I have returned from my latest visit to North Dakota where I was witness to the full array of humanity.
From a court system now forced to process over 800 cases of predominantly bogus arrests and trumped up charges; to a police force abused by its own government and asked to harm its fellow citizenry in order to protect the greed of a dying oil industry; to a local media determined to maintain a false narrative of Natives as violent and dangerous; to a predominantly white body politic willing to sacrifice their own humanity out of fear and ignorance – juxtaposed to the warm welcome and hospitality of Water Protectors still camping and standing for the water; of people returning to support, document and celebrate the efforts of all of the Water Protectors; to those just arriving to continue their own personal learning and to find their own strength and clarity to add their voice to the struggle; and to the non Natives that are beginning to find their voice in support of Native rights, treaty rights and protection of the water…juxtaposition is a great teacher.
From what I can tell the momentum towards victory is on the side of humanity. The Stand at Standing Rock is not over. Out of the rubble and as the smoke clears it is plain to see humanity on the rise.
There are beautiful efforts by organizations such as Honor the Earth, North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, and Sacred Pipe Resource Center reaching out to the people of Mandan and Bismarck to help bridge the gap of misunderstanding among people. I was grateful to be at this gathering and I encourage you to take a listen.
There is a core group of people holding on in camps sprinkled around the area. They are not giving up on stopping the flow of oil and they are bringing their full attention towards learning to live in sustainable ways – which includes creating new ways of governance. They are insisting all voices be heard and consensus must become the norm not the exception. They are allowing ways for human interaction with one another and the Earth that our dominant culture has not allowed. For me being among these people was like being home. Living respectfully on the earth, not hiding from it or trying to alter it is some artificial way. They are place-based people and they are inviting the land to teach and guide them.
A final stop as we were departing Bismarck taught me again about the resilience of truth and the importance of human interaction. We met a man who asked why we were visiting North Dakota. Wary of white anger towards Water Protectors, we hedged and then one of us asked, “What do you think about the pipelines?” He then launched on a soliloquy that we were not expecting. “They should not have gone through the water. They had a chance to go north of Bismarck, but they chose to go through the water. Why not over the water, if that is the course they had to choose? It’s not a matter of “if”; it is “when” the pipes will rupture. This has gone on too long, this abuse of Native people has gone on too long”…at that point I reached out to shake his hand. I know what it is like to take a position that is counter to my peers.
And then he said he had driven by Oceti Sakowin Camp and commented on the ongoing destruction and the over use of concertina razor wire. He asked it we knew about the camp he had driven by. We told him we had visited that camp and that if he wanted to he should visit, that the people would be very grateful to receive him, would treat him with respect and would be happy to have his support.
Planting seeds. We are not islands. We need one another. What is right, needs to be fostered. What is wrong, needs to be changed. North Dakota listen to your son, listen to those among you who recognize the travesty that you have allowed. Listen, for once, to the Native voice and make peace with your land and your people. Take time to correct your mistakes. Continue to dismiss the arrest charges on the many many arrests where there is no substantial evidence. BJ Nastacio should be an honored hero for disarming a man with a rifle, not facing trial. And it is time to recognize the difference between ceremony and “riot”. You may have fooled the world with distorted media, but to those of us who were there to witness, you remain in contempt of humanity and in disrespect of the earth and water.
There is much support still needed for the Water Protectors here. There are many ways to help and much more to learn from them. And yet as they reminded us, carry on the fight wherever you live and do it in whatever way you can.
This is the brilliance of our time, we can communicate with one another, we can learn from one another but ultimately it is our personal walk that we must attend to. We must turn around the beliefs of conquest over resources and people; we must turn around a walk of destruction on the Earth to a Walk of Beauty. We must do it first in our own lives, change what we can and do it now without hesitation. Do it proudly and share with others so no one feels alone. Celebrate the victories of people all over the world who are standing up and saying, “No more, not in my life, not on my watch.”
Recognize that you are a part of a great turn around. A great turn within. There is strength inside of us and around us to return this earth garden. And when people tell you it is not possible, do not blindly accept their words. Challenge them by living differently. Show them compassionately that a new / old way is possible and good.
What have I received from this visit to Standing Rock? We are finding our way, we will not be stopped, and this moment called now is our greatest strength. I am proud to be a Water Protector. I am grateful for this turn around. It is time.
I look forward to adding to this post the interviews, video, photos and remarks of my comrades on this trip Rebecca Kemble, Paulette Moore and Esty Dinur. The richness that we shared is still resonating and I continue to learn. With tremendous thanks!