Life, Faith and Urban Farming

The life and happenings of an unconventional pastor and urban farmer living in the city with a family of five.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Peace and Demonstration at Standing Rock

Our first few days at Oceti Sakowin at Standing Rock were really beautiful and peaceful. During our first evening in camp we learned that prayer would happen every morning at 6:30 am at the sacred fire near the entrance to camp. No only is there the perpetually burning sacred fire at this location, but also the perpetually full ten gallon water cooler, except it's full of coffee. So, we were there. There were probably 60 others ready for morning prayer that cold Wednesday morning too. We were led by a Dakota elder in a traditional peace pipe prayer ceremony. It was quite obvious that I was a newbie to Native American traditions.

At 9am on Wednesday, after a hearty breakfast, all the new comers to camp were encouraged to attend an two + hour orientation meeting in one of the larger meeting tents. At least 100 people were there. They hold this meeting every day for the hundreds of new people coming into camp every day. There we learned so much about everything from who gets to eat first at the mess halls to how we are all dealing with the reality of white supremacy. We heard about the history of the pipeline and the rich history of the seven council fires, Oceti Sakowin.

After the orientation anyone with the slightest sense of carpentry and building were swept to the construction staging area. Over the next four days we would participate in building composting toilets (to hopefully soon replace the conventional portable toilets), tarpies (teepee like structures designed specifically for Standing Rock for winter housing) and a most challenging geodesic dome. I think what impressed me most about the coordinated efforts to winterize the housing in the camp was the unified selfless effort. There were dozens of skilled workers working for free. There were dozens of contractors who had taken off work to work for free, and share the tools for the sake of the camp. And almost all of it was solar and wind powered.
The combination of working, eating and praying was almost a monastic rhythm.

It was either Friday or Saturday when a large portion of the camp participated in our first "direct action." Another class at camp is for anyone planning to participate in direct action, the class is on non-violent protest. Dr. King style. Everyone in camp knows that violence is absolutely not accepted in the camp and especially not in direct action. Everyone participating in any protest or action that could involve confrontation must attend at least one session on peaceful, nonviolence. Violent language is nearly as forbidden as violent acts, no swearing allowed!

First we were led by the Native American Youth Council to form gigantic words in a large food plain with our bodies. We wrote out the phrase "free Red Fawn." Red Fawn is considered by the Dakota and Lakota to be a political prisoner. She was arrested early in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Accused supposedly of shooting a gun at police. I wasn't there, but according to the people of Standing Rock she is being held as an example of what will happen to all protectors if they continue. Red Fawn faces twenty years in prison if convicted.

Following the areal photo shoot we were led onto the, now infamous, bridge on highway 1806. The women had informed the police and national guard of their plans to march a few hundred people onto the bridge, kneel and pray for twenty minutes. This prayer ceremony was completely peaceful. Near the end of the ceremony and time in meditative prayer a policeman came on a bullhorn and informed us that the 20 minutes of prayer were over and we must all leave the bridge. After a few minutes, we proceeded back to the camp, signs and banners flapping in the wind, proclaiming that Water is Life - Mni Wiconi.

This was the story of our first five days in camp. Sunday November 20th was different. The rhythm of prayer, work and eating together was broken by bitter violence on that same bridge.

1 comment:

Ian said...

thanks for your writing and personal accounts of this, John