Saying Goodbye to Oceti Sakowin

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

“Wild Geese”, by Mary Oliver

 

The Day We Left

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Prayerful exodus from former Oceti Sakowin. Standing Rock, North Dakota.

People congregated in the 7th Generation kitchen for coffee, snacks, and to thaw out by the barrel stove. Veterans, water protectors, renegades, rascals, rapscallions, patriots and political prisoners; all hung onto the last few hours in a place that had cultivated us with truth and beauty for many months. The prior day, a great thundercloud came out of the west drawing flashes and purpled fingers and roaring over the camp and police reminiscent of tephra.

We had less than 24 hours before the insurgence of law enforcement officers reclaimed Oceti Sakowin under Army Corps jurisdiction.

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Why Standing Rock is Still the Frontline for Policy Reform

 

Which way I flie is Hell; my self am Hell;

And in the lowest deep a lower deep

Still threatning to devour me opens wide,

To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heav’n.

John Milton — Paradise Lost, Book 3.

Approaching the Bear

In the first week of his presidency, Donald J. Trump released a memorandum to expedite the permitting process of Dakota Access. Standing Rock has become a uniquely potent leverage point against the policies of the Trump Administration. Offshoots are popping up around the world. Public opinion is largely in favor of rerouting Dakota Access. In light of Trump’s memorandum on Dakota Access, the Honorable Judge James E. Boasberg will hold a review of the easement denial and instatement of the EIS on January 30th.

In camp, the spirits were like embers beneath the dry twigs of this news. The flags lifted in a faint breeze coming out of the north. My friend Little Crow and I wander the blue icy streets looking for stories to tell the world. Continue reading

Love, Fish, and Dust: Fighting the Right Battle

 

Have you challenged a trained killer to a fight only to end up crying in his arms? Did you go to Burning Man exclusively to fight this person? I did. Was it worth it? Burning Man is always worth it. So was the cry.

 

Alaska

The graveled boatyard in Dillingham consisted of rusted cargo containers and fishing vessels up on wood blocks. I went to Alaska to find deckhand work in commercial fishing. Alaskan commercial fishing represented what joining the army might be to a boy from a red state. Rather than taking pride in notions of national service, you were catching dinner, for millions of people. The self-improvement vanities were similar too: become a man, pay for college, and learn discipline. I also wanted to stop feeling heartbroken for what seemed like an unfair amount of time.

My friend Kelly and I hitched to the boatyard from the small municipal airport and were dropped at the fishing vessel Shodan, a big-chested aluminum beast up on blocks next to a two story ramada and cargo container. Todd the skipper, Rubble the deckhand and their third member Mickey were very good to us, offering us chicken wraps and beer. Rubble had stubble and reminded me of a squat Sting. He was maybe in his late 30s, had intense blue eyes and a mohawk that was green. On his left arm was a fierce dragon tattoo that you could almost hear David Attenborough describing as “the creature’s way of signaling ‘beware!’.”

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