Pilgrimage to Standing Rock (2)

November 3, 2016

We've been encamped at Standing Rock for three nights now. The wash water was frozen solid this morning, but the sun is high now and our bodies are warm at last.

Brown autumn grasses cover the soft hills here where the little Cannon Ball River wanders down to the Missouri River: the sacred water. That’s the heart mantra of the encampment: Water is Sacred. Water is Life.
top photoA vast smoky camp is spread out around us — tents, teepees, cooking fires, flags from all the Indian nations: Dakota, Lakota, Cheyenne, Navajo, Nez Pierce, Kiowa, Cree — hundreds of beautiful names of the proud people beaten down but not beaten by the new way of life that has come to this land. Their endurance too is sacred.

The call for religious leaders to come support them — they expected perhaps a hundred might come — resulted in over five hundred Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and leaders from many other traditions arriving yesterday for the action scheduled for today. We came from all over the country. Last night we met in a gymnasium in the nearby Sioux town of Cannon Ball, prayed and sang and listened to each other testify.

This morning we gathered early around the central council fire. A copy of the Doctrine of Discovery was burned — the early church doctrine used to justify the taking of the continent. Then our colorful procession, joined by hundreds of others from the camp, proceeded up the road to the police barricade. Helicopters and drones circled above us. It had been agreed by all not to cross the police lines, but to simply bear witness there to the cry to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing the river and endangering the water that is life. Again we sang and prayed and listened to testimony. It was a beautiful moment where once again truth was spoken to power.

Kaio, a pastor from Samoa I befriended last night, took the mic and gave one of the most powerful statements. He ended with the words: “Stand for the sacred. Keep the sacred.”

His words revealed to me a simple secret about sacredness: our keeping of it. When the water, the land, the air, or the generations to come are no longer sacred to us, we will have lost what matters most, and we will have lost our own sacredness.