The 2nd Civil Rights Movement ….. moving
#NoDAPL March Los Angeles brought together about fifteen hundred people, which is the basic Facebook ratio that if seven thousand people say they will be somewhere, about fifteen hundred will actually show up.
We gathered at Pershing Square in the Financial District. A Red Line train stop is right at Pershing Square.
I didn’t make a sign, but folks brought lots of extra ones and I picked one to carry that read “Coffee is Mostly Water and Water is Life” because I was attracted to the fact it made no sense. I’m guessing someone from Starbucks made it.
About half the signs read “Water Is Life”, “Standing With Standing Rock”, and “#nodapl” and the other half had similar thoughts combined with other thoughts representing other causes. The march brought together Native Americans, Bernie Sanders supporters, environmentalists, and Veterans with a variety of human rights and radical political groups.
Noting about one hundred thousand Natives live in Los Angeles, the gathering began perfectly — a Tongva elder prayed and gave a Native blessing. The Tongva, or Gabrielino-Tongva, are indigenous people of Los Angeles. She then introduced a First Nations school and the school children did a ceremonial dance.
The #No DAPL March Los Angeles was co-sponsored by Lydia Ponce of So Cal AIM (American Indian Movement) and California for Progress.
The American Indian Movement had a high profile in the 1960’s and 70’s. They took over the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on February 27, 1973. They held the land for 71 days and three people were killed in the stand off with some more people seriously wounded.
California for Progress is an organization birthed out of the Bernie Sanders Presidential campaign.
One of the highlights at the beginning of the march was the announcement some of the Veterans who were just at Standing Rock would be helping lead the procession. Mainstream media gave alot of attention the Veterans led mainly by Wes Stark Jr., his father the retired Army General who ran for the 2004 Democratic nomination before dropping out and supporting John Kerry.
Here is the first half of a Los Angeles Times article dated December 5th by Sandy Tolan:
“They had come to join Native American tribes and environmentalists protesting an oil pipeline, fully expecting to endure tear gas and rubber bullets. But in the end, veterans who traveled to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation found something far more profound.
Inside the auditorium at a reservation casino, Wes Clark Jr. and about a dozen veterans in formation behind him faced a small group of Sioux spiritual leaders. Encircling them, hundreds of other veterans looked on.
“We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke,” he said.
Clark, organizer of Veterans Stand with Standing Rock, noted that some of the veterans had served in the same military units that had fought during the Indian Wars. He wore the blue jacket and hat of the 19th century 7th Cavalry, evoking the 140-year-old memory of Gen. George Armstrong Custer. As it happened, he spoke on Custer’s birthday, Dec. 5.
“We stole minerals from your sacred hills,” Clark continued. “We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. Then we took still more land, and then we took your children and we tried to eliminate your language. … We didn’t respect you. We polluted your Earth; we’ve hurt you in so many ways.”
Then Clark took off his hat, dark blue with gold braid, and lowered to one knee, as did the veterans behind him.
“We’ve come to say that we are sorry,” he said, bowing his head. “We are at your service, and we beg for your forgiveness.”
At a time when so much of the nation is divided by politics and ideology, the protest against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota forged an unlikely coalition of veterans, Native Americans and environmentalists who produced an even more unlikely outcome.
In a surprise move, the Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday that it had denied an easement for the pipeline to cross under a stretch of the Missouri River, at least until the corps issues an environmental impact statement. It was a temporary victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the thousands of self-described “water protectors” who had camped out near the Cannonball River to protest the $3.8-billion, 1,170-mile pipeline that opponents derisively call “the black snake.”
Thousands of veterans, including Clark’s group, had joined the encampment just one day before the Army Corps’ announcement.
The idea for the forgiveness ceremony came to Clark a few weeks earlier, as he was preparing the “operations order” for the veterans’ mission. He wrote to Standing Rock elder Phyllis Young, a leader in the pipeline battle. “We wanted to make allies across the land,” Young said. “Wes represented the U.S. military, who has been our historic enemy, but we wanted to make peace for the benefit of all the people in the world.”
Clark had expected the ceremony to be outside, with a full regiment “with flags and bagpipes” arriving at the Sacred Fire at the main camp. But the coming snow and cold, and concerns for the welfare of some of the elders, forced the ceremony indoors.
Then on Monday, as a blizzard bore down on Standing Rock, Clark took a knee and bowed before Lakota medicine man Leonard Crow Dog. As smoke from the sacred bundle of cedar, sage and sweetgrass rose, Crow Dog gently placed his hand on Clark’s head. Someone let out a ululating cry, and fellow Sioux spiritual leaders offered prayers and songs of cleansing and forgiveness. Hardened veterans wept openly.
