Turn Around

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!2017-03-29

Mystery

That was the name I gave her when she was born. Her freckled face and extra shy disposition gave her that name and she has lived up to it.

If people tell you that all animals are the same, they are horribly mistaken. One of the greatest travesties of our large animal feed lots is that the human providers can no longer be human. There is seldom time for the respect or the patience required to see how unique each animal actually is – and there is no time to discover our own awe and delight in the heart of it.

But I have made sure to give myself that kind of time and I have been taught so very much by my four-legged friends because of it. I shear my sheep with scissors. I give them a bit of corn – the only time they get corn – and I invite them to give me their wool. We call it the ‘corn for wool project’. I have been doing it for a few years now and the older girls and the less timid come running for their treat. You can tell right off who is willing and eager by the way their locks are cut. Some have a shabby chic look because they have figured out that the longer the hair cutting takes the more days with corn…Still others have not yet warmed up to the idea and I am trying to earn their trust in many ways.

This winter I have noticed that my friend Mystery has taken to be the last coming for hay. She does not charge up like so many of the others and she has gradually hung back waiting for me to bring hay to her. Sometimes if I am in a bit of a hurry, I have to check my self as I see her hanging back, seemingly too timid to get into the tussle over hay with the others. I talk to her and remind her she must eat and that sometimes it is necessary to stand up for yourself and not back down – sheep can be very bossy, you know. She watches me warily but with a certainty that I will not forget her, knowing she will get a heaping helping of love with that hay. She tugs at my heart in her shyness and her unwillingness to fight and we have come to expect this dance now, she and I. I have wanted to tell you about her for some time, but I wasn’t sure the words would capture her as well as a picture would, so I was very happy when she struck this pose for me today.

Life has its precious moments, most likely all of them, if we have the eyes to see. Take time for the mystery. The sheer delight of it outweighs the greatest hardships.

Soon it will be time to begin cutting the sheeps’ wool. Each one will show me their uniqueness. Each will demand, play coy, challenge me and one or two may even give me a head butt; each one will teach me. And maybe, just maybe, I have earned the trust of one as shy as Mystery. Who knows?

Take time for mystery; she will teach you.mis tery

welcome resistance

When the Resistance expands to more than hating one man and one ideology, count me in.

Lots of people are talking about resistance these days, I say, “Welcome”.

I’ve been resisting all my life. At a very young age I resisted derision after realizing the words written in the sandbox that said, “Dena is a homo” were true. Understanding acceptance of that truth would alienate me from family and friends, I resisted living a lie and remained true to my life’s path. I resisted the lure of completing college and becoming an attorney, and accepted a deeper passion that pulled me toward self-discovery and peace.

Later in life, I resisted western medicine and could have been arrested as a felon for practicing acupuncture (even though National Board recognized) because the powerful American Medical Association chose to see the ancient practice as “surgery” to maintain their grip on American healthcare. And when I saw the artful practice sifted through the legal and political system to suite the AMA, I resisted assimilation into a health system focused on curing, not preventing disease and chose instead to learn about health and healing from indigenous people.

I resist a life of “comfort” for life on a sustainable farm. I resist the “rugged individualism” for a life of community. I resisted tearing down mountains for my electricity and instead, put up solar panels. And I am currently resisting the extraction and transport of fossil fuels and finding creative natural ways to power my world.

I resist America’s wars, including the trumped up war on drugs that has move us quickly to the school to prison pipeline. I have lived without television for more than fifteen years now, resisting the spoon-feed propaganda from all sides. I resist the two party systems, allowing me the freedom to think and choose…and most recently I have stood with people for the protection of water, resisting the oil conglomerates intent on earth-destruction.

For me resistance has not been about being against, as about being for. So as I watch friends jumping on the resistance bandwagon, I am curious. What are you for?

Welcome to the resistance. I am not the first, nor the last to say these things, there are many more in this trail of humanity who have said “No” to ignorance. It is a bold and fulfilling step towards being fully alive. It doesn’t come in a package. It isn’t necessary to be part of a crowd. We are not sheep. I have sheep. Sheep are wonderful beings that I truly enjoy. But I do not want to be a sheep. The gift of living as a human being is the most rewarding; the gift of thinking is an absolute necessity; the gift of choice is impeccable. Resist ignorance. Resist compliance. Resist becoming redundant. You are unique. Celebrate it.

Welcome to the resistance.

My First Home

“Where the hills of Pennsylvania stand like sentinels round, nestled fondly in the valley lies my high school town”… Rochester’s Alma Mater.

I grew up with some of the finest people, loyal people, hard working people, passionate people. Generations of immigrants, arriving on the shores of America and winding up in a little bit of paradise in western Pa. Many encouraged to come to work in the coal strip mines and new steel producing plants lining the three beautiful rivers there.

They started their gardens, some brought their skills of glass blowing and glass artistry fostering more industry, while maintaining their artisan dignity. The ends of World War I and  II brought the arrival of development and commercialization of wartime industries – and this included highly toxic substances used in nearly all manufacturing and food industries. This new turn eventually upended the smaller glass plants and other small industry driving young people looking for the almighty “job” into toxic wastelands for work.

Chunks of paradise began eroding. One of my off hand comments, “I should glow in the dark for all that I was exposed to in my first seventeen years”, was jokingly said to make light of the reality that was not only my life, but too many of the descendants of the good people of “The Valley”. Wealthier enclaves were able to keep the environmental destruction at arms length. But I am doubting that will continue.

