Forgiveness and Liberation at Standing Rock, North Dakota
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Forgiveness and Liberation at Standing Rock, ND Thursday, December 8, 2016 View as plaintext
I just wrote this about the wonderful forgiveness miracles that recently occurred at the Standing Rock encampment in North Dakota. Please feel free to share so that the inspiration of the Native people can be felt far and wide. Thank you for joining me in creating a peaceful world!
Photo by Redhawk
Forgiveness and Liberation at Standing Rock, North Dakota
by Ana Holub
In a courageous stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Native people from the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes have been leading a massive civil action to protect their water from desecration. On Monday, December 5, 2016, a life-altering event happened in their activist community in North Dakota. Veterans from all branches of the U.S. military gathered with Native people in a moving and prayerful ceremony. The vets apologized for the violence of the military against the indigenous people throughout the history of this nation, and then asked for and received forgiveness. People cried as their hearts opened and the powerful healing enveloped them. I cried, too, in amazement and joy, as I watched the event unfold online.
In my opinion, this ceremony affected far more than the people in the room on that wintry day in North Dakota. I call it life-altering because spiritually, this apology has been centuries in the making, patiently waiting until the time was right and all the pieces were in place for its sacred message to emerge. Finally, there was enough maturity on the part of the veterans to make this move toward peace. Finally, there was enough humility for them to do what our government has not yet been able to do: admit its mistakes and atone for them.
According to Redhawk, a water protector and photographer, “Today hundreds of veterans from all across the United States, led by Wesley Clark Jr. took a knee and begged for forgiveness for crimes committed toward indigenous people in the name of the United States military. In a moving ceremony led by Arvol Looking Horse, Faith Spotted Eagle, Leonard Crow Dog, Phyllis Young, Ivan Looking Horse and many other natives of Turtle Island, the veterans were forgiven for actions taken to dehumanize the indigenous of this country, and a step towards solidarity has been made. We stand together as one to defend indigenous rights and Mother Earth. Our journey of solidarity has just begun.”
The apology went like this, spoken by Wesley Clark, Jr: “Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. When we took still more land and then we took your children and then we tried to make your language and we tried to eliminate your language that God gave you, and the Creator gave you. We didn’t respect you, we polluted your Earth, we’ve hurt you in so many ways but we’ve come to say that we are sorry. We are at your service and we beg for your forgiveness.” The veterans then knelt down before the gathered Native elders.
Chief Leonard Crow Dog responded by laying his hand upon Clark’s head in a blessing of forgiveness. He prayed for world peace, and said, “We do not own the land. The land owns us.”
Photo attributed to Tina Malia
This momentous event was not the only forgiveness miracle from Standing Rock. Weeks before, in an action that got far less media attention, Native women and their allies led a forgiveness march to the Morton County Police Station. The women had become fierce leaders of water protection at the front lines, where police and security forces were strategically positioned. Unarmed, faced with water cannons and concussion grenades, the women were maced, beaten and tear gassed with the men. They stood tall and brought grace and dignity to the gathering in a thousand ways, both large and small. On November 6, 2016, they decided to publicly forgive the police for their violence.
They invited everyone to come. Two prominent leaders made a promotional video, stating, “We’re gonna walk from Legion Park in Mandan, ND to the Morton County Police Station as a prayer and as a ceremony of forgiveness, because they have caused some atrocities that need forgiveness. They’ve been firing rubber bullets; they’ve been macing people and tazing people. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what happened was okay. Forgiveness means that we choose to respond to hatred with love. Forgiveness is a higher level, almost at the highest level of humanity. When we fall to anger and to hatred, we become the very thing that hurt us. We cannot hold onto pain, anger, fear, distrust…all of those things that keep us down. We have to let those things go because we want to rise up.
Wóakiktunže is the word for forgiveness. Even though there are things falling apart around you, you’re standing strong with your prayer to maintain that willingness and that effort to give compassion, even in the most difficult times. In order for us to grow and take that next step, we have to forgive. You hear all these really hateful things towards the police, which you can kind of understand where this comes from and why people are angry, and yet, you can ask any one of the women on the front lines who got maced, who got beaten, and she will tell you the world does not need more hatred. We have enough of that. We’re not giving up. We’re not saying that we don’t care about the water. We’re going up there to raise the level of understanding with them. [To tell them] that we’re not here to hurt them. If we have, we’re sorry. We’re not here to hurt them. We’re here to protect the water. We’re here to protect the people.
When we forgive, we can think clearly again. We can act positively again. And we can serve Mitákue Oyás’in, All Our Relations, the way that our ancestors did. We’re always in prayer, that’s one of our gifts of our people, that we’re always in prayer. When we forgive like this, we create some of the strongest medicine in the world. That’s what our ancestors said, that forgiveness is some of the strongest medicine in the world. And in turn, if there’s anything that we have done to harm them, it will set the stage for them to forgive us, too. Not everyone is ready to forgive and that’s okay, because everyone forgives at their own pace. Maybe someone will never want to forgive and that’s okay. We are just extending the invitation.
We’re going to…march to the police department and we’re going to say, “We forgive you.” (in the video, she places hands in prayer position over her heart and bows). We can really bring the spirit of Wóakiktunže back to this Earth in this very hard time when there’s so much violence being inflicted on water protectors. [We] take the time to forgive so that we can be free from the burden of hatred and so that the police can be free from the burden of guilt. A lot of people want them to feel guilt. A lot of people want them to feel shame. But we know that at the end of the day, these are our relatives. This palm (she holds up her open hand) is the proof that we come from one mother, way a long time ago, and so when we forgive we help to restore the truth and we help to dispel the illusion that we are enemies.” — Lyla June Johnston (Diné Navajo) and another Native woman
Photo by Terray Sylvester
For me, one of the deepest teachings of these two forgiveness actions is that the women chose to forgive their oppressors first, by radically witnessing the Morton County Police as inseparable from themselves. They refused to encounter anyone as an enemy, insisting instead that we are all born from one mother. They remind us that we are family. They took inner and outer action to offer a form of forgiveness that includes humbleness, openness and love. This they did first, before one veteran came to them seeking redemption. The women opened a sacred spiritual doorway by choosing peace within before looking outside for it. They gave a gift to the entire gathering, which spilled its light across the land.
Then, a month later, the military folk arrived and the second miracle of apology and forgiveness sent waves of blessings straight into the heart of our collective soul. The Native people, with their pure intention for peace, became wayshowers for everyone in the United States and beyond. With their forgiveness, they demonstrated the best of what it means to be human. Their willingness to choose love instead of hatred enlivened our shared divinity and enlightened our collective consciousness. For all of this, I am deeply touched and I’m grateful to be a part of it. We are all included and we are all a part of it. My prayer is that more and more of us realize the cleansing purification that forgiveness brings, and that we dive deep within our hearts to make it real in our world.