Then Clark and the other veterans, their faces twisted with emotion, began to embrace their Native American hosts. It was apparent that the former servicemen and -women received far more in the forgiveness than they gave in supplies and the goodwill they brought with them.”
Visually, what made the biggest impression as we were preparing to march, literally, the biggest, was a 75 yard long replica of an oil pipeline. The “black snake” was carried the entire march by dozens of volunteers holding it high above their heads, the words along the piece of art easy to read: Water Is Life #NODAPL Clean Energy Future For Our Kids #NODAPL Mni Wiconi
The streets were blocked off, many diverted cars beeping solidarity as we began to march, a Native man walking amongst everyone to smudge them. “Smudging is a traditional Native American method of burning sacred herbs to produce a smoke cloud which is used in various cleansing or prayer ceremonies and purification or healing rituals”. (warpathstopeacepipes.com)
The original march route I saw online said Pershing Square north about a mile to City Hall. I was excited to learn the route was changed to go a mile northwest of Pershing Square.
We marched along Grand Avenue, home of some of Downtown’s top cultural tourist attractions — Walt Disney Concert Hall, Broad Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art. Our destination was a block east of Grand to Hope Street between Third and Fourth Streets.
The march was joyful and serious. March organizers promoted the event as the largest grassroots example of solidarity with Standing Rock anywhere in the country.
George Funmaker (gotta love that last name) did a call and response:
We are not protesters
We are Protectors
We are nonviolent
We are peaceful
We are prayerful
We love our children
We love our grandchildren
We love the Earth
That is why we are here
We have always been here
We will always be here
We stand with Standing Rock
We are Standing Rock
Standing Rock is everywhere
Water is life
After ninety minutes of marching, we reached our destination on Hope — home to massive skyscrapers with the names of banks on top. The large pick up truck in the lead was turned into a stage with sound speakers for the speakers and musicians. In the shadow of skyscrapers, the strategic emphasis turned to the relationship between big banks and big oil with a call to pull assets out of big banks and to deposit them in small banks and credit unions.
The rally on Hope was right next to the Bank of America building, including the Bank of America park. This march route was much more exciting to me than a march to City Hall because of what I’ve experienced over the past three years.
A few years ago, at a large office building at 8th and Figueora, a couple miles southwest of Hope and Third,
I came across a small park connected to the building. In the park is a fountain that flows down into the shape of an arrow. Clearly designed by someone with an understanding of Native symbols, the flow of the water ends at an arrowhead and in the arrowhead is a turtle. Native Americans refer to North America as Turtle Island.
I told this to some Christian church leaders and we gathered at the spot to pray for the Creator through the Holy Spirit to do an extraordinary work. Later on, I came across in the Bank of America park a fountain that empties into a large pool and the pool turns into an arrowhead pointed right at the Bank of America. For the past couple of years I have prayed there regularly.
This prayer focus grew out of a major event in my life that had alot to do with why I moved downtown after living for many years in Santa Monica.
I’m a Christian mystic. Jodi Marie Hicks from August 2011 to February 2012 came to Hollywood as a “missionary from Alabama”. Spiritually, we connected in a huge way as soon as we met. We had so many unusual experiences together in such a short time it was impossible to even keep track of them all let alone understand them.
She moved back to Alabama and a couple weeks later I got a text from her telling me to get ready, something was up, she was on a God journey and was on her way to the Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, one the largest military bases in the country.
An hour later she sent me a text — “Chattahoochee River runs thru Fort Benning”.
I had no idea what that meant and so I turned to my trusted friend, Wikipedia.
The Chattahoochee River begins in mountains of North Georgia and runs through Georgia, Alabama, and Florida before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. At one time many Native Americans lived along the banks. Chattahoochee is a Creek word that means “painted”.
In 1829 gold was discovered in the mountains of North Georgia and thus began the Georgia Gold Rush. A year later,
Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forced Natives in the Deep South to march to a huge reservation also known as the state of Oklahoma. Many thousands of Natives mainly from Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida — elders, women, and children — died along the way and this forced march is known as the Trail of Tears.
Fort Benning is named after Confederate General Henry Benning. General Benning went beyond the common belief that the North did not have the right to dictate to the South how to handle the institution of slavery. Benning believed that in this new Confederacy states like Georgia and Alabama should have more authority than states like Virginia and North Carolina because slavery needed to be part of the economic foundation.
As I was reading about the Chattahoochee River and Fort Benning, three words came strongly to me “war on mammon”. Mammon means money as an object of worship. A few months later, May 2012, I moved from Santa Monica to Downtown. A month after that, after ten years of advocacy work on behalf of Native Americans, I was invited to become an honorary Tongva by the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians in a sacred ceremony. My Native name means Man of the Sea.
Returning to Standing Rock, the blizzard arrived…