Reconciliation at the Heart of Standing Rock

Gen. Wesley Clark Jr., middle, and other veterans kneel in front of Leonard Crow Dog during a forgiveness ceremony at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.
Gen. Wesley Clark Jr., middle, and other veterans kneel in front of Leonard Crow Dog during a forgiveness ceremony at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Courtesy Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The message of Standing Rock has been broadcast to the world through the majority of media dispatches as one of contention and struggle, of privatized security forces doing battle with water protectors who refused to submit to state force. And it’s been critical for those images to get out so that the citizens of the world could organize and respond to the crimes being perpetrated on the Standing Rock Sioux, the Oceti Sakowin, once more.

Now with the sought-after permit denial from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers forbidding Energy Transfer Partners from running their crude-oil pipeline beneath Lake Oahe, it is vital the fuller message of Standing Rock reach the world. That message is one I’m still trying to process and give my own expression to, but it is undeniably one of healing and restoration.

Whatever follows in the coming weeks, with the belligerent ETP pledging to push through along their planned route in spite of the Corps order, it should be recognized the land of the camps is, at root, a sacred site of reconciliation.

Here is one small evidence of that fact. A day before the camps began to disband at the request of Standing Rock Tribal Chairman, Dave Archambault II, a remarkable thing happened.

From Huffington Post:

On Monday, Native Americans conducted a forgiveness ceremony with U.S. veterans at the Standing Rock casino, giving the veterans an opportunity to atone for military actions conducted against Natives throughout history.

In celebration of Standing Rock protesters’ victory Sunday in halting construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, Leonard Crow Dog formally forgave Wes Clark Jr., the son of retired U.S. Army general and former supreme commander at NATO, Wesley Clark Sr.

The following video shows a portion of that ceremony, just one glimpse of the sort of encounters that were happening, in a much less obvious way, perhaps, every day during the week I spent at Standing Rock.

Here is Wes Clark, Jr.:

My prayer is that this spirit of Standing Rock, this unfolding work of reconciliation among all peoples, is what protectors carry forward in their ongoing resistance to the accelerating ill-advised extraction pursuits that put the land, water, and climate—truly, all Creation—at risk. I am but a younger brother, as they say, whose knowledge and heart is incompletely formed, but I am convinced violence and hatred can not defeat the forces of violence and hatred.

There is a proper way forward that I feel our elders and ancestors have been guiding us through. It is a way with no promises for our generation but one that still must be traveled. It leads directly through the evidences of our past savagery, into the work of repentance and (thereby) new relations with one another and all that is.

It is a road we must walk until we recognize the beauty that is here among us and within us, in every direction around us.

It is far from over. It has just begun.

Mni Wiconi.


Below is the message issued from Standing Rock Sioux’s Tribal Chairman, Dave Archambault II, today asking the protectors to return home.

I know we have prayed and continue to do so. Now you must believe in your prayer.

Energy Transfer Partners cannot cross the easement, even if they drill. Not only will they jeopardize the entire pipeline project, but they will also jeopardize their investors’ money and their bank loans. They may drill up to the federal lands to try to provoke the campers. They will do this to create the illusion that the Army Corps of Engineers made the wrong decision. We do not need to engage them in this; we need to go home. While this phase of the struggle relied largely on the protectors at camp, this next stage will be focused on the legal battles, and keeping the current decision in place.

A new administration will not easily be able to reverse Sunday’s historic decision. This decision is everything we had asked for: a non-granting of the easement, initiating an Environmental Impact Study, and suggestive of a reroute. We got it! Energy Transfer Partners will face an uphill battle in trying to dismantle the process initiated by this decision.

We deeply appreciate all the people who supported us with their presence, but when this storm passes, it is time to dismantle the camp and return to our homes. If the camp stays where it is currently located, people are risking their lives. The current weather is severe, making travel impossible. If the camp stays, we run a risk of further provocation from local law enforcement. Once one person is hurt or property is destroyed, that will lead to more outsized actions by law enforcement. The longer the camp stays, the greater risk we run of seeing further violence at the hands of law enforcement and potential injury to our supporters.

Our great leaders of the past would never put the people at risk of harm, especially women and children. I don’t want anyone to be living in an unsafe environment. We need to stay in prayer, believe in our prayer, and begin our journey home in prayer. I believe in my prayers and in the Creator. Take the lessons we learned here and apply them at home – unity, peace, prayer.

I know this is a victory for this one DAPL battle, but we have not yet won the DAPL war. There will be more battles ahead and we will continue to strategize and win. The camp has brought us this far—now it is time we pivot to the next phase of this struggle. That will be lead on different fronts like in court, with the new Administration, with Congress, and with the investors.

We are establishing a path now to help the world understand that what we asked for and what we got is the right decision. The world is watching us and our behavior will determine the final outcome.

I am asking each and every one of you to come up with a strategy to close and exit the camp. I respectfully ask that you leave the land as it was when you arrived, and return home before the winter grows more severe. Pass this on—let everyone know that we are thankful for their passion and commitment and we are thankful for them all standing with us. It’s time now to enjoy this winter with your families. We need all to respect the host tribe’s wishes. We are asking all tribes to pass this on to their members.

This storm is a glimpse of what is to come as temperatures are still not reaching the winter lows of this region. I understand that folks cannot go at this moment, but as soon as this current storm has passed, we must execute an exit strategy and continue our battles to protect water. These efforts are not only needed in Standing Rock, but they are needed throughout Indian Country, across America and internationally. I want you to know that Standing Rock stands with you as you return home to carry this energy and movement into the future.

Thank you,
Chairman Archambault