Standing Rock: One family's journey

Casey and her sons at a protest against the Keystone XL pipeline. Image © Garth Lenz

A first-hand account from an Elder of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma about opposing the 'Black Snake'

‘Alert!! In 48 hours, the Dakota Access Pipeline will begin laying pipes to and under Lake Oahe on Standing Rock Reservation. We need warriors on the frontline immediately!!!! Come to the Sacred Stone Camp in Cannonball North Dakota.’

This was the message sent out on Facebook by Joy Braun, a Cheyenne River tribal member, on 8 August 2016. My son, Mekasi Horinek, read this on his way home from our Sundance Ceremonies at Crowdog’s Paradise in Rosebud, South Dakota. Our family was caravanning home to Oklahoma at that time after being in deep prayer for the previous week. It seemed that the prayers had been given direction.

Mekasi began a series of phone calls; fi rst with his family, then spiralling outward to a network of activists. He explained the situation to all of us and said that he felt compelled to go to Cannonball to be of support. His brother, Jeff Horinek, also felt the need to be there, so they turned around and headed north. We didn’t know it, but a wave of Native American resistance was about to become a historic tsunami.

When they arrived at the Sacred Stone Camp, they joined forces with a few dozen dedicated Protectors; some of whom had been there since April. They organised peaceful direct actions, many were arrested, but the momentum continued to build. Even though the mainstream media ignored the situation, social media became an outlet to other Native Americans, who quickly spread the information and many more people began to take notice.

And so it began: this enormous Black Snake (the Dakota Access Pipeline) being overcome by the power of prayer and the dedicated work of a handful of Protectors who understand the inherent rights of nature, whose values include not just human rights, but the rights of the generations of all living things to continue to exist, whose prayers encompass even those who brutally attacked them – hoping that they might learn to live within the natural laws instead of being directed by the whims of the fossil fuel industry.

We have seen wars end, as in the ’60s, because civil society demanded change. It is obviously time for us to stand against the destruction of our Mother Earth, time to demand a just transition into renewable energy, time to remember: Water is Life.