Western Machines is going to deviate from its culture pushing ways for a moment and update on something vitally important in a different vein: Chad Wilkes and Will Pfrang, both from Frederick, traveled to Standing Rock to join in the protests there recently. Not to put them in boxes, as much as I’m tempted to do lazy journalism and label them as eco warriors, I can say with confidence they are simply responsible human beings -compelled to protect the one common place we all share. In a few short days they experienced much and reflected on that plenty. I’m honored to feature some writing as a vignette from Standing Rock…
Some background first:
You might have heard the news that a major environmental and indigenous rights victory was scored last week when the Army Corp of Engineers recommended re-routing the Dakota Access Pipeline away from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
You may have also heard about the epic many months long demonstration at Oceti Sakowin in support of the tribes to uphold treaties that keep sacred indigenous land within their control, as well as the brutal reaction to protestors enacted by North Dakota’s governor in the lead up to the latest Army Corp decision.
The Corp decision, as celebrated as a demonstration of the power people have in making change happen -that the struggle can produce something positive. However it might be a temporary victory. The incoming Trump administration may reverse course. Trump’s own oil investments, which have yet to be divested, has conflicts of interest written all over it.
In light of all that, here’s Chad Wilkes writing in from North Dakota:
After driving close to 2,000 miles for 24 hours in a car that a week prior was destined for the scrapyard, packed to the brim with cold weather camping gear, food, medical supplies, etc…the reports started coming in that permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline had been pulled. Major media outlets, who had been critical of the protector’s efforts until then, were now on the ground at Oceti Sakowin reporting on the apparent victory.
Will and myself, within hours of the front lines, read the reports with reservation from a life of justifiable media mistrust. Our only option was to continue, knowing that even if permits were pulled, oil thirst is insatiable and earth defense is relentless. This was not over by a long shot.
Driving again through another sleepless night, with a blown EGR valve and snow starting to pour down once again, we finally entered the Standing Rock Reservation. Turning onto 1806, snow coming down in force now, we began to pass car after car coming from the direction we were going. The closer we got, the thicker the line of cars became. There was certainly an exodus that was in progress and we were getting a very clear perspective into how many folks must have been here before we arrived.
Pulling into camp we were greeted by bright and steady-eyed native youths guiding us, searching our eyes for what lay beyond them. I knew this to be a good sign. Once oriented, we found an open spot at the river where someone had quickly abandoned camp and left their tend and belongings behind. This, unfortunately as we found, was actually a common site as many people made their rather hasty exit.
We searched camp all day to find some type of action organization, but the reality of camp was that things were shifting. At least half of the occupants had left that morning and those who would stay were busy preparing for the reality of living in a northern plains winter. Most actions were totally focused on community building, which we assisted in every chance we found.
Over the next few days, the story remained the same. Unprepared folks fleeing the cold, dedicated folks trying to stay busy and important, but the most striking were the native folks whose camp and movement this was. They were calm, purposeful, and constant. As RZA said, “You can see the truth of a man right through his iris.” No words were needed to know who had this whole situation on lockdown.
The sentiment and support of people from all over coming in solidarity around the issues of clean water, treaty rights, and native sovereignty is beautiful and real. A signpost of where we as a species are growing; but what those hills whispered in my ears, what those silent eyes said, what the songs and drums vibrated into my heartspace, and what spirit made known was this: it is not an environmental crisis we are in. It is a spiritual crisis.
Trace every instant on this planet of environmental crisis and behind it you will find a crisis of spirit. The need to pump oil is based around an inability to facilitate our own simple needs within a community – and obviously has more sinister roots in disconnecting individuals from communities in order for a few people to make loads of money. The damming of rivers a result of man’s inability to quietly observe the patterns of natural law and to know her cycles – again, also with deeper capital-based energy wants. The desertification of rain forest land, nuclear disposal sites, eroding shorelines, the rapid loss of biodiversity. Every single one of these has its deepest tap root in the failure to understand the spirit within it all.
Standing Rock fortified not only why the world should be listening to indigenous peoples everywhere, but why they are our only hope. Their history is totally based upon a harmonious spiritual understanding of their place on earth. Thus, they innately understand the subtle elements that balance us all, and they don’t need satellites to do it.
If we can all as individuals put our complete faith and respect in what these endangered communities have always known, we might just wake up from this wicked nightmare where our women are no longer disrespected by megalomaniacal misogynists, rivers meander clean and uninhibited, and our children are free to dream in every sacred step. My chips are all in on Red.