- Date published:
8:30 am, October 10th, 2016 - 10 comments
Categories: climate change, disaster, Environment, sustainability, uncategorized, water - Tags: #nodapl, #waterislife, community, indigenous activism, indigenous rights, standing rock
October 8 – 10th is four International Days of Prayer and Action with Standing Rock on stepping up as Protectors of Water. Background and ways to take part are outlined here. This post is in support of that.
Two articles on community at Standing Rock.
So many people have traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to make this pilgrimage. When people first meet, they ask each other where they’re from. Some are old friends, but many represent tribes that have been estranged or enemies for generations. Many spoke of the arrival of representatives of the Crow Nation, who have a long history of supporting coal mining and working at odds with other tribes. They too came to support Standing Rock.
The purposefulness here overcomes everything—the determination that this time the damage will be stopped. This time, before the water is poisoned or another sacred site is bulldozed, the protectors will step in.
That sense of purpose pervades the camp. While some plan the next direct action or post on social media, others split wood for fires, sort the river of donations flowing unabated into the camp, or cook for thousands of people in makeshift camp kitchens.
Life at the water protectors’ encampment is much like life was for millions of years of human evolution—close to the earth, near a river, clustered in family and community camps. There’s a rightness to these connections and to the feeling that people here will help you when you need it.
Here, with a purpose that threads through generations, work, celebration, and activism are a seamless whole. Young people ride through the camp on horseback among tents and teepees. Are they providing security, learning traditional animal caretaking, or just having fun together? Elders tell stories of Wounded Knee, say prayers, and sing. Are they educating the next generation, building coherence, or guiding the actions? These things are not separate. They are all of a piece, all about rebuilding indigenous ways of life and standing against further destruction.
People come and go. Some depart after a few days or weeks, but their reluctance to leave shows. Others are making plans to live in wood-heated tents and teepees through North Dakota’s bitter cold winter.
This is how we should be living, one person at our camp says. We give what we have to give, and take what we need.
Communities identify needs. Communities have accountability and responsibilities. Communities have systems within them and structures and institutions. When you go to the Prayer Camps you see those structures and institutions moving and responding. Contrary to what some folks have said, it is not chaotic. In fact, it is very far from chaotic. It is not every person for themselves. It is not litter-filled. There are problems, like in any community—but it is working and beautiful.
Native people taking care of Native people, united by a belief and prayer and a cause. Egos take a backseat to the bigger picture.
There is order. You see people cutting wood; that is their job. You see people patrolling security; that is their job. You see some folks cooking; that is also their job. Needs-based—you see a need, you take care of it. When a person has particular talents—say for example, who is an organizer and who understands that every person should be accounted for within a small community—that person certainly has a place within these Prayer Camps.
Needs based. It’s pretty amazing to watch. That’s what communities do.
An absolutely brilliant example of a needs–based response and solution is the establishment of a school in the Oceti Sakowin Camp. While the rest of the Protectors are literally changing the world’s conversation about oil usage and capitalism, there are still children who need to be taught.
So that’s precisely what a few young sisters did. They just started a school where there had previously been no school. No chaos. Response. Proactivity. Indigenous brilliance.