Beth at Standing Rock Friday Dec 9 and Saturday Dec 10 Sharing Prayers and Invoking Change for All.
We entered the camp well after dark, around 11pm on the Thursday following the Sunday when the permits had been refused from the Federal government to DAPL.
We had to make a detour around three highways, approximately 40 miles, not able to go the direct route, because the police had shut the highway to Standing Rock down.
At the entrance is a guard shack and the guard on duty asked us to put on the dome light in the car. He asked if we knew the Laws of the Land. I said, Yes, sir. He said have you brought any drugs? We said, no. Do you have any alcohol? No. Is anyone in the car drunk? No. Standing Rock Oceti Sakowin Camp is a camp of nonviolence. He asked if we had a place to stay. We said we were setting up a tent. We said we were experienced in the cold and he welcomed us in.
We drove down flag row. Set into the frozen ground were tree poles 7 or 8 feet tall, shaved of bark and each with a flag representing a different Indian Nation. These were the tribes throughout North America who had come to Standing Rock to stand in solidarity against DAPL drilling a pipeline below Cannonball River violating treaties with the Lakota Sioux in North Dakota.
We passed army issue tents with stove pipes and smoke coming from their wood stoves. There were majestic teepees with their 13 tree posts poking out the top and their flaps drawn open to vent the wood fires within. There were campers and cars and smaller tents with no heat or little heat. Old school buses were being used for temporary housing. Teepees were lined up on both sides of Cannonball river. There were horse trailers, horses, makeshift stables. There were tents together for the Chiefs and Elders. There were cars with license plates from California, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Manitoba and British Columbia. Lights on the hill lit up the night sky and lit up DAPL and the work keeps going.
There was a medical station. A tent giving away diapers, baby formula and pads for Moms. There was a tent for wellness counseling. There was a legal department for the 144 who had been arrested in protests and would need to stay awaiting court dates. There was an Veteran’s section and they had built their own barracks. The weekend before 8500 Veterans had descended on the camp to support their efforts against DAPL and the authorities who were attacking them in militaristic fashion with tear gas grenades and water cannons.
We drove across the icy pasture looking for a place to camp. We pulled out our small tent and tiny heater and were set up in a half hour. It was 15 degrees below zero. I had on panyhose, two pants, two wool socks, snow boots, 4 shirts including two turtlenecks, a coat, gloves, two hats, scarf and a wool poncho over all of it. I could barely move. As we had it set up, the tent proved to be slightly too cold for me. My bones sitting on the ice were freezing, literally, to the ground. My core temperature was getting low. I went into the car to heat up and I used 3 blankets in the car to sleep there in the front seat. I only turned the car on one time to heat up each night. My traveling companion slept in the tent.
We made a fire from community firewood and heated up tins of soup and water in coffee mugs for tea. We drank a lot of water to help keep warm. We ate little. There were no facilities. We went out in nature in secluded places. There were about 8 compositing toilet at camp and I went there once a day. The conditions there were the utmost arduous. The moon was 5 days from being full. The bright light gave us hope.
We slept and woke to the brightest Sun I can remember in a long time. We had come to make prayers and that is just what we spent the morning doing together sitting in the car looking over the entire camp and out to the river. They were prayers not only for Water is Life of the Lakota Sioux but also our prayers for Mother Earth, for Disclosure and for the reformations to follow which will help all life on Earth.
The one thing we could feel was the entire community was living in peace and the love there was deeply grounded and the abiding energy under which everything there was executed. It was a highly functioning village based on love. Sanctuary. A model for New Earth.
The Sacred Fire is in camp to signal a prayer. It is the smoke floating to the gods asking for an answer to prayers. It is maintained night and day. This Sacred Fire had been kept for months.
Around the Sacred Fire the callers would make announcements throughout the day. If someone needed volunteers to help with a project they would send someone to the Sacred Fire to put out an announcement. On days when the snow flied volunteers were asked to haul wood from the community wood site, where men had cut and split hills of wood, to each person’s teepee or tent as needed. Volunteers were needed in the kitchen. Volunteers helped with propane tank refills. A propane truck came into camp each day and propane tanks were put onto wagons and pulled to the site where fuel was given out to all who needed it.
Next to the callers on one side was a supply tent. Donations were brought there. We used a donated cot to stay off the ice in the tent. We got warmer packets for hands and feet free from the supply tent. There were so many clothes donated they were using them for liners to line the tents to winterize them. There was also a tent with composting toilets behind the Sacred Fire.
To the other side was a table with coffee in a large thermos with a spigot and one with hot water. Powdered creamer and sugar, cocoa and tea bags were out for community use. Bring-Your-Own-Cup. Flags were strung on a line behind the coffee booth. One a flag of Mother Earth and the others said Welcome in several languages.
Next to this was a cooking area. About 8 50 gallon pots would be sitting on low grills all day and all night preparing for the next meal on low simmer. The Sacred Fire provided the ash on which the food fires were built. a sacred tradition.
