Standing Rock: Day 1 November 22nd
I found another woman who is also driving, and we are leaving later today in her school bus for Standing Rock. That means I will have to fly back, because I have to see to the final settlement of an eviction case involving three families with young children. I also have an interpreting job on the 29th that I can’t miss. The plane tickets are very expensive (about $500), so I am hoping someone will be driving back and I can get a ride…
November 22nd: We are finally heading to Standing Rock on a small hippie school bus and we prayed our way out of Berkeley and smudged both the bus inside and out and each other. We hope to drive straight through…
November 23rd: Morning has broken like the first morning…
November 23rd: When I in awesome wonder consider how the world thy hands have made…
When it was my turn to drive I kept singing spirituals and religious songs, and getting choked up…
November 23rd: This was earlier in the day as we were driving through Nevada and the sky and the mountains were so beautiful that for once I was speechless. Tonight we had to stop in Salt Lake City, Utah, because there was a sudden snow storm. We were told temperatures were dropping in our next stop at Evanston, Wyoming and the traffic was horrendous. People, especially the drivers of big rigs, were speeding through the highway and covering our windshield with snow and rain. We had hoped to arrive early tomorrow but now we will likely be there in the late evening. Except for the stress of not sleeping properly for a couple of days, this is a wonderful trip. I am a great lover of mountain landscapes, and the mountains here are stunning.
November 25th, National Genocide Day, also known as Thanksgiving:
Yesterday Elizabeth’s cousin Cindy brought us Thanksgiving dinner and we had a wonderful time not just because everything was delicious but because they had collected donations and made these wonderful things and were willing to share and spend some time in the messy school bus we have been driving. We are now maybe 3 hours away. We had to stop again to sleep last night because it was too cold.
November 26, 2016
When we pulled into camp, even though I had promised I would not cry, I began to sob wildly and extravagantly. There are thousands of people, hundreds of tents and other types of buildings, and smiles and friendliness and an amazing array of human beings, gathered in incredible solidarity. I have carried Jim’s ashes with me, hoping to have a small ceremony. He would have been here, and still is, even if in another dimension. I do have to return soon, because of other commitments, but I will be back soon.
November 27, 2016
I am in the Ramada at Bismarck, North Dakota, maybe 4 miles from the airport where I will fly back home tomorrow at eight in the morning, because I have a meeting on Monday with a landlord who was evicting all his tenants and I will be there to ensure he keeps up with the terms of a settlement agreement.
Last night I slept under the stars with my two subzero sleeping bags one inside the other. I meditated using the Silva Method to warm myself up, and prayed for some time asking for guidance. I woke up at 1 in the morning incredibly warm. I had pulled off one of my ponchos during my sleep as well as my hat and gloves, and I never was able to find them. One of my traveling mates, Andrea Prichett, who had provided much needed support during the trip, had put a heavy-duty tarp over my sleeping space and helped me put together the sleeping bags. We had spent time during the drive telling stories about her time in Africa and listening to her play beautiful songs; I am grateful for her practical and emotional support and her amazing soul.
To be able to commune with the heavens in a detoxifying body (I was doing a water fast) and to hear in the background the flute and the voices of native singers is a truly spiritual experience, and I came to bring supplies and to help, but most of all to pray… I had answered a call for religious people to come pray, and yesterday at orientation they talked about this being prayerful spiritual resistance.
At first light a young woman from Israel who was at the camp woke me up to make sure I was all right. I had slept, twice, very well (how could you not sleep well when you are listening to the lullaby of native flute and voices…) and even though parts of one of the sleeping bags were wet and icy, and one of my ponchos was wet, I was very comfortable and felt no cold whatsoever.
I decided to get up and greet the sun and the new day, and because I had decided to fast as part of my prayer for guidance, I did not have to worry about getting something to eat. We have been asked to give back more than we took from our brothers and sisters.
I walked around camp and met some wonderful young people including Aaron Hackett and Rob who teach permaculture and survival skills at the Living Earth School in Virginia. Many others had slept under the stars as I did, and Aaron, for example, talked to me about having taken a six week course from the man known as Wim the Ice Man. I signed up for that today, because I want to be self-sufficient when I return for a longer stay at Standing Rock. Mind you, I am not happy about the cold showers… but I have always been interested in self-sufficiency. I tried to share survival skills many years ago with my children during camping trips to places in New Mexico and Pennsylvania. Most of the people in our modern society are so accustomed to prepackaged life that they would not make it in the event of a disaster…
I had obtained donations of about a hundred pounds of dried beans, also rice, tuna, peanut butter and other good staples, as well as diapers. I had gone into a Walmart for the first time in more than a dozen years when we had to stop because of a sudden snow storm and had bought a small propane heater, additional subzero sleeping bag and ugly men’s boots I could wear with heavy socks. The workers at Walmart are always very nice even if the owners are not. It was difficult to purchase things there but these were things I was planning to donate and I didn’t have my own car. So it was a situation of one cause against the other and I donate to Our Walmart on a monthly basis, to change the living conditions of the workers for the largest and most brutal employer in the world.
