My Trip to the Camp of
at Standing Rock Reservation
by Rev. Paul Henschen, PEC Steering Committee
Paul Henschen drove to Standing Rock Reservation, where tribes were camping to protest the Dakota Access pipeline, with water supplies and food from his Presbytery’s (Northern Plains) Earth Care Team. Here is part of Paul’s account, sharing what tribe elders had to say about the pipeline after a large delegation of Native Americans from the Northwest arrived bringing a huge Totem Pole they were taking to a tribe in Manitoba.
After the procession that brought the Totem Pole ended, everyone gathered with drumming, chanting and dancing. Speeches were made to welcome everyone. Elders from all the tribes formed a circle and took their turn delivering speeches. They were very eloquent, and much of what they said was hard for me as a middle-class Caucasian to hear, but they spoke the truth. They talked of how the present white-dominated society was harming the earth and that this pipeline was just another in a long history of acts of desecration of the Creator’s world. They declared that this campsite was a place founded on prayer, and that no drugs or weapons were allowed. They spoke of how their people had been on this land from the beginning, and how white society had tried to get rid of them, but that they, the Indigenous People, would still be there in the end. They said that they would pray for what was happening at Standing Rock, and that they would especially pray for the whites, because they would need it when they came before the Creator and had to answer for what they have done to the earth. All the elders expressed a strong sense of family and unity for the tribes gathered there, and that the stance by the Standing Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access Pipeline had made them a stronger family. These and many other things were said—all of them with conviction yet with a calm and gentle spirit. Violence of any kind was forbidden.
After two hours of speeches, songs were sung and a prayer circle was formed--much of this in Native American language. A press conference was held after which I left to return home. Going home I took a northerly route toward Bismarck, ND, and about 20 miles north of the campsite a roadblock had been set up by police. Why, I have no idea. They were checking vehicles headed south toward Cannonball and the campsite. The Native American elders had spoken of this roadblock and how many of them had to pass through it. Days earlier, the North Dakota governor had also sent police to the protest because of unfounded rumors. This roadblock seemed to be there as a reminder of police power—an action that was totally unnecessary. The Standing Rock Sioux and the other tribes of Indigenous People had gathered peacefully to protest—as is their right. Instead of coming together with them to learn, white society raised its ugly head in a show of force that created tension and resentment. As I stood there listening to the elders speak, there was a great deal of wisdom being shared that our white-controlled society needs to hear. I was personally challenged by what the elders said, and I am continuing to wonder how my life needs to change. And what will be the response of our society? Will we listen and learn from those who were here long before our ancestors arrived? Or will we stay on the same course toward destruction of the earth and ultimately of ourselves?
Click here to donate to the Northern Plains Earth Care Team to purchase more supplies for them to take to Standing Rock. Mark your donation for Presbyterians for Earth Care Team and note that it is for Standing Rock.