A good long word list of emotions could have been used to describe the feelings that rode along with my son and I on the 1,000 mile trip to North Dakota and peace would not have been one of them though my imagination was going places with words from anticipation to fear, excitement to dread. People had talked about some experiences, but I hadn’t nailed them down to how they felt about going or being there.
My brother Clark Frayser had taught school one summer a few miles away almost 50 years ago and told me, "It wasn't the end of the world, but you could see it from there!" I had taken a trip up to Fort Yates during that period, my truck shared the road for as far as you could see with only one other vehicle, a bicycle with a young man almost to Canada to avoid the draft during the Viet Nam era.
As the Tar Creekkeeper, one of the newest members of the Waterkeeper Alliance, I intended to easily find the other members, with their phone numbers in hand and find my college classmate Faith Spotted Eagle right off, and numerous other people who were bound to be there. But first you have to get there. Nikki Thomas assured me 1806 was the road to go on, but the road seemed to be getting more and more ice along the sides the longer we were on it until it was totally ice covered and both sides of the roads were snow drifted and dotted with abandoned cars. We drove past road closed signs when the large CNN van passed us on a hill in a no passing zone and we decided to “follow that van.”
As we approached Oceti Sakowin Camp, the flag poles flapped in the wind and the snow covered camp with almost as many residents as Miami, OK came into view. Every sort of structure greeted us, but the tipis looked most at home.
The Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation had last convened 140 years ago, in 1876 when Sitting Bull had had a vision and now they had gathered again and opened the camp to supporters, over 300 tribes were represented but the majority of the protectors were not native. They continued to stream into the camp, day and night while we were there. Busloads of veterans came and more were coming for an action the next day.
We stood in the Sacred Fire Circle and listened to Sitting Bull’s grandson and a relation of Crazy Horse recount their history and pray before the group joined in a walk around the camp, the Sacred Hoop.
An hour later Dana and I were in the Direct Action training learning how to deal with the very real possibility of mace and pepper spray when the excitement began. Car horns were blasting, songs and luluing, and finally it was announced to us that the Army Corps of Engineers had denied the Dakota Assess Pipeline the permit to drill under the Missouri River. I won’t ever believe that the 4,000 veterans didn’t tip the balance on the decision to deny the permit.
We were cold and never warmed up, the blizzard was coming, the war, no the battle was won for now. We waited until dark. watched the fireworks and set out for home.
I never found the waterkeepers, but yet, I had found them all, we were all waterkeepers, all there to protect water. I never found my friend, but know that true friendships were made that will last for lifetimes. Wesley Clark, Jr. with veterans asked for forgiveness for what the military had been party to in history when dealing with the Natives in this country and was granted that forgiveness by Chief Arval Looking Horse, who then spoke the words: World Peace.
When you get home, no, when you rise up the road out of the camp, a cape wraps round you for warmth like memory hugs and the smell of sage and cedar and sweet grass is embedded in your clothes. Faces of people with character met at the round dance in the dome, at the sacred fire, or up on media hill find places in your brain to stay.
We rolled down our windows each time we drove near and over the Missouri River to smell their clean water with the hope this water will remain that way and listened to the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribal radio. We smiled as one of the first oldies played was Dwight Yoakam singing, “I'm a thousand miles from nowhere, Time don't matter to me, 'Cause I'm a thousand miles from nowhere, And there's no place I want to be."
Standing Rock is Everywhere.
Imagining Peace ~ Rebecca Jim
Read more: Dwight Yoakam - A Thousand Miles From Nowhere Lyrics | MetroLyrics