November 24, 2016 By Leslie Amsterdam
Our recent visit to Oceti Sakowin Camp near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota revealed the best and worst of humanity; the worst being the militarized, aggressive law enforcement efforts against unarmed, prayerful water protectors and the best, of course, being in the midst of so much beautiful humanity, sacrifice, and love. On this fourth Thursday in November, please join me and give thanks and offer prayers for the water protectors praying and taking back their land at Standing Rock in North Dakota.
What began as a ceremony to pray for the water and reclaim and occupy unceded treaty lands from the Treaty of 1851 of Fort Laramie, as well as to alert the world to the impending disaster and environmental racism known as the Dakota Access Pipeline, is now in the middle of a full-fledged war zone. The problem is that only one side is armed.
While law enforcement officers from Morton County, the surrounding counties and several states wage military style battles with armored vehicles, tear gas, concussion grenades, LRADs, water hoses, rubber bullets and brute force, the unarmed water protectors stand in ceremony, smudge sage and offer prayers for the water, the sacred lands and the souls of their relatives, including those who assault, arrest and maim them.
The natural force behind Standing Rock and this historic gathering is Mother Earth and her spiritual children, which in Native culture are appropriately revered, cherished and protected by daily ceremony and prayer, giving thanks for all of the blessings of each new day. Prayers are offered all day long and the reminder is posted everywhere, ‘This is a Camp of Ceremony and Prayer’.
The camps which support this movement to reclaim the land and stand up to yet another round of Colonialism, genocide, and cultural exclusion are a constant source of prayerful activity, focused energy, and hard work. Many came to create new homes for their families, their elders and other seventh generation warriors, who along with allies and advocates answered the call last July to come to the lands along the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers to protect the water and Mother Earth from the disastrous environmental and cultural devastation of the Black Snake.
Water protectors and camp volunteers are positive, industrious, cooperative, non-opportunistic and grateful for the chance to protect our water and Mother Earth. The relationships formed at the camps by the cooperative and prayerful actions foster an inclusive, loving community where “isms” and divisive egos are not encouraged and where hugs, collective activity and self-awareness are actively implemented.
Everyone has the opportunity to stand with Standing Rock however they see fit, all relatives are welcome in this struggle. Show your support and love by making a financial donation or organizing a supply/work run to North Dakota to enhance the camps. Research the past, read up on current events and connect with others who have first-hand knowledge of the area. Open up space in your heart to move forward from a place of love. Make a plan before you leave. Always follow Native directives while a volunteer at the camps and attend the assemblies to learn how to best support all of the efforts. Create the space for Native voices to tell their stories and assist those efforts whenever possible. Refrain from using your cameras in the camps until you check in with the media tent and always ask permission from your subjects. Do not photograph prayer ceremonies or sacred fires anywhere without an invitation from the elders leading the ceremony. Lay tobacco and smudge sage at your water sources and offer prayers for the water protectors. Above all, if you are a White ally in this struggle, recognize that your place is to protect the elders and the vulnerable, follow the lead of your Native hosts, especially the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and offer whatever kind of support that your White privilege affords you without creating more colonized voices and spaces.
The reclaiming of this unceded treaty land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the historic, supportive gathering of Indigenous people from all over the world is the most important battle in this moment, representative of the ongoing worldwide struggle between human beings and the corporate interests who rule them. It has been over 500 years of colonialism, forced relocation, wars, broken treaties, land grabs, and cultural genocide. The time is now to take a stand to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline and all of the immoral, evil forces that it represents. I’m all in, are you?
All images captured in North Dakota between November 11-15, 2016.
View more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/99603156@N03/albums/72157673009627993
For up to date information follow https://www.facebook.com/DigitalSmokeSignals/?fref=ts https://www.facebook.com/ienearth/?fref=ts https://www.facebook.com/Indigenousrisingmedia/?fref=ts
All photos © Leslie Amsterdam Peterson 2016. All rights reserved. All proceeds from these efforts benefit winterization and sustainability efforts at Standing Rock, and our friends at the Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa-Defenders of the Water School. https://www.facebook.com/DefendersoftheWaterSchool/