through limited fundraising, CAC funds, and a huge volunteer effort. The bus is being decorated by a team of artists led by Clay, a member of the Native American Youth and Family Center who designed a landscape mural and traditional native American symbols to flank the bus.

CAC has set up a GoFundMe account to raise needed funds to complete the construction of beds, solar panel installation, travel, additional medical supplies, and limited reimbursement to volunteers who have purchased materials for bus construction out of pocket.

The project is fighting the clock—members of the CAC report that conditions at Standing Rock are tenuous, and they are working as quick as possible to get support to protestors.

"We are working as fast as we can, through the wee hours on a daily basis," says Rapport, "It's a deadline situation, the plan is to leave by the end of this week."