Saturday, December 17, 2016

How did we stray so far?


Fred talks about his trip to Standing Rock with Veterans For Peace. The program includes some Lakota songs and drumming recorded over the last week.

When you are with all those veterans, it reminds you of what it was like being in the Army. No one really knows what is happening, so you end up exhausting yourself hurrying and waiting.

2,100 veterans signed up to come to Standing Rock. We think that close to 4,000 arrived. Where to put them all, and what to feed them? Amazingly, the tents went up (great big Army Surplus tents form Korea), and the eight or more kitchens that existed around camp took care of us all. Some 20,000 were being sheltered and fed everyday before we arrived. 

In that way, Standing Rock was like one giant community that worked for everyone. No money changed hands; everything was free. Everyone did their part, from chopping wood to clearing the ground for new tents. Occupy posed a similar threat to the powers that be. Here was a society that thrived apart from the dominant neoliberal system. 

The indigenous peoples had a remarkable influence on the rest of us. When one of our tents blew down in an early morning blizzard, there was another tent waiting to shelter us. Fifty of us made our way hopefully through the snow and the winds, and were welcomed by another full tent, ready to share everything they had with us. In a couple of days, we had become part of a revolutionary community. 

Later, a Lakota woman told me why the second tent had not blown down, despite the walls slanting dangerously inward. We were on the land of Sitting Bull she said. Strong medicine had kept the walls from completely collapsing. 

The religious beliefs that we encountered in living and eating with Native Americans seemed at times childishly naive. At other times, these beliefs appeared to be a voice in the wilderness, telling us to love and respect our environment before is is too late. For all our supposed sophistication, we have missed this most important piece of basic wisdom. All life is sacred. How did we stray so far?

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