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  • Mary L. Hanna

Walking With the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in Their Struggle

Sun shining in the camp

In response to an invitation by the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, we are here as a Meta Peace Team (MPT) International Exploratory Team.

We say “International” because the Sioux Nation by treaty is a sovereign nation, locked in a complicated web of U.S. federal-state-local laws and tribal laws, through centuries of struggle, occupation and oppression.

We are here as part of the astounding Oceti Sakowin Camp of Water Protectors at Standing Rock, obstructing the completion of the Dakota Access Pipe Line construction that would be a threat to their water.

We are also here by invitation to explore how we may be a resource of nonviolence training for the Standing Rock people.

We come as white people, born and bred in the white U.S. culture, truly uninformed (ignorant) of their ways of thinking, feeling, relating to others and the earth. We know also that we still have ingrained biases we have not yet flushed out of our psyches toward others that are “different” from us. We come as learners, as well as companions in the struggle, with some things to share.

An overview of the camp

Years ago we did a nonviolence training in Michigan. One of our trainers was half Native American, half white. He shared a list of values and traits of Native Americans. One African-American making the training jumped up excitedly and exclaimed: “Those are the values and traits we have as African-Americans! The lesson for me was, that people of color share values in common that are different than those of European Americans.

We are struck by the general accent on the sacred. People and the earth are sacred. There is sacred ritual fire. Relationships are sacred. Land is sacred. Water is sacred. Burial grounds are sacred. Menstruation is sacred. (“It is our honoring,” said one woman). Being an elder is sacred.

We entered one tent in the camp referred to as the Michigan tent. Mostly there were Native Americans. At one point, an elder asked for our attention, then asked one Native American woman there to come forward, to her surprise. He told us of her bravery during the confrontations with police as they violently tried to force the Water Protectors back. He then reverently took out a strikingly beautiful large eagle feather, reverently handed it to her as a token of the community's gratitude. It was a sacred moment.

The seven Lakota (one of the Sioux bands) values are Fortitude, Respect, Compassion, Honesty, Generosity, Bravery, and Wisdom. Some things we heard in the camp “Come with a clean heart.” “If an elder tells you something, that is a blessing.” “Listen.” White relations tend to be transactional, vs the Native American way of first building relationships.

Meeting place of the Tribal Council

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