“Bring It Home” First-Hand Report from Candice Holdorf after Thanksgiving at Standing Rock
“I’ve been hesitant to publicly share about my experience at Standing Rock — where I spent Thanksgiving week — for 2 reasons:
1. I did not want to shift the focus from the primary goal of restoring indigenous rights to my own non-indigenous experience/spiritual journey (FYI there is a private forum where I chose to share those experiences with people who know my intentions and my heart. If that is of interest to you, let me know).
2. There is a very real threat to people’s lives & livelihood that is taking place on that land. Choosing to stand as an ally requires a level of personal and communal responsibility — so sharing certain aspects of camp culture (especially over electronic communication) feels out of alignment.
What I feel confident in sharing are some of the nuggets of wisdom offered during our orientation. If you choose to stand with Standing Rock — either in person or in spirit — there are some key guidelines that can help you walk in a good way:
A: Indigenous-centered — Let those whose land we are on lead us. Step back, listen and follow. There is much to learn. Be teachable.
B: Build a new legacy — Heal the past. Take action in the present. Write a new story for our future.
C: Be of use — Seek to be of service. Give more than you take. Know when it’s time to rest.
D: Take it home — Bring the wisdom you learn into every moment of your life. However, learn to discern what is not yours and leave it behind, i.e. we are not here to appropriate the culture.
Another aspect that was stressed both in the preparatory literature and in orientation is that Oceti Sakowin is a PRAYERFUL, CEREMONIAL CAMP. That means educating yourself on customs and getting in full alignment with your intentions as to why you are coming. A simple prayer that the orientation leaders offered was “Come with a clean heart.” The personal prayer I arrived with was “May I keep my heart open and connect to love at all times so I may be a beacon of pure light for those lost in the darkness.”
Personally, I found the aspect of prayer and ceremony to be a powerful backbone for the work we did there. There is no one leader of the whole camp. There are many elders to whom we listen. But if you truly want to “Be of Use,” then you must be proactive and deeply listen in a prayerful way to what is needed. I spent my time cleaning dishes, chopping vegetables, winterizing a kitchen tent for an elder & cleaning up the local school after the community’s Thanksgiving meal. In the downtime, when it seemed like I couldn’t contribute, there were always 2 things I could do: I could pray & I could pick up garbage.
Overall, the camp felt warm & welcoming. Many folks came up to me thanking me for coming in person to stand in solidarity. There were other times where I wasn’t so sure that my presence was appropriate. These were the moments when it was time to dismantle my complicity in systems of oppression and, as they say, build a new legacy. I personally never stepped out onto the “front lines,” but I have massive respect for and send prayers to those who do.
Many times over the week, I stepped into the ancestral wounding that has been passed down generationally on that land. In those times of great grief, my prayer was “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
Now we have the chance to “Bring it home.” What does that mean? We can start by researching credit unions and moving our money out of banks that are funding this destructive pipeline. We can also sell any stock we have in Energy Transfer Partners & Sunoco. We can also change our mutual funds (which may include these companies) to Socially Responsible Funds (SRI) that do not include companies that profit from fossil fuels.
Another way to help is to directly support indigenous artists. I met a Lakota painter who said that he often sells his work to websites that resell it for several times more than what he gets. This is not right. Seek out indigenous painters, poets, theatremakers and artists and support them DIRECTLY.
Another way to help is to see what needs attention locally. Are there systems of oppression that need to be addressed in your own backyard? Are there environmental hazards that threaten your local community? How can we bring this gift of prayer and service to the folks around us in this very moment?
Finally I would highly recommend all non-indigenous folks get to know the history of the land on which they live. Here in the East Bay, we live on occupied Ohlone land. Back home in Atlanta is the original home of the Muscogee Creek nation, which was eventually displaced to Oklahoma. Understanding the history of the land upon which you walk can immediately connect you to deeper levels of empathy and understanding — and ultimately to right actions in service of reparations.
Thank you to those who sent money/donations. We donated all resources to the camp and gave the money to the Standing Rock Medic + Healer Council. And thank you to the Water Protectors who continue to courageously, peacefully & prayerfully put their lives & bodies on the line every day.
May we know healing and peace in our lifetime and may it ripple out for generations to come.
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