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From Standing Rock: Today is a Good Day to Die

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Sacred Stone Camp
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In Donald Trump's unusually gracious speech this morning he spoke of supporting the downtrodden and bringing everyone together. As we know, his words like those of too many politicians and corporate leaders, are often insincere, manipulative, deceptive or outright untruthful. But perhaps today Trump was sincere. Maybe the magnitude of this event has set up the possibility of his walking this talk. Long shot that it is for a man who does not believe in human influenced climate change; who makes fun of "Indians;" who is heavily invested in Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and whose business dealings and life philosophy have been anything but honorable, he like any of us, is capable of learning and transforming. I am hoping that my brothers and sisters here at Standing Rock today might be willing to help him with such a transformation by giving him a chance to prove the truth of his speech this morning.

Here is what I will encourage the leadership here to do if they are not already considering it. Today I suggest we launch the largest movement yet to prayerfully, peacefully and courageously march to where the illegal, immoral construction of the pipeline continues. The police who are here from several states as well as the National Guard, all working in behalf of ETP, will see us as trespassing and see our prayers and appeals as "inciting a riot." But what will they do today? Will they do as they have done in the past and shoot at us with rubber bullets and bean bags; hit us with tear gas and pepper spray; whack us with batons? Or worse? Or will something be different? In any case, whatever happens might lead to a reaction by home or by Obama who may react differently now that his party has lost the presidency and the congress? Today is a good day to risk death to find out.

I am hopeful. Yesterday when several policemen started to run toward me as I stood on the bridge taking photos of where they have blockaded the Water Protectors from accessing by road the area where current Dakota Access Pipeline is working. Almost immediately their supervisor called them back. I told them I just wanted to talk with them, to get their side of things, but they ignored me. The police were also less hostile the day before when we demonstrated at the oldest cemetery in Bismarck asking passer bys how they would like it if we dug up their ancestors graves. So maybe after the violent arrests of our people last Thursday, they are backing off. I also know at least two police have resigned from their posts and on an action Sunday one refused to use his pepper spray, giving it to someone else and another just sat down. Who knows how the police might respond today with the knowledge that Donald Trump is president. Few may have heard his conciliatory speech this morning and remember only his hateful, even violent utterances during the campaign. ( On the other hand, we were told yesterday that the County ordered body bags this week by Louise Young, one of the Seven Council Tribal Leaders.) Today is a good day to risk death to find out.

People here are more than willing. There are many people here at Standing Rock from around the world from many walks of life but the majority of the Native people come from homes that are surrounded by third world conditions. For many, the continual ceremony, cooperation, love, and sense of purpose here make for a healthier, happier environment that what they have at home in spite of the cold and in spite of the terrorism of the DAPL security forces, the police and militia. For them, the work here follows a deep spiritual commitment to the living river and to a sense of oneness. Prayers are said daily out of respect for all of those following orders to defend the construction project. Although a few young warriors feel anger when they see them pulling young female medics out of their vehicles and pepper spraying their comrades, even they manage to retain their peaceful, prayerful perspective. Today our largest showing of such love for our life giving water systems and our courage to take a stand might have a special impact. What if Trump, whose history would not indicate support for the Standing Rock movement, will honor his speech somehow in response to it. Maybe he, Obama, Clinton, and Sanders will "become one" and collectively tell ETP to stop building the pipeline? They will agree that if it is too dangerous for the people of Bismarck, it is too dangerous for the "downtrodden" who live downstream. Maybe someone in power will realize it is time to prevent the killing of our water, not just for those who depend on the Missouri River but for all of us. As for climate change, is it possible that the President Elect, who does not believe that using fossil fuel contributes to global warming somehow hear us today, or that the president who does believe in it but has been neutral might speak out?

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Today is a good day to die.

 

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Wahinkpe Topa (Four Arrows) is faculty at Fielding Graduate University and was formerly Dean of Education at Oglala Lakota College and a tenured professor at Northern Arizona University. Named by AERO as one of 27 educational visionaries, he is the author of 20 acclaimed books on wellness, critical education and Indigenous worldview such as his most recent (more...)
 

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