Camping in South Dakota in early October is a challenge. First night it was 28 degrees, the second had gusting winds that threatened to lift the rain tarp off our tent – and this is called “Indian Summer” in South Dakota. It will be winter soon, with temperatures well below 0 degrees and while a sensible person might flee the oncoming winter, here is a camp of Native and white people preparing to spend the winter on the banks of the Cannonball River.
I came to the Standing Rock Sioux encampment to lend my support to the Native people who have been camped here since last April – their last ditch attempt to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, the DAPL. We were welcomed by everyone we encountered and thanked for coming to this peaceful camp, where ceremony and prayer are an integral part of daily life – including the non-violent actions that many are engaged in to stop or slow down the building of the pipeline.
Why did I not simply go to synagogue for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, as I have done for every year of my life?
As a citizen of the United States I share the responsibility for the actions of my government. I share responsibility for how we have destroyed Native lands and culture, and for our industrialized way of life that contributes to the demands for more fossil fuels, the extraction of more natural resources, and more pollution and degradation of our Earth.
The Dakota Access Pipeline was originally planned to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, ND, but the good people of Bismarck did not want to have the pipeline upriver of their community. They know, and we all know, that pipelines don’t last forever and there are many, many leaks in the existing pipelines that crisscross our nation. It was decided to move the pipeline south, to north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and through sacred burial sites.
We have sinned by not caring for our neighbors as we would want to be cared for. If the Pipeline is not OK for Bismarck why is it OK for the reservation?
We have sinned by enjoying the bounties of this Earth, which have been stolen from others, who suffer with inadequate resources to support their daily lives. A just world is one in which we all enjoy the bounty of our Mother Earth.
We have sinned by idly standing by as our government and corporations continue to pollute the environment. We, Americans, are not taking care of our precious Mother Earth. It is a sin to pollute, to not care for, to not give thanks to, to not respect and to not be wise about how best to use the resources of this planet.
The Standing Rock Sioux have been joined by over sixty other Native nations, in an unprecedented show of unity. As they come together they are remembering ancient prophecies that “in the seventh generation, after the coming of the white man, the native people will again be able to practice their traditional ways and rebuild their communities.” That is what is happening at the Standing Rock – Oceti Sakowin – encampment.
We have sinned by not standing up and protecting our water – Water is Life. Native folks are on the front lines, prepared to risk their lives as Water Protectors. We can’t live without water. We can’t drink oil. We can’t risk poisoning our water.
By gathering with them I lent my support and I witnessed proud Americans demanding that our government honor their treaties, respect Native sacred sites, and protect the water and environment for the sake of the seven generations, our great, great grandchildren.
I continue to stand with them as I return to my life, my teaching, my family and my warm home.
I urge all of us to stand together, and stand for our Mother Earth. Together we can demand that our government stop the Dakota Access Pipeline and transition to renewable sources of energy -- so that we may all enjoy clear water, blue skies, the beauty and bounty of this amazing planet.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Call North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple at 701-328-2200. You can leave a message stating your opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
- Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414. Tell President Obama to insure that the Army Corps of Engineer revokes the permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River.
- Call the Army Corps of Engineers (202) 761-5903 -- and demand that they revoke the permit for DAPL.