The decade of anti-slavery forces and slavery proponents known as Bloody Kansas could surely qualify as perils.
Three years ago at the end of that summer, my son and I traveled to South Dakota for a training for pipeline resistance called Moccasins on the Ground. When we left we knew the work had begun in earnest to resist pipelines that might cross the tribal boundaries in the Dakotas. It was definite. It would be a fight of wills. The people in that room were never going to give in and let one cross.
For many months we have been hearing about the tribal efforts at Standing Rock in North Dakota to protect their drinking water source from an oil pipeline called the Dakota Access.
And with the Dakota Access Pipeline the resistance has been consistently peaceful, prayerful and contagious. The gatherings of protectors have grown from a few to thousands, the largest tribal conclave ever assembled. Tribes have come from across this nation, many tribal representatives from other countries and continents.
Waterkeepers have come with the president of the Alliance Robert Kennedy, Jr. People, some tribal folks call Hippies have come. Recently religious leaders from many denominations came. United Nations observers, human rights advocates, and journalists. And this weekend thousands of U.S. Veterans came. Why did they come? They are not known to be joiners of “causes in mass.” These vets came to stand up front to give the protectors a break from what the world is seeing as the truly ugly in America.
I saw images a few weeks ago of what Ugly America looks like when Faced-Guarded officers, heavily armored, struck, maced, and shot unarmed protectors with rubber bullets, and sprayed them with water cannons in freezing weather. These officers might not all be ugly. But their actions were not pretty, and could be the images they themselves see years from now as PTSD sets in for what has occurred here. It certainly can be a result for those who have been abused and slept or tried to sleep with the threat of what new atrocity might come.
Another image was the day the dogs were brought out by the pipeline company and allowed to attack unarmed people. That image took me back to images I had seen as a child on TV news when police with dogs let them attack Black protestors who wanted the right to vote. Today’s issue is the right to clean water. We all want both, and why would anyone want to keep any of us from either?
We were thinking a lot about history on the road north to Standing Rock from Oklahoma. My son read from the Smithsonian Guide to Historic America about the history of the places we were passing through while in Kansas.
As the United States grew, states began to line up with those who were for slavery and states that chose not to allow slavery. New states had to decide which way to go, and several towns we traveled through were in the guide book.
We passed Fort Scott and looked over at the actual buildings built in 1842 where Dragoons, the elite mounted regiment trained to fight on foot or on horseback with regimental groups made up by the color of their horses. A few years later my own Cherokee grandfather would be there breaking wild horses for them to ride.
I cringed as we saw the visitor center’s marker: the massacre at Marais Des Cygnes and I believed it would be a dead Indian site with massacre in the name, but I was wrong, it was the site of murdered white men for a Free Kansas killed by Pro-slavery proponents.
Fort Scott had one of the first black regiment raised in the Civil War and many were freed slaves from Missouri.
My worry was for safety as I approached Standing Rock as a Cherokee and a Waterkeeper, my rock- the traditional and seasoned men and women who have been standing guard all these months and my strength to stand with them grew stronger knowing many of our country’s finest: our veterans were there with their bodies on the line for water, for humanity. Our Stars are rising. Justice and water meet on the plains of North Dakota.
You can go back in time, you can retrace your steps. You can return to places you have been before.
Submitted With Difficulty ~ Rebecca Jim