Sorry this has taken so long, being concussed has left me spacey and sleepy. Okay, where to start…we were walking back, and stopped at another site, one where a dirt trail led up the hills to where DA equipment was sitting. Once again, it was time to still camera and video. The Chief spoke, and explained that the women elders were going to open the gate, and the warriors (on horseback), were going to run up to the equipment and make sure no one was still chained to them, so they wouldn’t be arrested when DA came to remove their equipment. The warriors got back, and all was well. There was prayer, and then everyone chose their particular place to scatter the tobacco they carried. Afterwards, everyone settled in on the surrounding land. There was an open time for anyone to speak, if they wished to do so, and many did. A young woman from Ecuador spoke eloquently, and often with a quaver of great emotion (3rd photo). She spoke of struggles of indigenous peoples in her home, and while they weren’t yet as bad as what is happening elsewhere, they are heading that way. She spoke of how deeply she was touched by what was happening at Standing Rock, and how important it was, that she felt compelled to travel here. We heard more about the U.S. declaration of bankruptcy in 1933. Representatives of tribes from all over spoke, talking of conditions in their particular areas and the fights they faced, how their water was being stolen* and the loss of their long time sustenance foods, such as salmon, due to dams. They spoke of generational language loss due to colonialism, and the struggle to make their languages flourish once again.
*Water is being stolen at a high rate from California tribes, rivers are being dammed and diverted to support large cities.
A young woman introduced herself and sang a prayer. Then a man who lives on indigenous land in Australia spoke (9th photo). I never once saw him out of that gear, he was one of the more memorable people in the camp. One of the most photographed, too. He spoke poignantly of the fight Indigenous Australians faced, and that he wanted to raise awareness everywhere, because much like water, these pipelines are also connected, and endangering water and life everywhere. Where water is life, the oil is death, and we need to break our dependence before it’s too late.
A young Na:tinixwe man (Hupa) spoke with overwhelming emotion of the stolen water and traditional sustenances of his people. He spoke of a time after their river (Klamath) had been dammed, young children dragged hoses from their houses to the river, trying to fill it up again. There is not a child anywhere on this earth that should feel such sadness and loss. He too spoke of language loss. He also spoke out to all the men, telling them that if they had adopted European ways of relationships, to abandon them, to be true to their own tradition, which values women and in which, it’s women who have the most important voices, as they are the dreamers, the weavers, the givers of life, the planners, the teachers, so it’s the women who must be listened to, always. As he spoke, tears often ran down his face. As an aside to his message, when we were at the first site, one of the elders who spoke was an Anishinaabeg woman. She started to speak, then mentioned how she wasn’t liked by her council because she talked too much, and the crowd of people broke out in loud, raucous cheers. In Indigenous cultures, there’s a great love of women who talk too much, who won’t be silenced, because their contributions are always needed, even if someone doesn’t want to hear what they have to say.
An elder from a newly arrived delegation from Maine spoke (11th photo), and he spoke a bit about dirt. He reached down, and scooped up a handful of dirt. He said it was a shame that in English there’s just the word dirt, which is used in negative ways, to express disgust. He let the dirt sprinkle softly down, then reached and scooped up some more, as he explained that they taught their children that when you pick up a handful of dirt, you are holding a handful of the molecules of your ancestors. That the earth, the dirt is rich in history, and it nourishes all life. It’s yet another reminder to be mindful. To be aware. To have respect. The folks from Maine also brought a truckload of moose meat.
The Tonoho O’odham elder spoke again, about the loss of much of their way of life when they lost the Gila River. He spoke of Roosevelt’s “offer” to move them to Oklahoma (translation: you walk there), and how the people refused, wanting to stay on their own land, and how so many of them died. He spoke of Sihasin, saguaro, who are guardians. He spoke about the insanity of imposed borders where he lives, and the rabid people trying to keep people out. He spoke of a time when there were no artificial borders, and of how often he crosses this border himself, to get water or medicine. He said he is always stopped, but he speaks to people in his language, which they do not understand, and they always let him go. Other people had also spoken of the imposed borders, in the attempt to keep primarily Mexicans out, and pleaded with all tribes to offer people sanctuary, as these borders are not ours.
Eventually, it was time to go back home. We enjoyed the walk, taking in all the land, stopping for a slight rest, then finally making it back into camp, where not much later, I was brained by the tent frame. :D Perhaps I should have stayed on the road longer.
Indigenous people are everywhere in the world. If you are near indigenous people, be aware of their struggles, and ask if you can help. Ask more people to be awake and help. Join those people, be aware that their struggles are also yours. Join in with all the facebook NDNs (and twitter, blogs, and other social media), and spread the word – can’t stop the signal!
Click for full size. © C. Ford, all rights reserved.