#waterislife #nodapl #standingwithstandingrock. Have you seen those hash tags about Standing Rock scrolling past your Facebook feed or Twitter feeds? Their story points to Native American water issues and the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Sometimes we get to have personal experiences with big news events and this is one of those times. We want to share a story with you written by our young Soundings videographer, Jon Carroll. We had heard about the grave situation occurring last year and into this year at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota regarding a pipeline being built across tribal lands. The issue became national news, attracting thousands of people from around the country who traveled to Standing Rock to demonstrate their solidarity with the Native people who were to be negatively affected by the pipeline being built.
In our younger years, Dean and I would have been there with video camera in hand to document this historic event. The saga at Standing Rock builds on and expands the legacy of Wounded Knee (1973) which Dean Evenson did videotape. We believe Standing Rock is an important issue that is much larger than just one tribe’s rights. It involves the vision we have for the future of our planet and how we as a society deal with energy while still protecting drinking water. Fortunately we were able to help support Jon to head out to Standing Rock with a carload of people and his own video camera. Here is his story.
My Time at Standing Rock:
Learning from the Sioux Nation
By Jon Carroll, Guest Blogger
A movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) came from a grassroots organizations led by indigenous men and women. Thousands of people from every corner of America, representing every faith, race, and class, heard the call of active citizenship to defend the constitutional rights and treaty rights of the Sioux Nation as an unwavering, peaceful force. Native sovereignty rights, national water security, and renewable energy opportunities are threatened. Meanwhile, if the pipeline is constructed as planned, Sioux Nation Indians would have sacred sites destroyed and drinking water threatened.
In early 2017, under the guise of creating jobs, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to speed up the process of approving Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Unfortunately, as it turns out, by finishing the pipeline’s route under the Missouri River, only 40 permanent jobs would be created while drinking water and tribal rights would be seriously jeopardized.
I heard the same call as those many thousands who wanted to support the tribes so I piled into my grandparents’ old GMC Suburban with five friends and we drove for 24 hours to North Dakota. We arrived into Sacred Stone Camp, North Dakota just before sun down on November 12th. The winds were keeping the air crisp and cold even though the sky had been blue all day as we pitched our tents. Then we went up the hill next to camp to view our first North Dakotan sunset. Once atop the hill, we watched the sun fall under the sea of hills that filled the horizon. As the sun sunk to the west, just on the other side of the river to the north, a line of stadium lights flooded our view. There, the line of the pipeline route presented itself to us. It was equally obnoxious to me as it was poignant. Throughout the week, those lights reminded me of my purpose while at camp. All it took was a quick glance up from my camera to see the corporation that loomed over the camp, watching our every move. These lights were, ultimately, one of the many tactics that Energy Transfer Partners used to affect morale at camp. We watched and witnessed these lights to the north, taking one deep breath at a time as we wandered a bit near the hilltop. After a short while, my good friend called for us to get to the top of the hill. In awe of things, I began skipping back to the top of the hill. As we wrapped our arms around each other’s shoulders, we witnessed what he called us up for. To the East, the largest moon I had ever seen was rising. It was beyond our understanding and a most beautiful sight for our first evening at Standing Rock.
As we stared at the rising moon, embracing each other, I pulled a card from my pocket that had been gifted to me by my grandparents before I left. It was a prayer written by a good friend of my grandparents who was for a short time a good friend of mine before his passing in 2000. He was a Lummi Nation spiritual elder by the name of Cha-das-ska-dum Which-ta-lum. The story of the creation of this prayer is a long one, but the shortened version of it is that he wrote it after a journey to San Francisco where he heard a woman recite the prayer of Saint Francis from the opposite side of a tree that he was praying under. He wrote his own version of it on the plane ride back, and that version is what I pulled from my pocket on the hill in North Dakota 1,300 miles from home.
OH GREAT GRANDFATHER!
LET MY HANDS BE AN INSTRUMENT OF YOUR PEACE.
IF THERE IS HATRED SEND YOUR LOVE.
IF THERE IS INJURY, HEAL.
IF THERE IS DOUBT, SEND FAITH.
IF THERE IS DESPAIR, SEND ON THE WIND HOPE!
IF ONE HAS A QUESTION, THEN THEY ALREADY HAVE THE ANSWER TO KNOW TO EVEN ASK.
TEACH US TO LOVE OURSELVES, SO WE CAN LOVE OTHERS.
WE CANNOT GIVE AWAY WHAT WE DO NOT HAVE!
