The situation at Standing Rock in North Dakota is very close to my heart. When I was 16, I spent a summer on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. During that time I had the opportunity to see and experience the conditions on one of our Indian reservations up close. It was nothing short of heartbreaking. For so many years the indigenous people of this country have been overlooked and pushed aside. Many of the reservations struggle with a lack of water, health care, and nutrition—and violence, poverty, and substance abuse are rampant. Now a multi-billion dollar company wants to build an oil pipeline that not only poses a public health risk to the neighboring communities, but also passes through sacred sites and areas of great cultural significance to the people of this area.
When I lived on the reservation, I had the opportunity to attend a Sun Dance ceremony—a four-day ritual where people come together to fast, dance, and pray. Although I was a young white woman, the Sun Dance leader—a medicine man named Bedeaux—extended himself to me with such openness and warmth. He invited me into the sweat lodge and taught me the power of ceremony and sacrifice. This experience was a privilege beyond measure and it completely changed my life. Five years later I returned and, once again, I was humbled by the kindness and love of the people. Every morning I rose with the sun and went to the arbor where the sound of the buffalo drum beckoned me back to my heart. The earth was alive like never before and I cried so much during those days, feeling her majesty.
Although Bedeaux and I lost touch after that, several years later we reconnected and I went back to the reservation to see him. Again, he invited me into the sweat lodge and we prayed, shared food, and talked late into the night about his life and the struggles of his people. What touched me perhaps more than anything was his resilience. Despite all that the Native Americans have endured in the face of genocide, colonization, and imperial greed, they have managed to maintain their ceremonies, traditions, and a sacred regard for this land. That is a testament to their strength and I find it deeply inspiring.
So in the midst of the pipeline protests—and in the midst of this absolutely insane election—I just want to acknowledge those who are joining forces for unity and peace. Right now as a light shines on Standing Rock, let us pay homage to the indigenous people of this nation… and all nations. These cultures understand what it means to live in harmony with Nature—what it means to honor the power inherent in all of creation—and this is wisdom that we so desperately need right now. Let’s come together and give thanks to our incredible, patient, and ever-loving Earth—to the Mother who shelters all of us as one family, connected in our common home.