For a long time, I have tried to explain to people how important is the Native perspective. Nearly two decades of traveling to the land of the Dine, and the gift of a Grandmother there who called me her daughter brought back my Remembrance.
In the course of that time, I made real what I had always wanted to do: I bought land and as my Navajo Grandmother told me that it would, it has taught me.
I did not buy the land for myself. I bought it with the intention of taking it out of “buy and sell”. It was clear to me then, as it is now, that the earth is not ours to own. I bought it to share.
I would love to say that the past fifteen years have been all beauty and light, but that would be a fairy tale. It has been a doorway to my heart, an opportunity of constant learning and a canvas for me to paint my story. Our story.
Trying to challenge the status quo is never easy. Trying to do it with love is damn near impossible. But it is possible. And the challenge is the gift.
“Your people forgot a long time ago”, she told me once as I began to awaken to my relationship to the earth. “You do what has been done to you”, she told me as I struggled to find peace with people and situations, torn between reacting from my wounds or responding with the dignity new understanding afforded me. We always have choice. Practicing kindness is a good one. “We all have a hard spot here”, she said as she pointed to my chest, “it needs to be softened. In some it is bigger than in others.” And so I have spent my time softening my heart. Loving the land helps that process. Rising before the sun, welcoming the new day, feeling grateful for life and not simply things, the animals, and the stark reality of Nature have all become my teachers. The people who come and go from my life teach me, too. Once you know we are all related, it grows harder and harder to hate. That softening process comes from experience and allowing oneself to step out of the boxes of our limited existence.
Give yourself the gift of diversity. I am not one for Christmas. I give and receive all the time, and I have no interest in keeping alive a holiday so heavily based in the material world. I do however celebrate the spirit of the season and respect the love that people feel at this time. And when I come upon those celebrating the spirit of Christmas, it is sweet.
And that is as simple as it needs to be: respect and allowing others their right to participate in life as they choose. That requires a few things. We need to share. We need to share resources. We need to find ways together that help all of us, not plunder some for the sake of others. There is beauty in each of us and in our ways. A tapestry of colors and textures made more beautiful by acceptance and appreciation. It is time to let that tapestry be.
And yes, it will mean teaching tolerance and nonviolence to our children. It will mean meeting and greeting your neighbor, as you would like to be treated. It will mean investing dollars and muscle into new ways of fueling our world. Yes, it requires a bit of a dance as you realize your customs and your worldview are not the same as others, but nor are they better.
I came to Standing Rock, because I know it is time to keep oil in the ground. It is past time. I am doing all I can to reduce consumption of fossil fuels and to help others to do the same, so that was a given. What I had no way of knowing was the strength and compassion I would meet at the Oceti Sakowin Camp
I have always delighted in finding human beings who are determined to be human. It has been my honor and my joy to find so many here. The Lakota, Dakota, Nakota are remarkable people who have been strengthened by their love of land and one another. We have much to learn from them.
I am taking leave soon, but I know I will return. I have to stand with these people (and a little clean laundry won’t hurt). I will continue to support all indigenous whose lives and land are being threatened by domination and might. I will do this by continuing to change my lifestyle and encouraging others to do the same. I will do this in whatever way is afforded me, because I recognize there is no time for anything less.
There is brilliance in the simplicity of relationship to land that too many of us have forgotten. We need to remember. The Lakota and others have extended their hands and their hearts to teach and to guide. We would be foolish to not learn and unlearn. We would be wasting a great gift, if we ignored this offer.
We are in the process of fulfilling the dream we have dreamed of this country, a land of abundance for all, a place of freedom, a place of peace and in that process we must let go of the fear of the other. We must upend the shortsighted idea that the earth and her resources are ours to plunder for monetary gain. We must stop thinking that in some way we are superior, and we must be willing to help others end this foolish game.
It is time to find our humanity. In it lie all the compassion and tolerance and vision that we need to navigate through this dark time.
We don’t need another leader. We don’t need to fear the next one. We need to resurrect our humanity. We need to do this, each one of us, for our self and for those yet to come.
We can do better than we have done.
Give yourself some Christmas, some joy to the world, some peace on earth and this time as the season spins by – hold onto it. It is the best we have.