by Communication Specialist, Liz Gauthier
One Spirit sponsored the Oglala Lakota runners. I went to Standing Rock this past week and sent the following email late last night, right after I came home. Jeri Baker suggested we share it.
The Oglala camp at Standing Rock is poor compared to many of the camps that have expensive yurts and teepees with indoor fire pits or huge winter tents with stoves inside. But no one there can surpass the heroism of the Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge.
Tee Iron Cloud, Oglala Lakota / Photo taken by Simon J. Joseph
I just got back from 5 days at Standing Rock late today. I'm still processing my experience at Standing Rock that was beautiful and COLD and profound and I'm not sure how to do it justice with words. . .
The Lakota runners went back to Standing Rock to help build better shelters for the elders and others - now that the weather is becoming so cold there. (It was 15 degrees F when I woke up Friday morning - too cold for a tent with no heater!)
I had the opportunity to meet them all Monday and am still moved, very moved by them. They are such kind-hearted, high-minded, humble and respectful young men.
Last Sunday, Nov. 20th, was the day before I arrived and they had been hard at work building shelters all week. Sunday afternoon they were all smiling and happy and climbed a hill to get a group photo in the sunshine. (You can't take photos in the camp. Julian showed me the photo he took of them up on the hill all smiling and happy about the work they had accomplished.)
Lakota runners building permanent shelters for elders
But when they got back to the camp someone (at the gate I believe but am not 100% positive) told them their help was needed immediately at the front line on the bridge. So they immediately went. They told me later that they were spiritually prepared, but not physically because not all had gas masks. (And like everyone else, no one had weather-proof protection for their clothes from the tear gas and water cannons.) Well, every one of them was injured. All of them got very sick from tear gas. One of our youths from Pine Ridge was shot 4 times! with rubber bullets - knocking out some teeth (from being shot in the face); injuring his arm and getting two other bullet wounds with one of them in his back! when his brothers were carrying him away. The hospital said his arm was too swollen to tell whether it was broken or sprained from the shot to his arm. Two of the youths were shot in the back after being shot in their chest or shoulder and walking away. One couldn't take his hat off at the hospital because it was frozen to his head. Another had a concussion grenade thrown so close to his ear and the side of his head that it threw him face down and forward on the ground. On and on. But these young men from Pine Ridge did not get violent or fight back no matter how very tempted they were. Nor did they back down.
Lakota runners shot in the face and arm
On Tuesday I met a woman from Portland at Standing Rock who was shot in the kneecap and she described two of our boys she saw (Dom Cross and Tyler Feather Earring) and told me how incredibly brave and courageous they were. She told me Dom had saved her. (Dom's deep concern and regret - he later explained to me very earnestly - was that he wasn't able to help everybody because there were so many hurt. He was very sad about that.) The thing that was most upsetting to each one of our boys was that the police were hurting women and elders. They couldn't stand that. I believe every one of our guys is a hero - in the epic and real sense of the word.
They want to help and protect others. And they pray. They pray for the cops to wake up. They give thanks for the water that is sacred to all of us. They pray to thank Mother Earth and pray for others to take care of her too. They are protecting the water for all of us, including the police and their families. Literally.
The police would be more comfortable if they did get violent and that would justify retaliation. It's important to keep everything peaceful which is easy to do in the actual camp because it truly is prayer-based. I woke up every morning just before dawn to beautiful Lakota prayers being sung and a great two-hour prayer ceremony that people could attend if they wanted to and hundreds always did. Lakota, they say, is not a religion. It's a way of life.
I really felt like crying when I met our Pine Ridge young men. They all hugged me and saw how hurt they were. But crying would not help them or Standing Rock. Like the elders there say, don't dwell on Sunday night. Pray. Be grateful. Give thanks this day. Pray for the relatives (all living things). One of the most frequently heard chants to the police was "We love you! We're protecting water for your children too!" and "Our enemy is the black snake, not you."
Meanwhile, the guys want to do another run. When Julian Bear Runner was describing the Lakota way of life he told me, "Every time we take a step, it is a prayer."
***Update: ONE Spirit has purchased a 53' army tent complete with heaters for the Lakota youth and veterans that will descend on the camp this week. We are also providing transportation, warm clothing and have purchased (and are sending) a butchered buffalo to help feed the Protectors.***