Noah-Michael Treanor, a Pajaro Valley High School grad, says he was protesting peacefully near the Standing Rock Native American reservation when he found himself blindsided by sheriff’s deputies on the night of Sunday, Nov. 20.
Earlier in the evening, some activists at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in North Dakota had been trying to move a barricade over a bridge and clear an emergency route, according to the Washington Post.
Later, law enforcement began using a water cannon on the crowd in subfreezing temperatures—a decision that would cause an uproar nationwide the following day. Treanor says he was behind a barbed wire fence chanting “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.”
Suddenly, a rubber bullet struck Treanor in the head, and he began bleeding profusely.
In recent months, hundreds of activists like Treanor have gathered to stop construction of the oil pipeline, which was controversially rerouted under the Missouri River near a Sioux reservation without an environmental review, thanks to a shortcut granted by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Although phone reception and internet access in the middle of North Dakota are limited, Treanor managed to give friends and family a brief update on Facebook the next day that he had gotten six staples in his head and was feeling better.
“I had to sleep all day today, but I’m waking up right now, and I’m feeling better,” he told GT via text message late Monday afternoon. “Getting ready to go back on the front lines.”
The initial news had shaken his mother Joelle Marek Treanor—she found out about the incident on Facebook Monday morning, and couldn’t get in touch with him for hours. A fellow activist had posted an image of a tall, wounded 21-year-old asking if it might be Treanor. His mother knew immediately that it was.
A video from “The Young Turks,” an online media group, showed Treanor with blood gushing from his forehead, and it mentioned other people getting struck in the head also.
Others in the crowd came down with severe hypothermia from the water cannons, and the high-pressure water ripped the skin off one protester’s hand, according to the video. Law enforcement additionally launched tear gas, and some reports said that concussion grenades were used as well.
The video shows medics cleaning Treanor’s wound and bandaging it before placing an emergency blanket over him and driving him away in the back of a station wagon.
For more information on how to get involved in supporting Standing Rock, visit sacredstonecamp.org.