Oceti Sakowin Camp

I woke this morning before the sun. It is my customary ritual for decades now. Setting my sites on the new day, feeling gratitude, wondering what this moment of life will teach me and how I can dance through it. This morning I cried.

I replayed the last several months of my coming to be part of Oceti Sakowin Camp. My first visit brought my posse and me to Sacred Stone. That is the camp I had learned about and where I intended to stay. On my last day there I walked the distance to Oceti, then known only to me as the “Big Camp”. I was told there were many camps and while I was amazed at the size, it was the call to prayer that touched me. That day it poured rain and I found myself under a shelter around a fire. Blinded by rain, I had no idea that I had come upon the sacred fire and that the words spoken there would galvanize my intention to return.

An elder Lakota man spoke. He spoke about the prophesies, about the seven generations, and about the reuniting of the four colors of human kind, red, yellow, black and white. He spoke softly but with a determination and clarity I have grown to accept as dearer than food to me and as vital as the air I breath.

At one moment he looked my way and said that although the first encounters with whites had been horrible for his people, that now Natives must accept those coming because they come with a different heart. That is in fulfillment of the prophecy. I cried. And I knew I would return to this camp.

My next visit was for a week and I slept on my makeshift bed in my Honda. I continued my learning, moving from the fire to orientations and to meetings on what was needed to keep Oceti going into the winter. And I ate a lot of peanut butter, not wanting to take resources from the camp.

Fifteen years ago, I created Echo Valley Farm out of a need to step away from the main stream status quo that keeps us imbedded in war, in useless wastes of resources and most importantly, in the framework that keeps us in ignorance and hate. In doing so, I altered my course, and have promoted community and sustainability built on peace. It has not always been easy, but it has been rewarding.

Earlier in my life I had lived in an ashram, focused on the pursuit of peace and a youthful attempt at living in community. Coming to Oceti Sakowin Camp, for me, was like coming home.

I called my team at the farm and told what I had found. I thought it a good idea for us to establish a site at Oceti Sakowin Camp, the consensus we seek was agreed upon and so next steps were set in motion.

My first step would be to ask permission. Everyday I had listened to the prayers of Guy Dull Knife ( see video below) before the rising sun. He called us to the sacred fire, encouraged us to pray and reminded us why we had come, to stop the black snake. There is gentleness and strength about the man that is compelling. I approached him and asked and he said, “Yes, come”.

Everything came together as it does when intention, heart and action are united. Lauren and Andy and I came back to Oceti Sakowin Camp with a refurbished army tent a wood burning stove and open hearts.

It was quickly obvious to me that I have been in training my whole life for this moment. I have inherited from my lineages keen awareness of survival and how to make the most of things. I honed that skill spending time with my Navajo mentor and gleaned from my time with her that my education in life is never over and that the end game is, as I had always expected, love.

The Navajo taught me to Walk in Beauty and that the first prayer is for yourself. The Lakota have taught me about community founded in prayer. My studies with Prem Rawat gave me the undeniable and unwavering knowledge that peace is possible. And so I walk.

My time at Oceti Sakowin Camp will soon end. Now I will find out who I have become and what is expected of me. This I know: The mindset of might is right, which permeates all colors of the rainbow, must be laid to rest once and for all. The lure of greed, which has consumed human kind the world over for centuries, is the monster that must be slain. We cannot continue the destruction of the earth and the harming of one another and future generations.

And I know this: when you complain and moan about the way things are and not make an effort to change yourself and your own life’s course, you are feeding the monster. The words we utter, the fears we allow, the doubts we feed, and he confusion we insist on sharing keep us locked in this mess. Each of us has the right, the ability and the duty to find peace and to speak from clarity.

I will depart Oceti Sakowin Camp, but what I have accepted as my understanding of humanity will not leave me. I urge you, my friends, to end the cycle of violence and ignorance within your own being. Make peace. As it is often said here, “You have the right to speak, but you also have the right to be silent and listen.” In that silence, all can come round right. Listen to your heart and follow.

There are many trying to have the last word on this place. Trying to guess the outcome of this epic battle and trying to be clever. Being clever is not wisdom. Being clever is a childish whim. Wisdom is what we need and wisdom is available to each one of us.

We have no more time to waste. If you do not seize upon this moment and give your heart to it, what are you doing? If you go to your churches and mosques and synagogues but continue to lead lives forged on the destruction of the earth and of harming your fellow human beings and Nature itself – what ugly lie are you willing to weave to comfort or cover your crying soul?

Yes. I am serious. There is no more wiggle room. Daily we see the results of our greed and our lust for comfort and all that it has caused. And to those of you who refuse to acknowledge something greater than yourself and mock those who pray: Get over yourself. Do you give yourself breath? Do you not hope? You are confusing the menu as the food and you are starving because of it.

We don’t have time people for petty illusions of separation. We don’t have time to hold ourselves separate from Nature and from all living. We don’t have time to run away from the very thing of which we are made: dirt. And we certainly do not have time to leak oil into the water that is essential for all living to survive.

This is not a movie. This is not an episode of the Apprentice. This is the real deal and we better pull our heads out of the sand or wherever else they may be hiding.

It is up to us, as it has always been.

May the power that is Oceti Sakowin Camp continue to flourish in whatever form it takes. May the power of people united in love, in purpose and in clarity, reclaiming their humanity and their sovereign right to live in harmony with the Earth become the norm in a world that has lost its way.

This is what I can hope for and this is what I will work towards, in the best ways that I can for as long as I can – and I ask you, my friends, to do the same.

The invitation to be part of a community forged in peace and sustainable living is open to those who are ready. It is happening many places throughout the world. One of them is Echo Valley Farm, Wisconsin. It is my home and you are welcome.

It is our time; let’s turn this ship around. Best wishes to all.



“We try to live two cultures…”  The documentary of five generations of the Dull Knives, an American family. Inspired by the book the “Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge” by Joe Starita.

No Spiritual Surrender –  photo compliments of Andrew Robert McComb

4 thoughts on “Oceti Sakowin Camp

  1. Dena, you have the unique ability to express yourself with the utmost clarity, passion and understanding. I take great solace knowing you and knowing that you are fighting for Peace wherever you may be. With Love, Niels


  2. Thank you, Dena, for your passion, presence, sharing the Truth, taking a stand, and doing the work that is so essential, so needed, so timely, now.


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