The Sacred Fire had a man watching it, stoking wood to keep it going. There were two benches where one could sit and be warmed by the fire. One was to sit there in prayer, as this was a prayer camp. Sit in prayer and move on so others could take their turn doing the same. Behind the two benches were short stacks of wood covered by plastic bags to be kept dry from rain or snow. The fire was in a round pit dug into the ground. The fire had about 6-8 pieces of cut wood built teepee style in a circle and enough dirt around inside the pit to place two feet and stand to be warmed by the fire. A small person had room to squat and take off gloves in the below zero weather and warm fingertips before sitting on the bench awhile.
In front of the Sacred Fire there are baskets with sacred herbs. Cedar branches, Sweet Grass braids, Sage smudge sticks, bags of tobacco. One is to take from the bowl or basket a handful of offering for the Sacred Fire. Amongst the herbs was placed a statue of a native woman with braids hugging a christian cross to her chest. Next to her were small flag posts and feathers tied to them. Feathers were perched in seashells filled with herbs, small stones were also placed there. Go to the fire in a clockwise motion and hold the herbs saying a prayer. At the end of the prayer offer the herb by throwing it into the flames. Pause and then move around the fire in a clockwise motion to make room for others offering their prayers. Oceti Sakowin Camp Sacred Fire, a prayer camp to end the DAPL drilling of an oil pipeline under the Cannonball River. The river got this name from where it’s confluence with the Missouri River would make the river rocks tumble in the water and form into balls the size of cannonballs. The river stopped making these ball rocks in the 1950s when a dam was built.
I sat low near the fire and made the prayer whose translation is somewhat: Give Me More Light, Please Give Me More Light. It is a Sanskrit Prayer from the Veda.
om bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ
tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ
bhárgo devásya dhīmahi
dhíyo yó naḥ prachodayāt
– Rigveda 3.62.10
Afterward the caller at the microphone asked if anyone wanted to sing. I did. I sang this prayer, repeated about 15 times to those standing around the Sacred Fire. I prayed for not only Water is Life, the issue in North Dakota, but for all Earth to know peace and know the sharing of Abundance.
Saturday morning when we went to the Sacred Fire, we again gave prayers as before. We sat on the bench to sip coffee and warm up witnessing the prayers of others and chanting quietly on our lips the prayers we knew.
Then Chief Arvol Looking Horse came out to take the mike. He sang a prayer and then he said the Sacred Fire was being put out. He said other prayers had been brought to this camp to merge with the prayers they have for the River and Mother Earth. One such issue, he said was violence against women. Men must honor women. He said, I should not have to tell you this. I also must not have to tell you, do not drink, do not do drugs. Of course I had brought the prayer for disclosure and an end to the truth embargo to this Sacred Fire.
He said our prayers have been answered and there is no need for a fire any longer. I was very happy to hear what he knew. We were there to close the fire and as we left snow was blowing with strong winds and we prepared for a long ride home by packing our tent and remaining supplies.
The story behind the story.
When we left we gave a ride to David, an environmental activist who had been at Standing Rock since October. He was going to Bismarck Airport to fly to Seattle to help protestors of a pipeline 3 times the size being built by DAPL.
He told us the thousands of buffalo which suddenly appeared actually had been driven by the Sioux on horseback to the edge of the work by DAPL. The police were locals from that county and also from South Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio and Colorado. The faction of police force from Colorado left quickly because when Coloradans heard, they protested their police being used in a natural resources fight. Coloradans are more aware of conservation efforts than many other States. There were also National Guard on sight. When the police discovered the Natives had driven the buffalo there, they herded the buffalo back using helicopters and chased the horsemen on ATVs. One horse was killed and two riders were seriously hurt.
David had taken to chopping wood for his volunteer service each day. He was one of the men on call for Action protests and they happened at a moment’s notice. On December 4th there were a dozen fires set by the protesters to keep warm during a peaceful protest. The temperature as in the 20s that night. The police called firetrucks to the scene and the hose trucks were being used to put out the fires as well as control the crowd. they also used rubber bullets and tear gas, several people were sent to the emergency room. There were about 400 protesters that night and 144 were arrested. Those who await court dates are being housed at camp by Elders and their room and board is taken care of.
David was able to confirm that DAPL has never stopped working even as Federal authorities denied permits required to do the work. DAPL is being fined $15,000 a day because they lack these permits. Court dates are set for December 12th and December 27th to work out the details with DAPL. The Sacred Fire was burning out Saturday afternoon, December 10, 2016. The first wave of ceremony is over and this time has ended. The protest is not over, DAPL is still drilling but this phase of Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock has come to an end. Being at Standing Rock for 2 days of Prayers, adding our prayers for Disclosure and Reformation to those prayers, as a peaceful protest to conditions on Earth was a once in a lifetime experience. My thanks to my traveling companion, Tommy Gunn, an Ojibwe from Manitoba, without whose help I could not have made it. He was instrumental in renting the 4×4 and doing the driving, borrowing the all weather gear we needed and having the personality for a successful trip. You may remember he hosted me to go to Lake Louise last year. The People of Standing Rock will be a success as they have based all of their actions on love. As the few remain to overwinter we continue to send our prayers and check their wish lists to send to them those things needed to keep love alive. Gaia Mother Earth the winner. As we fashion all of our political actions based in love we build new Earth in love’s expression.