Steel mills long gone, many have struggled to find work with a living wage. The Beaver Valley Nuclear Generating Station still operates, and many residents are rejoicing over the cracker plant soon to become operational, ignoring environmental outcries. Fracking, destroying water supplies and causing earth rumblings is also increasing in the area…

So I have to ask my People, when is enough, enough? How much destruction will we allow in paradise?  Have we not witnessed enough times being sold out by industry and left to flounder ? What is being promised to make us believe we will not be duped again? I urge my family, my friends to remember our roots, as I do. Call back dignity; it is waiting for you. Our ancestors stood up for better lives; it is our turn. Our People came here to improve the lives of their children and children’s children. How can we continue to destroy their future over transitory “jobs”?

The Earth is worth more than this. We are worth more than this. Wake up. Stand up.

Trust in better ways and find them.

 

 

My Mother Had It Right

WOW. I wonder what she would think about the title. LOL.

As a child, I accepted that my Mother would talk to everyone: store clerks, waitresses, bus drivers, etc., as if she knew them. As a teen, I was learning the isolationism and the fear of “other” so I was often embarrassed by her willingness to befriend another human being. Her invitation to people, welcoming them into conversation, was out of place in the world that was becoming ever more fast paced and selective.

Now, especially after my time at Standing Rock, I am realizing she was teaching me to be human, by example – even though I fought it with ignorance and fear.

At Standing Rock one of the sweetest principals shared by Native people was to greet each person as a human being. There is much implied goodness in that. Too often we walk into a room filled with people and do not acknowledge that anyone is there. It is time, my friends, to unlearn the fear of “other”.

My Mom had it right. She was kind to people. Growing up “poor” and mistreated as an immigrant, she resisted doing the same to people that she met. I now look back with pride, smiling to myself as I catch a bit of her in me. Sometimes I find myself falling back on little sayings she used, full of humor and wit. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all.

Of course, she had a line she would often say and I witnessed the bite of it throughout my life: “I am as good as gold, but don’t cross me.” A little bit of salt came with the sugar. A bit of protection came with transparency. I suppose that kind of discernment will be needed until we all remember the simple truth: we are one people, one planet. My Mother knew this; she just didn’t have the words for it.

This is the musing that gave way to this post: It is time we counter the fear of other with transparency. Hearts of love show your selves. We got this.

It will be nearly two years since she has been gone. I am still learning, I am still grateful, recognizing this eternal bond of love.

mom-and-me

One Race

The police and BIA who met me at the Oceti Oyate checkpoint today were friendly. I had prayed to see them as human beings and they made that easy. The Army Corp representative who told me where to park was also kind and I began thinking, “This is going to be OK.”

The People in camp have consistently been kind and the work they are doing to clean the camp is amazing. I know that some of the people have been working day in and out to meet the deadline; they remain in good spirits.

I walked along the mud and ice realizing how much I love this land. I love the smells, the wind, the endless sky and the purposeful reason for its being. My walk grows a bit gentler, my breathing a bit deeper. And then I heard someone singing a Lakota prayer song over a loud speaker. In the midst of seeming chaos, in the midst of horrific doubt about what the next few days will bring, someone was holding us in prayer. I realized that that is the piece the main street media, DAPL, Morton County police, state troopers and the Governor might be missing.

I walked toward the singers, so very grateful that I had the ears and the heart to feel them; then another voice and then another came forward to hold us to the sacred. The beauty of these People continues to touch me. The intolerance that is shown them is painful to witness and impossible to comprehend. I choose to stand with them and try in whatever small way that I can to help.

One way I can help is to stand in my humanity.

I moved away to pick up garbage and a young man came up to me and offered me a pair of plastic gloves to use. I thanked him and continued. A bit later he came back, and we took a moment to learn about one another. In this conversation I realized another important piece that authorities might be overlooking as they amass even more militarized police to prepare for the sweep of the camp that they refuse to deny is coming. The deadline is less than three days away. What I realized in this conversation is simple and human. There are more people in camp than vehicles. Some people are beginning to feel stranded and afraid. Many have left everything to be here. Some are homeless. And they are very aware of the ticking clock…

Towards evening the authorities showed again their intolerance for the beliefs and the dignity of the People here by disrupting a teaching prayer that they had been told would be happening. The escalation of inhumanity is continuing.

To all who wish to tie everything up in a tidy bundle and say, “Let’s get it over with”, I say, “Check your humanity”. The harm we cause will have repercussions – not only to those we harm but also to the ones who are perpetrating the harm. Some of the actions that have been committed here at Standing Rock have left deep and lasting scars. Scars on top of generations of scars; pain on top of generations of pain.

I am asking you my to stay vigilant with us. It appears the internet is not working all that well. You may not get up-to-date information as it happens. Please maintain your prayers and your intention that this stand continues in peace – by all. And please, contact Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota and let him know you are watching. Ask that he supervise the police and other authorities ensuring that clear heads and calm prevail.

We need you now. Where ever you are. Thank you.

Musings

There is a thread of truth in everything. Look for that which is most true.

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If you are feeling sea sick, stop spinning around.

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The Best thing in life is right under your nose…

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I am finally becoming my friend.

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The best way to help any one or any thing is to be at peace.