by Lynne Iser
Our collective imagination has been captured by the Water Protectors of Standing Rock. The Native people, joined by their non-Native allies, have come from across this country to camp on the banks of the Cannonball River with the intention of stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
It’s not an easy place to live. The environment is harsh, with cold winds and dropping temperatures. The tension is high as folks feel the urgency to prepare for the coming winter, as they are constantly monitored by drones, small planes and helicopters, and as they are work to discern the next best peaceful, ceremonial actions to stop the “black snake” – the oil pipeline.
But Standing Rock can also be seen as a place of great hope, energy, and passion. It is what Joanna Macy might call evidence of The Great Turning – the shift from the industrial growth society to a life sustaining one.
It is almost inconceivable that a small band of Native elders could possibly stop a multi-billion dollar pipeline, an essential component of the fossil fuel industry. Yet, somehow, up to this moment, they have managed to slow down the completion of this project.
Their movement is built on the foundations of Native traditions, renewing and utilizing the values of Native culture – prayer, ceremony, respect, non-violence and a welcoming environment to all.
They have also used specific tools designed to bring forth The Great Turning to a Life Sustaining Society.
The Water Protectors are cultivating “power with” – utilizing the energy, passions and talents of many people to succeed in their actions despite being a small band of people, lacking great political or financial networks.
They are powered by “active hope” as they care for and protect what they love and cherish most – Mother Nature, the water that sustains all life. Water is Life – mni wiconi – is the mantra of the Water Protectors. “If we don’t protect the water, the life force, there is nothing left.”
They are living with uncertainty – aware that they are not guaranteed to win but also understanding that if they do nothing they are guaranteed to lose.
Their spiritual tradition recognizes the interconnected nature of all life and is expressed in the words of Kandi Mosset, a young leader, “What happens to one of us, happens to all of us.” Because of these teaching they are demanding infrastructure that is fit for people, not for corporations; and, speak on behalf of those who do not have a voice – the children, the fish, all beings, all life.
They know that their true power comes from the people as expressed by Ladonna Brave Bull Allard, a native woman elder and the co-founder of this movement, when she said “It is the people. Can you feel it? Coming up from the ground. We got to stand up now, together. We will not back down.”
Standing Rock is a living example of the Great Turning to a life sustaining society as it:
- slows down the destruction
- creates alternative institutions, and
- shifts consciousness about how to live.
In this moment we can look to our Native neighbors for guidance as we work to build new institutions that sustains us all and recognize the ways in which we are all connected.
We can all, but especially us Elders — speak for the seven generations and all life as we work to slow down and stop what harms us all –the Industrial Growth Society, the Black Snake, that cares only for its own profit. It is amazing what we can do when we work together.
Let our hearts open and hear the voices of our great, great, grandchildren calling to us from the future so that we stand together with wisdom, love and courage.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Learn more about Standing Rock
- DONATE! To those who are courageously protecting the water for us all at Oceti Sakowin Camp.
- Work with your local water protectors. Contact Food & Water Watch
- Email Pres. Obama. Ask him to protect the Water Protectors. President@WhiteHouse.gov
See Elder Activists, Creating a Thriving and Just Future for more information.