Standing Rock: The Spirit of Resilience

The Friday after Election Day, I traveled to Standing Rock with my mom and TreePeople Board Chair, Ira Ziering, to join our water protector brothers and sisters in North Dakota in defense of water, people and planet.

As soon as we arrived at the wintry camp, our spirits were lifted by the strength, peace and dedication of the people gathered there. Unity was all around us. A sense of community filled the air. People from all over the world were there to help each other with shelter, warmth, wisdom and food.

Mni Wiconi– Water is Life.

I felt so alive — praying and standing in solidarity. My body vibrated with the drums of resistance echoing in the hills. My heart warmed in the candlelight of a vigil and riverbed walk led by the Indigenous Youth Council. It was a moment of beauty and grace.

The next morning, we set out for a day of peaceful protest at the juncture between Native lands and the desolation of the Dakota Access Pipeline where I was to experience first-hand, the forces focused on breaking the spirit of Standing Rock.

Together we stood. Our hearts beating as one.

We formed a human chain and walked toward the pipeline trench. Above us, DAPL private security stood armed with baseball bats, pepper spray and attack dogs — an eerie reminder of that day on the bridge in Selma. Out of nowhere a speeding white truck barrelled toward us. For a moment, tragedy hung in the air, then we broke apart and jumped to safety as the truck roared through our ranks.

This is our time. This is our world.

For now, construction is set to go forward on the Dakota Access and Keystone Pipelines. So what is our responsibility here in Los Angeles? In addition to standing with Standing Rock, what can we do?

Dig in. Get down. Act up!

The simple act of planting a tree — and doing it intentionally, in the community, for the betterment of all – makes a huge difference.

Like the river protectors of Standing Rock, you live your values every time you join us in our parks, schools, streets and local mountains to grow a greener, healthier LA.

Trees are the core of our existence.

So join us. Become a Citizen Forester and convert concrete to canopy one block, one tree, one person at a time. With each new seedling you plant, you send a message of action and peaceful resistance.


Plant hope in your community. Become a Citizen Forester today!


By Cindy Montañez

As CEO of TreePeople, Cindy Montañez has rapidly expanded the Los Angeles-based organization’s impact across Southern California and turned it into the largest environmental movement and the fastest growing environmental nonprofit in the region.

At the age of 25, Cindy was elected as the youngest councilmember of her hometown of San Fernando. She became mayor at 27 and at 28 years old, was elected the youngest woman ever to the California State Legislature.

Upon leaving the legislature, Cindy was hired as Assistant General Manager at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, where she was a core part of the team transitioning the nation’s largest publicly-owned utility to cleaner energy and a more sustainable local water supply.

Cindy has been a longtime champion for bringing people together around the environment, sustainable urban planning and social justice.

In addition to her role as CEO of TreePeople, Cindy was elected in November to the San Fernando City Council and is currently a Board Member for the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.