Ashley C. Fairbanks | At Standing Rock.
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At Standing Rock.

We pulled up to the camp in the dark. We had been driving for eight hours. Detoured “for our safety”, after I’d asked Naia to drive, to use her whiteness as a cover for our intentions. My anxiety about police bubbled, almost forcing me to laugh as she lied to this cop, telling him we were just on the way to visit friends. Drive safe, he told us.

Naia drove back and forth down dark roads as we tried to find the camp without any signal from the GPS. When we finally made it, it felt familiar. Like pulling into the pow wow grounds after dark, after a long drive. Drums on the PA system. Navigating through a field of tents, cars, running children. Duct taping an old tent together with the aid of iPhone flashlights and helpful neighbors. The moon was gone but the sky was salted full of stars. Ursa Major provided the only light from above, mama bear.

I laid in the dark and remembered that time at Tracy’s, years ago, when we dreamt about stopping pipelines by shutting down highways. This was a fantasy, before I’d stood on the deck of 35W, before I’d rested, laid down, breathing heavy, where Hiawatha rises into Downtown. It was a farther walk than I’d guessed. We sat there eating chicken wings, fingers sticky with hot sauce, wondering how our mothers, fathers and grandparents had propelled themselves to action. How we could. What, I asked, would our generation do to deserve our inheritance?

Back at camp. The next day we wandered down the river, stepping around horse piles and looking at licence plates and flags. New Jersey, Florida, Nebraska, Washington. Art. Banners everywhere with pictures and words proclaiming love of water. Children can’t drink oil. Protectors, not protestors. Art. Tipis. Babies with full little heads of hair. People picking up any trash, recycling bottles, drinking coffee under tarps and canopies. The fanciest camping gear from REI looking sad and shaky in the shadow of the tipis meant for this wind.

So many familiar faces. So much of Minneapolis transplanted on the prairie. Hugs. Laughter.

I had brought recording equipment, but my SD card was broken, and the wind was deafening on the microphone. And that felt better maybe. As several elders repeated, this will live in our spirits. This will live in our hearts. The children will remember. I drank the water and promised that I would take care of myself.

After we walked to the place where they’d violated the soil, as they prayed in the Lakota way, I watched and cried because there were people in the circle from every reach of the continent and that was amazing. The woman that lead us there had on a shirt that read “I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams.” And weren’t we? Wasn’t this?

I’m imagining what would have happened if Natives would had Twitter when those first ships pulled up.

#SettlersGoHome Rally at Jamestown, 2pm.

Alas. Here we are. Songs from the Pacific Northwest mixing with the smells of the copal. The world’s largest multi-lane smudge system. Cedar in my shoe brought from far away places. An array of Moccasin styles telling the stories of longer journeys.

The road is spray painted. The concrete barricades carry the messages of the protectors. One set in particular calls to me. It reads simply: “Seventh. Generation.”

The Oceti Sakowin are out there, putting seventh generation thinking into practice. Living it. These pipelines bring death. The fight against them is the only choice for Indigenous survival. They stole so much, land, resources. Now they come to poison the water and finish the job.

But as those elders said, we already have everything we need, spiritually, to win this fight. We always have.

How will we help? What will we do to deserve our legacy? What are we doing to celebrate the blood of survivors that runs through our veins? What did our ancestors intend, when they dreamt us into existence?

Was it this?

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