My time here at Standing Rock is coming to an end. Though I was here to support our indigenous relatives fighting #NoDAPL, the gifts I received were far greater than anything I had to offer. What they say is indeed true, if you are truly receptive, you leave Standing Rock a changed person.
The first day, I attended a Veteran’s March which took us to the bridge, the now infamous spot of burnt out vehicles, armored police vehicles, and militarized police in combat gear. The ceremony at the bridge was powerful, with the spreading of the ashes of a recently deceased native veteran, a ten-gun salute, and a prayer ceremony. As I tippy-toed to see above the crowd, past the people and horses, I see in the distance the police, standing at attention, holding their hats to their hearts during the playing of Taps. This began the tears.
The drum they played had to be carried by a group of men, walking together, the sound resonated widely but also, deeply. The entrance back into camp, had a spot for cleansing with an aluminum can with sage burning. For what we all carried with us into the camp from far and wide around this country, there did not seem to be enough sage.
After the March, I attended another veteran ceremony and stood in line to shake hands with every veteran. And then, to the communal kitchen, to watch how a community pitches in to feed all the people, and ate breakfast in the army-style mess hall with humongous pots of home-cooked offerings from donated produce and food.
From there, I walked behind the camp to the Cannonball River where it came to me to observe 24-hours of silence, spend less time talking and debating, more time listening and being present, which I did.
The next day, I attended a direct action against #NoDAPL. My locked-arms line of protectors were to keep closed the DAPL parking lots which appeared unused on a Saturday while the other water protectors blocked the road and protected a medicine circle ceremony. As it turned out, the police took a back way into the parking lot where we were blocking and I suddenly found myself in the middle of the front line. Provided safety gear in case of macing, ear plugs in case of sound bombs, we agreed to hold the line after the “unarrestables” left the line for safer places. An elder walked down our line with sage and prayers for our protection. There, in the silence provided by the ear plugs, the helicopter circling above was just a low hum, and along with others, I stood facing the militarized police not knowing if they’d approach, who might be hurt or arrested; just not knowing. We held a banner which read “Water is Life”, kept our arms locked tight, we kept one foot slightly in front of the other for balance in case of attack and then….we waited. But these events feel like you are looking into yourself, your greatest fears, and deciding what is truly worth the risk.
The ceremony up the dirt road was able to be completed with the police standing down and we were able to proceed behind the ceremonial group as we marched back down the road to safety.
Later in the evening, I walked the camp to finally take some pictures, reflect on my experience, when I found myself behind Neil Young who started walking with his guitar and harmonica playing for the camp. A group of us walked with him as he played, his humble presence and song was another form of sage.
The end of my evening was spent at our campfire with the great (to the 8th) grandson of Crazy Horse as he told us the many tribal prophesies which have come to pass at Standing Rock.
I am leaving Standing Rock but it won’t leave me. If you can go, go – it’s the spot where what we could have been meets who we have become and the battle lines test which side you belong.
I learned we live on Turtle Island and tribal prophesies tell us, the possibility of a tomorrow is being fought by us here today.