Mni Wiconi | Wade in the Waters

Uati
Uati
Nov 16, 2016 · 14 min read
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I just returned from Standing Rock, and today Donald Trump was elected president. I’d like to share my thoughts. But I am still utterly exhausted from a 16+ hour road trip/ bus ride. On the bright side I had my first shower in a week and washed my hair. But there is still some mud underneath my big toenails from walking into the Cannonball River barefoot one sunset…

To say this is like night and day, to say I have mixed feelings… is an understatement. After all of my travels around the world, Standing Rock and the Rosebud Camp on the Lakota Sioux reservation is by far the best place I’ve ever been. Going there, at the very last minute, with strangers, to a conflicted area under police surveillance, at the brink of a North Dakota winter, with no tent of my own (nor even a coat!), to camp, on my own, at seven months pregnant is up to now the best decision of my life (stay tuned for my next big plans…).

Two days ago 400 Native youth and their allies march in silent prayer up to the front lines of where Energy Transfer Partner’s “Dakota Access Pipeline” is being built through sacred burial ground of the Sioux tribe and their ancestors, illegally. As part of this peaceful prayerful action one youth offered water that had been blessed to every police officer there guarding the DAPL destruction. One officer took a water. The crowd turned around and marched back in silence to the Cannonball River to conclude the ceremony by sprinkling tobacco into the water with prayer.

Please let this image sink in: 400 teenagers silently marching up to police who have abused, beat, arrested, and openly mocked them them, who have protected the desecration of their ancestors, their elders, their land. The silence of hundreds of teenagers, united, determined, disciplined, principled, prayerful. That is power.

That is the power of people of color, blacks and natives; that is the power we need to harness right now. We need to remember it, find it, access it, remind ourselves how to use it. We will not be alone. The ancestors are guiding us. That is our strength. Even the dead are on our side, are with us. We honor them by standing together. By praying. In silence. With our voices. Around sacred fires.

My heart still stands at Standing Rock. I miss the warmth of the sacred fire. May the righteous tears in this time of collective grief and crisis remind us that Water Is Life… May the pain of betrayal remind us that we have been living on stolen land under an enslaving system for centuries. I come to bear witness and testify that the power is in the people, the people of the earth! I see that, though the long traditions of white supremacy and patriarchy continue to try to suppress us. We will break those systems. Listen to us, your brown skin brethren, embrace those truths you hold dear. Listen to the women of color in your life; respect us, our words, our actions, our choices!!!! Follow the youth. Respect them and our warrior elders. These words are meant for you my friends, from me. Be honest with yourself, shed any lingering denial, and do not give up this struggle. Remember: some of us and our families have been fighting for hundreds of years or longer and we know that now is not the time to give up. It never was. Now is the time to restrategize, to seek wisdom, especially the wisdom of our ancestors. Ask them how to survive the impossible. At Standing Rock everyone is encouraged to pray, in our own way, as often as possible, for our families, for our enemies, for the earth and the water. Now is a powerful time for prayer and I would ask that you examine what that really means for you. Do you really want to pray in a method of oppression? If not find a way to connect with nature today…. drink water, seek silence. Then use your voice and strength renewed to put prayer into action, to protect the sacred, including people of color, lqbtq/trans/nonbinary folx, the indigenous, middle eastern/muslim americans, refugees, immigrants, women of color, black lives, children, the environment itself. Thank you!
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Back in August I penned an essay recounting my difficulty trusting and on many levels frankly dealing with white women, particularly this year. In fact I wrote two essays about it.

“I’m not saying we can’t be friends. But I am saying, to white women, and white people in general, I can’t depend on you. I know it, whether or not you’ll admit it, and in truth, looking back on my entire life, I never could.

In the light of this election I see how true this is and has been. How right I was to write these words, though they scared me then.

I cannot and will not depend or rely on white people. For anything (if I can help it; so help me Goddess!). Let alone emotional or psychological support; let alone any form of validation or affirmation that my life — or any other Black lives — matters.

…Again, for the sake of brevity, let me say without spelling each incident out, that in this year 2016 I have been repeatedly called a racist — for making and stating simple accurate observations about racial inequities and my experience of them — by white women (exclusively by them actually) much to their glee, I can only imagine. Once this gross inaccuracy was hurled at me not minutes nor many sentences after the very same white woman who has never so much as set eyes upon me tried to convince me that she “loved” me. THIS is exactly the kind of ally that I do NOT, and I argue no black woman, no black person, needs. The kind who thinks they can define the terms of their support or alliance without even bothering to 1) ask or 2) LISTEN to the person they claim to be trying to support or defend.”

I’m not happy that Drumpf won, of course. duh. I even went against my every urge and was one of the 95% of blk women who tried to save the world by voting for hrc. even tho I never trusted her. I confess I’m kinda glad she’s gone. ever since I mailed my ballot to CA I have wished I voted for jill stein. now that the worst result has happened tho’ it confirms and solidifies alllllllllllllll of the major thoughts changes and observations I have been going thru and witnessing this year. a lot to do with the betrayal of white women specifically and white liberals in general. and the righteousness of women of color. processing this, esp. post being in standing rock, (yes I cried!) I feel more ready than ever to engage in the struggles necessary.

