I’m sitting in a tent at Standing Rock.
It’s maybe 20 degrees if I’m lucky. Today has been a lesson in patience and persistence. I was sure I had planned everything out perfectly. But then Mother Nature had other ideas. Before I had even arrived, I already had a big problem. Less than half the supplies I ordered were going to be delivered on time. I had no choice but to shop at the local Wal-Mart for most of what I was going to need at camp.
Sleeping bags, hand warmers, (a necessity to fight off frostbite) cookware, there were so many things to locate. It was the locating part that proved to be most difficult. But the reason it was so difficult wasn’t because of something you may have heard on the news. Stores weren’t withholding propane, police weren’t fining people $1000, none of those stories had an exclusive hold on the truth. Supplies were difficult to find because they were simply sold out from others heeding whatever call of Spirit they may have felt too.
There is something really beautiful arising from the ugliness that has become the standoff at Standing Rock. Thousands upon thousands have arrived in droves. It’s easy to see why some (read: mostly white people) would confuse Standing Rock with a certain music festival that shall not be named. It’s easy to see, yet difficult to excuse.
There is an atmosphere of love and unity, of a oneness that one might find on a mushroom trip, even though there are no drugs allowed in the camp. No weapons either, for the record. But that oneness is evident throughout the camp. Even now, as I sit in this tent, the night air is filled both with frosty breath and the sounds of drums and Native American songs. The people are paying homage to their mother – the Earth. To listen to their songs is to listen to their Spirits. There is honor, reverence, and love in them.
There is also pain.
I can’t help but feel this entire camp would be better off if it were only the Tribes who had come. At least then the purity of the heart of the movement would be honored. I was amazed listening to a drum circle echo across the camp, only to learn upon the discovery of its exact location, that it was but four young men and one young woman drumming and singing. It sounded like an entire chorus.
As I approached them, I waited from what I hoped was a respectful distance while they finished their song. I wanted to ask permission to join their circle, if they would have me. A car had stopped, its passengers equally enchanted by the beauty of their music, in the middle of a makeshift road, sandwiched between tipis and tents alike. I couldn’t blame them. It was a beautiful moment.
When the song ended, the quintet milled about for a moment, talking and joking amongst themselves. The Spirit of the people feels light despite the intense gravity of their movement. Suddenly, from the stopped car came the screeching words, “Play another one!” Before I could censor myself, I heard words escape my mouth in my own voice. “You did not just say that!” I blurted out indignantly. I know she didn’t hear me, but it didn’t matter.
The young Native men were more gracious than I was. One of them politely asked her what it was that she’d like to hear. It seems obvious, but she had no answer. As we walked away, somewhat out of embarrassment as far as I was personally concerned, it wasn’t long before I could hear them start anew as we walked up the hill to the main road, the infamous Highway 1806.
We wanted to see with our own eyes, the black snake that glows at night.
I couldn’t get that voice from the car out of my head. I really wanted to be angry at that girl and her voice, but I am finding it difficult to feel that sort of sentiment here. I really wanted to let her know that the people are not here for her amusement or entertainment. I wanted to scream to her that the Natives were not on display as some sort of drive through safari, but I refrained.
The way the young Native American handled it was the right way, the people’s way. We made our way to Highway 1806, but as soon as we arrived, we were told to turn back, that they were closing the road and everyone needed to go back to camp. I didn’t particularly want to go, but I’m a guest, this is their land, their home. It was not for me to decide what to obey or not.
We turned around, but we immediately got caught up, as it’s easy to do here, with a man named Myron, a Native American who has been here since August. He flies drones, even though he’s not supposed to, just to mess with DAPL security, as he described it. He told us to look out past Turtle Island, a smallish mound, just north of the camp to where there were flashing red lights in the distance. He said there was another camp just beyond Turtle Island where the Native Americans played pow wow music at the DAPL security 24/7.
Myron told us that the DAPL people are spiritually sick, that they stopped listening to their Mother a long time ago, and he said the pow wow music would heal their disease. This is why the people stand. This is why they play their music. It’s about a spiritual healing, a spiritual reckoning. It’s a plea from their Mother, the Earth, asked through Her people. Even now, as I entertain and welcome the notion of sleep, sitting in this tent, the drums are playing. Whoops, screams, and songs continue to ring out, and I’ll be damned if these songs aren’t the most lovely lullabies I’ve ever heard.
Did you miss part one of this series? On the Way to Bismarck With the Power of Humanity Alongside Me
Wondering what to do next? We have started an Environmental Social Interest Group—and a lot of our discussion is about Environmental Social Justice and history-defining events like Standing Rock and #NoDaPL.
Gold and Platinum Premium Members only. Not a member? Become a member here.