About the Freshet Collective
The Freshet Collective's mission is to raise, manage, and disburse legal defense funds to support individuals arrested for their involvement in direct action as part of liberatory grassroots social movements.
We may support other movements in the future, but this struggle is about the water. Our relationship to water is what we all share. From the womb that brings us into the world to the tears we shed for our relatives, water is life. A freshet is a flood, often after spring melt. As we embody the spring freshet in this work, we are an unstoppable force - a surge of momentum that wipes away the slumber of winter, drains the stagnation, clears the stream blockages, and saturates the earth to prepare for a burst of new life.
In everything we do, we strive to:
- center Indigenous people, voices, worldviews, communities, and struggle
- prioritize the needs of Indigenous water protectors and others directly impacted by systems of oppression
- nurture and develop bonds of solidarity between water protectors
- educate and train rather than serve, to foster self-determination rather than dependency
- support and build grassroots movement fighting for the liberation of Indigenous people and Mother Earth
Our collective is small and rooted in long-standing relationships of solidarity and trust. We offer modest stipends for people doing the hard work on the ground, but operate mostly with volunteers, and no collective member receives financial compensation for their work. Organizational infrastructure and bureaucracy are kept to a bare minimum. Organizational structure is as horizontal as possible. Decisions are made by consensus.
We work in close partnership with the Water Protector Legal Collective, the Water Protector Anti-Repression Crew, and other allied groups and individuals to meet the many different legal needs of the movement. Our work has evolved constantly throughout the #NoDAPL campaign, and is focused in the following 4 areas. Visit our "Our Work" page for details.
We track arrests and may in some circumstances pay bail/bond to get water protectors out of ND jails if they don't have their own resources. We help people recover impounded vehicles and find the resources they need. We prioritize Indigenous water protectors and others with relative proximity to structural violence.
We facilitate travel and lodging for arrestees returning to North Dakota for court dates. We help them find attorneys and navigate the court system. We help foster solidarity and self-determination among arrestees.
We recruit, vet, and help coordinate the criminal defense attorneys representing water protectors, and are currently seeking additional attorneys to join the effort. In some cases, we may e provide funding for water protectors without sufficient resources to hire their own lawyers, and/or inadequately served by court appointed counsel.
Freshet: A surge of a spring flood
We have been supporting the encampments at Standing Rock since the founding of the Sacred Stone Camp on April 1, 2016. As the first water protectors were arrested in August 2016, our team built the online crowdfunding page for the Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund. We immediately began to coordinate efforts to bail water protectors out of North Dakota jails who otherwise did not have the resources to do so. We lived in the encampments, working with the main legal team at camp, the Water Protector Legal Collective, until December 2016, when we moved our operations to Mandan in order to better serve arrestees. We remain a small team working on the ground in close collaboration with camp organizers and attorneys.
As of late January 2017, we have raised over $2.7 million and successfully bonded over 600 water protectors out of jail.
For security reasons, we kept a very low profile for months, and our work was focused on jail support. Then the legal defense effort increased in size and complexity, and the level of state repression escalated. Legal proceedings in the criminal cases against water protectors began. Many arrestees were confused about who was providing which aspects of legal support, what types of expenses were eligible for assistance from the legal defense fund, and how to access those funds. It became clear that we needed a more public presence, and a central place for arrestees to get information and communicate with us. In late January 2017, this website was born. We continue to work in close partnership with the Water Protector Legal Collective, the Water Protector Anti-Repression Crew, and other allied groups and individuals to meet the many different legal needs of the movement. Learn more about our work here.