Sixteen-Year-Old YEA Camper Reports Back from Standing Rock

We are so proud of our former campers and love being able to share their inspiring stories about activism they are doing.

Two-time YEA Camper and Youth Advisory Board member Jake Johnson recently traveled all the way from his home state of Missouri to the frigid cold of North Dakota in order to join and support the water protectors protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. When considering whether to go, he reached out to our director, Nora, for advice, and, after he took her up on her suggestion to read as much as he could about the needs and experiences of being there, as well as how to be of most value in supporting the indigenous people leading the fight, he decided to go!

We love that he sported his YEA Camp “This is what an activist looks like” t-shirt while there.

Here’s his report back:



It’s been about a week now since I got back from Standing Rock. I may have only been there for a few days, but I learned a lot, and got more life experience than I ever could’ve imagined.

At about 2 am on the 5th, we arrived at the Rosebud Camp south of the main Oceti camp. The man I went with had been a couple weeks before then, and he told me about how much the camp had grown. Despite the blizzard, hundreds of new people continued to come and join the Water Protectors.

When I got up the next morning, I was eager to find out what I would be doing while I was there. Direct actions are a big part of life at Standing Rock, however, taking care of everybody and making sure everybody has what they need in order to survive, and be generally well, was an even bigger aspect of camp.

I helped around in various places, bringing donations to their designated places, and organizing food for the kitchen. Right now, many people have been working to construct various shelters for people stay warm, and for people to go to in case of hypothermia or frostbite, so I helped clear a space for a new medical tent and helped to make the difficult transition between the tents before the next big storm.

Now I would like to talk about the issue. On the way there, it was announced that the Army Corps of Engineers would not grant the permit needed to legally construct the Dakota Access Pipeline. While many people think that this means a rerouting of the pipeline, that is not the case. Energy Transfer is, instead, paying a $50,000 fine each day they continue constructing the pipeline. This to them really isn’t even a damage, though. At the camp, it is seen more as Army Corps saying ‘Look, we helped you. Now you need to help us.’ The fight is still going strong.

Protestors are often said to be violent, but the water protectors are by far the opposite. If you do something that the native people see as violent or unjust at all, you will be asked to leave. They are a prayerful community, looking to peacefully come to a clear end to the pipeline. During orientation for the new-comers, they speak of the requirement of being peaceful. They show this in everything they do, even by supplying coffee to the pipeline workers in an effort to simply speak with them and get a change of heart.

When the vets came and apologized for colonization (which was frequently spoken of and shared as something that will not be tolerated at camp) it showed the true respect that the camp is really based off of.

White people at camp were expected to listen to natives before even trying to speak, which some were mad about, in order to show the respect that should’ve been shown in the beginning of our nation.

For those of you who want to go but can’t, don’t fret. There are some great things you can still do from home.

  1. Send donations! They are reliant on supply runs and donations and donations save money for other things.
  2. Call the government officials in charge! The numbers and other things you can do are located here.
  3. Speak up about it! Tell your friends! Educate them on the issues! If you have questions ask me! I would be more than happy to answer them for you.

Message me if you have questions!


Jake ❤️

We are so proud of Jake for going, as well as humbled that he let us know that YEA Camp really helped him in his activist journey leading him to Standing Rock three years later. YEA Camp made me aware of the everyday issues that face everybody all the time. They provided me with the awareness and knowledge to get in the world and really make a difference,” leading Jake not only to go to Standing Rock but also to get involved in politics as an intern on a local Congressional campaign, as well as many other ways of speaking up in his community. 

Jake’s mom Amanda recently shared the story of her finding out and telling Jake about YEA Camp three years ago.

Before YEA Camp, “my son Jake hated the fact that I felt strongly about social justice issues. He would get frustrated with me when I brought them up, and he insisted that, when he was an adult, he was not even going to vote because he didn’t think that what he did mattered…. He reluctantly filled out the [application for YEA Camp]…. 

“Flash forward a few months….When I said goodbye [and dropped Jake off at YEA Camp], I left a whole different kid behind than the one I picked up at the end of the week. This kid who I’m now raising is active, engaged, and empowered to make a difference in the world around him. He knows who he is and what he’s all about, and he isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right. Better yet, he’s a leader, and I have no doubt that he will continue to make me proud, and do his part to create the kind of change that will benefit all of us.”

Awww! If you are or know a 12-17 year-old who would want to get more active on the important social issues of our time, visit to learn about joining us this summer!