Water and unity: A story from Standing Rock


This water is for all of us. It is for those who operate bulldozers, and for the ones who chain themselves to that very equipment. This water will be used by all people, regardless of where we were, or what we were doing during this historical gathering.

This message of unity, and of common care and concern for our home, specifically our water, can be found throughout Standing Rock Indian Reservation, where thousands have gathered in response to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, built by Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of the Dallas, Texas based Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. The pipeline would span 1,172 miles over four states, and would carry approximately 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day. More information from Energy Transfer can be found here.

routeMap of the 1,172 mile projected pipeline

Concerns over the rapid construction and lack of research on the environmental impact of the pipeline has caused the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to call upon the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment.

From our experience, water and the safety of the pipeline were the number one concerns of the folks who have camped near the proposed construction site. The possibility of a crude oil leak into the Missouri River could have dire consequences, as the Missouri is the longest river in the United States and flows right into the Mississippi River. Jeopardizing the health of the Missouri River would be a grave concern, and one that could concern many people, especially those that live in the ten States and two Canadian provinces that rely on the Missouri’s watershed.  Many people felt called to travel to Standing Rock from all over the world to protect the rights and land of Indigenous people, and to protect the water that we all rely on.

This gathering is a historical moment for many, Over 300 Tribal Nations have come together in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline, more than ever before. We met folks from the U.K., from Germany, and from across this country that have given up everything back home in order to come here and bear witness, show their support, and to help winterize the camps for the long winter that is yet to come.

We were incredibly impressed with the organization of all camps, from security, to food and medical care, to building permanent and winter structures. At the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp, people were building geodomes, composting toilets, solar water heaters, tipis, winter structures, and preparing food for the winter. Despite rumors of some media sources saying that the camps are shutting down, this is far from the truth. With incoming donations, new working hands, and a spirit to stay and defend the land and the water, these protectors will be here as long needed, and even longer.

The founder of Sacred Stone Spirit Camp, Ladonna Bravebull Allard, spoke October 3rd in front of the United Nations, urging them to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Her vision and mission to halt the pipeline, and to create community can be seen throughout Sacred Stone. There is an air of peace, of compassion, and of concern throughout the camp. The people there are working diligently to winterize, and are building permanent structures that may survive beyond the opposition of the pipeline. Through camping at Sacred Stone, we peer into a community that has its mind set on sustainable living.

What we learned is not only that thousands of people and hundreds of Tribal Nations are coming together in opposition to this pipeline, but there are even deeper conversations and actions taking place that look towards the future. Conversations of investing into a renewable energy future, of praying and caring for those who are armed with bulldozers, weapons, or dogs, and those of creating a future in which we can all safely and happily take part in.

This event is about more than moving crude oil, or protecting water and our natural resources. This event is about mobilizing a global community to respect and learn from Indigenous people and communities around the world, and to come together as our one human family in order to tackle these issues that affect us all. There is hope to be found throughout Standing Rock, a hope that we can create that global community that cares for all of Mother Earth and her people.

I saw this hope when I was standing around the Sacred Fire in the Main Camp, and witnessed dancing, singing, and drumming while volunteers served food to the Elders. One Elder was given a plate of food during a pause in the song and dance, but as soon as the drum was beating, breathing life into the camp, the man stood up as quickly as his body could muster, and began moving around the fire to the beat of the drum and the chants of the men. He needed the nourishment of the ceremony of dance more than the nourishment of food. Surrounding him were Natives of many tribes, and many ages. I was delighted to see young children dance around the same fire as the Elders. It was then that the magnitude of this event really struck me. People of all ages and of all tribes were celebrating and dancing together as one, in order to defend the water, to defend our common home.

I am grateful to have been a witness to such a historical  gathering of people from all over the globe. This gives me hope that we can come together as one, to love water, to love soil, to love the differences and commonalities, and to love one another while creating a better future for generations to come.

To Standing Rock, and to all people of all nations, I say Wopila — Thank you.





2 thoughts on “Water and unity: A story from Standing Rock

  1. Aimee Meyee

    Thank you Ryan. What an incredible opportunity to see the growing strength of our indiginous people and the movement to protect our planet.


  2. Pingback: Water and unity: A story from Standing Rock — LowCarbon Crossings – MountainsDreamz

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