IF A TEAR FALLS, LET IT NOURISH WHAT IT FALLS ON.
LET THE POWER OF THE FOUR DIRECTIONS CALL YOU!
I AM ON THE WIND, RIDE WITH ME, HOLD ON!
WILL YOU LISTEN TO MY WORDS TODAY, OH GREAT GRANDFATHER?
THANK YOU, MY FRIEND.
Upon finishing the prayer, each of us began to weep. Tears of joy, sorrow, grief, celebration, release. Our tears felt more weighted than ever. I knelt and put my hand on the ground below me. I dug my fingers into the soil. I could feel the pain of the earth. I felt extreme sorrow for what the white man had done to this land for so long. This immense guilt fell upon me as I realized I represent, physically, the white men that have persisted to destroy this land. It was difficult to bear this realization. After much wrestling with that concept, I reminded myself of the purpose that I brought with me to Standing Rock. My purpose was to serve, and with my camera, to elevate the voices of indigenous leaders there to a broader audience. I hoped that with attentive ears, a warm smile, and open heart, the people that my embodiment has traditionally oppressed, would see through that and accept my authentic service.
This hope was affirmed over and over again. The days ahead were filled with love and support from every person at camp. The words of those who knew more than me spoke with a forgiving tone and a kind heart. The rest of my time at Standing Rock was spent asking questions and listening.
The next day, we packed up and moved to the Oceti Sakowin Camp where the majority of the people were. As I began walking around, I found that the main initiative through the camp was to winterize the large structures that could keep people warm through the harsh North Dakota winter. The camp was days away from its first chance of snow and once that snow hit, conditions would be much harder to work in. The task was monumental as multiple groups of a dozen or so people tasked themselves with projects around camp. Traditionally, once winter comes, people would find shelter in the long houses, and so those were first on the priority list. Hay bales were stacked, stoves were installed, food was dried, and wood was chopped. All of this was done as a physical act of Prayer and Ceremony.
Truthfully, waking up every day to work with our hands was easy. We knew our work was in service of a cause far greater than ourselves. Hundreds of people woke up to the sounds of the loud speakers and quickly got ready for a long day’s work. With smiles on our faces, we found joy in community tasks even as the bitter-cold wind chipped at our faces.
My main goal while at Standing Rock was to find elders and representatives of the Sioux Nation and hear them talk about their struggle for the recognition of their rights as a sovereign nation. I wanted to share with the rest of the world what it meant to be sovereign and what actions they were taking to pursue justice in the face of threats by big government and corporations. After a few days of meeting people and following leads, I stumbled upon a man by the name of Wasu Duta who is a sovereign Dakota Sioux and government representative of the Sioux Nation of Indians. I was introduced to his cousin, Manape LaMere, just before being invited into his tipi at the base of the Seven Council Fires. Manape is Dakota, Lakota, Nakota, and Ho-chunk. He is a headsman of the Oceti Sakowin Camp. As a duo, they are tasked with presenting a number of sovereignty rights claims to the United Nations. They sat me down and taught me as much as they could.
With the new president siding very clearly with Energy Transfer Partners’ construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, it seems our hope for success is futile. The Army Corps of Engineers has reported that they will be releasing the easement to build under the Missouri River. The pipeline could be completed soon, but, with the hard work of the Sioux Nation holding a peaceful front in direct opposition to the pipeline both legally and physically, we could see this project stalled. This could continue the opportunity for cities and citizens alike to continue to defund DAPL by targeting the banks that are funding the pipeline’s construction. The #DefundDAPL movement is creating waves of change in the pocketbooks of the big banks who are funding the pipeline so we may see this pipeline go bankrupt eventually.
If this pipeline is ultimately completed, the movement is not all lost, nor is it all over. Sovereignty rights are a continuing issue that we must stay attuned to. These pushes take time and effort on the ground by individuals like Wasu Duta and Manape Lamere and they need us to stand with them. That vast numbers of people who have woken up to indigenous issues is the true victory for the Standing Rock movement. The smiles on the faces of the thousands of men and women at Oceti Sakowin camp attest to that. The vast number of individuals marching with solidarity signs in the streets of their hometowns attest to that. The vast number of individuals and cities that have chosen to take their money out of banks that invest in damaging projects attest to that. This is the real success of global movements. This movement does not lose because one pipeline is constructed. This is a battle of minds. In this regard, we have already won. And with the next issue that arises in Indian country, we will stand stronger and know that we are capable of immense power.