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This summer I wrote of the violence against black lives such as my own, that of my unborn child, and the rest of my family. I spoke of the disturbing history of colonialism as enacted by white supremacy and patriarchy. But now, post-election I can add a third perspective: that of the polite racist, the seemingly innocuous but in fact terribly dangerous posture of white liberals whose primary if not sole concern is appearances. Not action. Not growth. Not solidarity. The most damning example we have now is the great safety pin debate in which legions of white women have rallied for their right not just to “wear whatever they want” (fine) but to have that be applauded as progressive or meaningful by targeted, marginalized and oppressed people. Fuck That!

Now is not the time for silence and safety within white privilege. It is the time for organization, action, and bold, vocal, and not barely visible but legible solidarity.

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Days later, now is the moment when the supermoon has never been fuller. My belly has never been fuller either. Neither my heart.

“the present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space. we are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of the near and the far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed.” -Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces”

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I feel torn between two places or even three. My birthplace and home city of my mother and her family, Chicago. Standing Rock and the Rosebud Camp. And leaving the country, specifically headed for my midwife (and birthplace of my great great grandmother) in Jamaica.

The people around me, my family, my granny mostly, are scared of the future with drumpf, for good reason. Some have also been worried for my safety recently, and while I’d rather not engage such fears I can’t take it lightly either. It weighs upon me. When I left for Standing Rock I informed the father of my unborn child. He freaked out. Despite previously having wanted to go himself (he is part Cherokee on his estranged father’s side), now he said he worried about my safety especially because I am pregnant. He agreed with my grandmother that it’s dangerous to be there at all. But then that fear revealed itself to be something deeper and more sinister. A lack of trust. He was afraid I would meet someone else. Please don’t cuddle with anyone or if you do with another girl… he begged me repeatedly in text messages (I guess he forgot I’m stealth bi).

The night of arrival I warmed myself before bed for hours by the sacred fire of Rosebud Camp. There I got to know Iggy Iglo and Marcel Kills Enemy, two Native guys my age, and Sam Kaatlagaa an Alaska Native woman slightly younger than us, who would become my best friend at Rosebud. Additionally many other campers of all ages and backgrounds circled through, as would happen every night of my blessed stay. I learned so much and connected at such a deep level from listening, from agreeing and disagreeing for sharing stories, from sitting there, from the sacred, prayerful nature of the fire itself — which has been burning nonstop since August.

I went to sleep at close to 2am in a cocoon of my new sleeping bag in the tent Lakota native and local elder Elva had so generously offered me, already set up with a sleeping pad inside and small table and chair outside, all unoccupied, within my first hour at camp. Walking back there in the dark, waking up to the call of the MC across Cannon Ball River at Oceti Sakowin Camp the next morning, sitting up into my thoughts, I knew: it wasn’t cuddling or sex that Nate had to be jealous of. Not at all, not even close. I didn’t come there to do that, no one I met had, no person of character or quality would. Here is a place of prayer and resistance. Of solidarity and spirituality. I had no need to cuddle at night: just as I was given my tent, I was offered blankets, a sleeping bag liner, pocket warmers. Greater than these practical and appreciated gifts however, I received the gifts of presence, communication, connection, honesty, soulful expressions, friendship, fellowship that warmed me, body, heart, and soul everyday.

That fed my spirit in a way that has been painfully missing from my on again off again long distance relationship from the person I happened to procreate with. I realized (albeit far from the first time) that I cannot be beholden to this person. I will not be held captive by his fears and insecurities… I will not dampen my voice or curtail my gifts to match his doubts. For every major action or choice or strong opinion I have had this year he has disliked, feared, tried to persuade me to abandon. Thank the Goddess I kept them all. From painting my rental apartment with dripping blood red paint after being illegally evicted, to moving across country to be closer to family, to keeping the baby, to planning the birth still to come abroad, to hitching rides to North Dakota to stand in solidarity with my baby’s people.

Throughout my first full day st Standing Rock I found ready opportunities to serve, cooking breakfast, walking errands. I went to visit the midwife after several days with directions from our camp’s medic a Native woman, also a midwife, and donations from my new herbalist friend, Caitlin who had come to camp solo with her three month old baby in tow. It was by far my favorite prenatal visit. Inside a beautiful tipi on a beautiful clear blue day… much like every day I was there, the water reflecting this blueness to surpass the intensity of color of the Mediterranean… she examined my belly and as she did so spoke gently and kindly to my baby inside. We listened to his heartbeat.

“Actually the baby makes it clearer. … I really had to listen to my *intuition* to go camping in a conflict region bc water is life. Not common sense. And part of the intuition was that having a baby reminds me how impt water is both now and for the future.”

