This having been my second trip, I knew it would take a week or so for me to psychologically integrate my experience at Standing Rock. I didn’t count on the election which came four days after my return. I’m still in that half here, half there state, although the results of the election have thrown me into yet an additional state of being, which I just can’t quite identify.
I wrote about my first short trip to Standing Rock, where I visited Sacred Stone camp in The Stand, at bravewisconsin.com. Much of it still applies and succinctly addresses the issues as I see them. Some things changed after my second visit, which was spent at Oceti Sakowin camp, predominantly the urgency of the situation, the physical clashes, the presence or should I say overwhelming occupation by militarized police with all their accouterments for ‘crowd control’. I never feared arrest on my first trip. This time, I feared arrest. I feared my car could be impounded and I feared physical injury. The situation has escalated.
What hasn’t changed is the Native people’s heroic will to resist, to protect their land, their history, their heritage, their culture and their people. It is after all, a conflict about that, as much as a pipeline. Is our government listening? Are the people of the United States listening? Given the election results, I fear they are not. I fear history is about to repeat itself, in all its ugliness and pain. It is what is called progress. Ironically, I felt it was a recreation of the past, circa 1860, but with a modern twist. An odd time travel sensation has affected me since I left on the trip, and since I have returned, with full days missing from my memory. It’s getting better now, the more days that pass since my arrival home, and the more I resume my routine, but, it’s still hanging there, like a fog.
I was fortunate to speak to Bill McKibben for a good long time, enough time to say what I needed to say as a rural organizer in Wisconsin. He was curious about Brave Wisconsin. I’m extremely appreciative that serendipity afforded me this moment. It wasn’t like the skies opened up and angels sang. It was rather understated. He was standing to my left at an action, and I did a double take and introduced myself and it went from there. He said, ‘Ah yes, Wisconsin’ as he shook his head as he commiserated with me and we both commiserated about the Dakota Access.
My days were spent hanging around at the medic tent, socializing with mostly non-Native quasi medical folks except for one ER doctor, who had a rather dark sense of humor which I could appreciate. Sometimes I napped in my car. I ate a ham sandwich carved by the ER doctor, from a large ham sitting in the back of his SUV. I chided him on his surgical technique. I served in the capacity of a medic (because there was actually no role for RNs) for two actions on two separate days for a total of 3 days, including the clergy march. I responded to a few mundane medical emergency at the camp and did one rather exciting adventure with another nurse to check out the action at the river when the DAPL guys were toting guns and antagonizing water protectors. I was there on the November 2nd action, which meant caring for those doused with pepper spray and shot with rubber bullets. It was my birthday. That felt very odd and contributed to my feeling of insignificance.
I wanted to change the course of history, we all did, but I was dwarfed by the magnitude of the forces of “progress”. I was and still am, one tiny snowflake in a swirling storm in a snow globe, with all my unique individuality blown anonymously around by the winds of history, much of my identity shredded. Not tethered to a tribe or a people there, I had only my battle in Wisconsin and my own quest for social justice, to unite me there in a common cause, a thin thread but enough to bind. Yet, I am inextricably bound to the outcome on the Plains.
I was, indeed, deeply inside the snow globe I mentioned in The Stand and it was what I hoped and feared it would feel like. It was a scene out of history, unchangeable, immoveable and sealed hermetically in a bubble and I wasn’t in control of any of it. It was in control of me. Intermittently the globe was shaken. Yet, it was alive in there. You can’t know what it feels like, unless you melt into the bubble, and feel the storm of epic proportions in there. Yet countered at times by the calmness, the surreal peace you experience when you are on the right side of history, regardless of outcome. There were times of silent solitude within the crowd, and times of a great egoless song of unity with every other soul there. Heroism to Terror. Inspiration to desperation. Many of the emotions are beyond words, and beyond poetry, beyond interpretation.
Each person who enters the snow globe will have their own interpretation of their experience, but I am sure that every one of us, has never felt anything like it before.
Most of my blogs end with inspirational ideas and phrases. This experience has left me suspended in the gel of time and rather at a loss for words. I’m waiting. I’m hoping for a resolution of this situation which takes into account all the historical misdeeds perpetrated upon the Indigenous.
History is bleeding into the present. It’s urgent. I went to stop the bleeding, to bandage the wounds, to affect the prognosis, to promote survival, and found myself being the one who needs the healing.