Representatives of an estimated 300 native tribes and nations from around the world have come to Standing Rock Indian Reservation to stand in solidarity with the Sioux Nation in their fight against Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline, to be drilled beneath the Missouri River, just upstream of the community’s main drinking water supply. The movement is considered the largest gathering of native peoples in the U.S. in more than 100 years.
Most of what the world knows of Standing Rock is often encoded in violence. Circling the global mediasphere: images of blank-faced police oppressors employing baton and tear gas, the iconic snarling attack dogs, burning vehicles and the raised fists of activist resistance. Though a manifestation of the struggle, this violence is not Standing Rock.
At Oceti Sakowin, one of several camps along the Cannonball River, life is marked by ceremony and peacemaking. Prayers are offered at the Sacred Fire from the dark of the early morning, throughout the day, and back into the night. We walk in prayer to the river each morning, singing, to honor women, the water carriers. There are sweats every night and pipe ceremonies during the day. And despite the legacies of colonialism and genocide and long-standing antagonistic relationships between peoples and tribes, the power of Standing Rock as a healing ground, is its true message.
The world needs to see is the Spirit of Standing Rock. That is captured, in part, in those that one meets there. I spent part of a day walking the camp and asking how people came to Standing Rock and what the site means to them. Here are some of the responses I received.
“We don’t need a bunch of people coming down here being sightseers, taking pictures where they’re not supposed to be taking pictures.”
“Wounded Knee was a confrontation with weapons. And, to tell you the truth, at the time it was appropriate.”
“We must purify our own river, our own bloodstream, and fill it with nothing but love.”