My brief time physically at Oceti Sakowin protectors camp near Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota is a blur of a memory. When I visualize my time there it’s almost like I watched it in a movie, but when I open my eyes it feels like this is the fake reality — here in my house. In my reality I don’t feel like this is my home, that this is my life, that this is fulfilling my purpose.
Many of us can feel the emptiness of our Western lifestyle, some may not be able to identify what they are missing — but are all too familiar with the feeling of incompleteness and monotony. We need to reconnect with each other, with our provider and with our resources or this cycle of hopelessness will taint us like generations passed and generations to come.
Sure I’m a member of my town, I socialize at work, I try to know my neighbors; I belong to “groups,” but I don’t feel a deep sense of belonging or unity in my daily experiences. I feel like a robot committing acts of forced labor just to participate in society. Rather than feeling like a necessary piece of the unit, I feel used — like I’m wasting precious time. I am so defeated by the disconnect perpetuated by our industrialized, colonized, individualistic system and culture. The societal emphasis on independent successes inhibit the recognition of the success a society does and could achieve through skillful teamwork- through not only cooperating but by working in harmony.
As we approached the main entrance to Oceti Sakowin I could feel the energy already. Within moments of arriving this sense of peace and comfort washed over me. There was no anxiety of the unknown even though I was over a thousand miles from “my home” and virtually surrounded by strangers.
Within just minutes I began feeling that forgotten sense of connection. Reconnecting with each other, your neighbor, your fellow [hu]man was witnessed and experienced with smiles on everyone’s face, laughing. Seeing and feeling the displays of non-judgmental human intimacy, witnessed through deep emotional connections, sometimes without words at all — genuinely sustained eye contact & hugs from strangers…. my heart pounded with this love flowing all around me, this unity of souls.
This love was felt surging the highest in times of work. Reconnecting with community responsibility and self-accountability raised everyone — proving with some selfless effort the wheels of collectivism really begin turning. Even with very little formal organization and leadership, the camps functioned quite smoothly. It became clear each ally present indigenous or not, instinctively assumed their share of responsibility by employing natural talents and strengths, prepared not only to carry their own load but those of their “neighbor.”
The inherent pressure to do more than your part in every space you occupy reinforced the connection with my resources, with my sources of gratification. The pleasure of simple things; being fed by a fellow water protector and then washing their dishes, mine and a few more, making even mealtime an intimate experience, a deeply bonding exchange.
This bond between protectors touched a part of my soul that has been numb in my “regular” life. Before, during, and after these collective efforts, ceremonial prayer and song made me forget it was cold, forget I was dirty and sore. All I felt was belonging. Inter-generational, intercultural, inter-ethnic and interracial peoples sharing this profound security amongst each other. An unspoken trust for the people around me, a desire to help them regardless of details — all while feeling this amazing wave of self-worth, a value to the community yet holding my peers equally valuable; knowing everyone has a crucial role to play. Reconnecting is not only vital to life, it is necessary to live.
Individual commitment to a group effort is what makes a society work, a civilization function, a community thrive. Human organizations of any kind are most formidable when the awareness of each individual is celebrated rather than stifled. Our strength is in unity, just as the force of a waterfall is stronger than the streams it runs into.
“All things are connected…Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.”
-Chief Seattle, 1854
Thank you Standing Rock #NODAPL movement, you have restored my faith in humanity, you have shown me that together we can forge forward in the right direction!