Here was a community I had longed for all year, perhaps which I have been searching for all my life. Beyond the reminder that the limiting formerly sexual relationship I have with Baby-Daddy is not thriving and will not survive without damaging us all, moreover in a way his worst fears did come true: I did fall in love. And not with him. Not with someone else either, unless that someone is like my true inner self, but with a more nourishing way of being, of living, of bonding and communing that is not defined by an other let alone by a specific (sexual) act. These ways of community I admit I am still learning and which outside of camp I struggle to implement.

Going to Standing Rock — at the last minute, alone, pregnant, at the dawn of winter, without so much as a tent, not even a coat, to camp in a conflict territory targeted by police — was the best decision I could have possibly made, arguably that I have ever made. Rosebud Camp at Cannon Ball River North Dakota is, after traveling around the world more than once, after living working and going to school in Europe, Asia, Big US cities, after losing my mother in Africa, the best place I have ever been in my life.

Right here in the heart of “America” underneath all the bullshit that this nation as I’ve known it my whole life has become, as it was stolen, as it captured killed and enslaved, raped and enacted genocide for the past 5oo years or so… Somehow that here could turn out to be so special, even to me, once the veil — or barrier — is finally removed between Native people and their land makes sense. And now, as much as anyone, I long to return — to return to that place, which is not as it was in ancestral times but rather stands in the Now-Here of renewal, a crucial moment of struggle and resistance against continued colonial pressure — more powerful, more united, and more determined than ever to prevail and change lives by protecting the sacred.

So what’s the plan?

“In a time of destruction, create something.”
–Maxine Hong Kingston

My actions will be creative. Need I remind you that I am an artist?

I am blessed that so many folks in my life, close and distant, near and far, care so much already for the unborn life growing within me.

Yes I am with child. Yes I will be a single parent. Yes this baby will be of color: Black, Native American, mixed, and white. Yes so far he is a boy. Yes I can see the obstacles he will face being a brown skinned US citizen with much ancestral trauma to carry. I trust he has chosen to come into this world, and through my body for a purpose. I trust he will find that purpose and manifest his gifts by any means necessary. Yes I fully intend to do everything in my power to help him realize his human and humane potential. Yes I was unschooled/homeschooled/worldschooled as a child. No I will not force my boy to go to any systemically racist institution aka school. Yes I am a Yale graduate with a graduate degree from Switzerland. Yes I will help my child learn as much as possible and value my child’s education. Yes I recently went unassisted and 7 months pregnant to Standing Rock North Dakota in solidarity with the NoDAPL water protectors on Lakota land. Yes I will go back. No this baby will not be born on US soil for he already has a higher purpose than to be taken for granted, ungratefully, disgracefully abused by this wicked nation. He will be given an additional nationality. This is something I knew well before drumpf’s ascent to power, but this presidential election only underlines my point and fails to undermine my family’s purpose. Yes, inshallah, I will employ a midwife of color and great honor to help me give birth naturally in the homeland of my great great grandmother.

Yes it will take a village to raise this child, and my hope is that it will be a global one, a richly diverse one, of family and friends, of many languages and cultures.

In lieu of a baby shower, I am asking that donations be made to my travel fund. These donations will be used primarily to get back and give back to the Water is Life/ Mni Wiconi movement now winterizing in Cannon Ball, ND. My baby is submerged in my waters as I type. More water circulates through my body now than ever before. We know that water is life. It is our life here and now. We can’t afford not to act to stop this pipeline from poisoning the Missouri River, the river from which our ancestors and current relatives are nourished.

How can you give? The simplest way I’ve come with is through direct PayPal donations. I am offering my art in the form of postcards, while supplies last, to everyone who contributes $5 or more.

If you live in Chicago, Wisconsin, or Minnesota and would like to donate supplies to Rosebud/Oceti Sakowin Camp please be in touch. An updated supply list can be found here:


My heart still stands at Standing Rock. I miss the warmth of the sacred fire. May the righteous tears in this time of collective grief and crisis remind us that Water Is Life… May the pain of betrayal remind us that we have been living on stolen land under an enslaving system for centuries. I come to bear witness and testify that the power is in the people, the people of the earth! I see that, though the long traditions of white supremacy and patriarchy continue to try to suppress us. We will break those systems. Listen to us, your brown skin brethren, embrace those truths you hold dear. Listen to the women of color in your life; respect us, our words, our actions, our choices!!!! Follow the youth. Respect them and our warrior elders. These words are meant for you my friends, from me. Be honest with yourself, shed any lingering denial, and do not give up this struggle. Remember: some of us and our families have been fighting for hundreds of years or longer and we know that now is not the time to give up. It never was. Now is the time to restrategize, to seek wisdom, especially the wisdom of our ancestors. Ask them how to survive the impossible. At Standing Rock everyone is encouraged to pray, in our own way, as often as possible, for our families, for our enemies, for the earth and the water. Now is a powerful time for prayer and I would ask that you examine what that really means for you. Do you really want to pray in a method of oppression? If not find a way to connect with nature today…. drink water, seek silence. Then use your voice and strength renewed to put prayer into action, to protect the sacred, including people of color, lqbtq/trans/nonbinary folx, the indigenous, middle eastern/muslim americans, refugees, immigrants, women of color, black lives, children, the environment itself. Thank you!

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