Five thousand people, mostly Native American, are gathered in a makeshift encampment in the plains of North Dakota. They are fighting to protect sacred land and water. An oil company bulldozes its way through the land of the Sioux Nation, laying a pipeline that will carry fracked oil through the graves of their ancestors. If the "Dakota Access Pipeline" leaks, where it crosses the Missouri River, it will contaminate the Indian Reservation without warning.
The native people have seen their land occupied and taken by the US Government. Treaties that set aside large swaths of land were repeatedly broken. The rich culture of these people is under continuous assault. The land and the water that feed the remnant reservation is all that is left. Water is life to these people and the 17 million people at risk downstream. To them, water is life and oil is death. For that reason, they are willing to lay down their lives to protect their water.
The Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain is committed to healing the Human-Earth relationship. We believe that it is time to end use of fossil fuels on Earth, because of the catastrophic damage its extraction and consumption has wreaked on all life. We support all efforts to hospice out the fossil fuel era and midwife in the renewable era.
So, on September 13th, 2016, 30 members of our Eco-Institute community rented a BioDiesel bus (because we couldn't drive to a pipeline protest on fossil fuels!) and joined 350.org, Senator Bernie Sanders, Honor the Earth lawyer Tara Houska, DreamCorps Founder Van Jones, Chase IronEyes, and other representatives of the Standing Rock Sioux in opposition to the pipeline construction. Lakota Sioux Youth Leader Jasilyn Charger ran 2,000 miles from North Dakota to Washington, DC to deliver the message to President Obama that the native youth will no longer tolerate the marginalization of their people and sacrifice of their land and water.
Many of the students who joined us had never participated in a rally/protest or any other political action besides voting and signing petitions. They were especially excited when our local art/activism puppetry troupe, Paperhand Puppet Intervention, loaned us giant paper mache puppets to bring in the presence of the non-human creatures who will also be destroyed by a pipeline spill. There were frogs, birds, and a giant blue water puppet-being that took three people to hold. We saw firsthand how puppets spark human imagination, creativity, and joy. The puppets brought smiles to people's faces everywhere we went. Their childlike wonder emerged as they reached out to interact with the owl, the frogs, and the beautiful fire bird.
Tara Houska spoke of it being time to honor indigenous peoples. Bernie spoke of truth and reconciliation. Van Jones reminded us that Water is Life, and Oil is Death. Oil is, literally, the dead bodies of plants and animals that were once inhabited the Earth. Jones spoke of how crazy it is to power an energy/economic system on Death and feel surprised when it threatens the delicate balance of Life.
Native American chiefs and elders gave moving tributes in their native tongues. Such powerful ancient wisdom. Native American youth spoke about being willing to lay down their bodies and their lives for Mother Earth. We witnessed their profound willingness to sacrifice themselves, and remembered that the Earth is primary. We are all derivative.
Together we marched, at least 2,000 strong, to the White House, demanding that President Obama take a stand against this and all pipelines, and transform this country's energy system once and for all. Mitakuye Oyasin... all my relations.