The orientation that morning was amazing. I want to express my gratitude for the careful sharing of needed information. The official site for the Oceti Sakowin Camp where we arrived is http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/, and you can obtain historical information as well as lists of needed/wanted items. During orientation we covered the seven Lakota values, which are prayer, respect, compassion, honesty, generosity, humility and wisdom.
There is a desperate need of volunteers, particularly before the 5th of December, when the Army Corps of Engineers has announced eviction of the main camp. Since this is treaty land, it is incredible that our First Nations are once again being violently dispossessed. (The Army Corps of Engineers has apparently rescinded their threat, but now the Governor of North Dakota is pursuing the same “remedy,” citing similar reasons, including inclement weather. It would be wonderful if he would prevent the local highly militarized police and guards from attacking our peaceful protesters…)
The amazing thing about the people at the camp is the generosity and kindness found almost everywhere. I was particularly impressed by the young people, who speak knowledgeably about the unbridled capitalism (and corporatism) and consumerism in our society. I feel the same sense of hope I felt during Occupy Oakland, even if I agreed with the request of our Ohlone brothers and sisters to change the name to Decolonize Oakland.
With regard to the people attending, there were indigenous people native to the area and also people from other lands. There were elders such as myself and others who were much older, and there was an attitude of complete respect for those elders, as they have the wisdom from a long life.
I am so grateful to so many, including Jennifer, a new Argentinian friend who lives in San Diego and who actually drove me to the airport in Bismarck. She gave me her seat during orientation and we spoke about many things, including shamanism.
I am returning to the Bay Area but will head back out in my car by the second of December with more supplies, and hope to stay for two or three weeks. I will stop in New Mexico to see my widowed friend and then head out again.
Later I will speak about a conversation I had with Andrea, who teaches history, about Valley Forge and the simmering of what became the first US Army. I truly believe we are at a crucial time for the planet, and this gathering of over three hundred indigenous nations and thousands of allies of every race, color, creed, national origin and sexual or gender orientation is an amazing occurrence in these otherwise dark times of an ever more brutal corporate empire.
We were asked to take no pictures or videos, and there is almost no internet connection at camp, but the inner pictures and feelings I am bringing back are life-changing.
Peace to you all! (I am going to carry around a curse jar so I can make donations anytime I curse, which seems to be so much a part of my being…) Cursing is also a no-no at camp, because of the negative violent context in a peaceful place of spiritual resistance… (On the curse jar, I already have $8.00 in it. I will either stop cursing or go bankrupt…)
Silvia out, with abrazos and namastés to go around.
P.S. November 27, 2016: Fidel Castro Ruz, presente
I found out about his death in the cab/shuttle that took me to the Ramada before I left for Hayward from Bismarck. My driver was a Pakistani with strong opinions about U.S. interventions in so many countries, including most recently Syria, Iraq, Libya and too many others to mention. I met el comandante three times as a child and have a vivid remembrance of his warmth and larger-than-life persona. I remember at 9 being accidentally stepped on by what seemed to me his huge foot at Santa María beach and being picked up so he could smile, hug me and apologize. He smelled like my father, of strong Cuban cigar. Years later, although not a smoker, I would smoke my first Cohiba and remember. As in Proust’s “À la recherche du temps perdu,” so many times a smell or taste has brought back another lifetime…
I have spent years identifying myself as “cubana pero no gusana.” I do so again today. I shudder at the Miami scenery, at the refusal to remember the persistent and shameful occupation of our land by the United States, at the deep-seated racism and the retelling of lost property, some of it a made-up memory. The exile has produced monstrosities such as the Menéndez brothers, convicted of slaughtering their wealthy parents out of pure unadulterated of greed.
For me, I think of el comandante as a hero who incredibly survived hundreds of assassination attempts at the hands of the CIA and who helped a small nation in the Caribbean survive a punishing embargo for over half a century, becoming a beacon of freedom for many countries the world over. Despite mistakes and continuing economic problems fueled by the United States, Cuba’s literacy rates and delivery of health care far surpasses those of the United States. This was largely fueled by the leadership of Fidel Castro Ruz. Fidel Castro Ruz, ¡presente!