An activator for many things, perhaps. But, never in my mind or heart have I identified as an activist even while creating change in systems unaccustomed to the same.
However, there appear to be others–many of them– who feel differently and have paved the way for me to join the #noDAPL protest in Cannonball, North Dakota. I’m not sure even they, though, would use that term.
When Nicholas Black Elk appeared in my world last summer, he made it clear to others that I knew something that I didn’t know and, to me, made it clear that I needed to speak. About what, I vacillate between being absolutely sure of and never quite certain. Even when he would interrupt someone’s visit to the ladies room, saying, ‘Ask her. She knows.’ Sometimes he and the others in my entourage gently say, “Speak, child. Speak.” Other times, with a sense of urgency they shout “SPEAK!” And, again, I often don’t know what it is about. And, conversely, I often do and my retorts are laden with frustration and sarcasm; “What do you want me to say?! Don’t kill people?! Duh, folks.”
So when Black Elk let me know that I needed to go the Standing Rock reservation last summer–at the time the #noDAPL protest was in it’s merely-an-idea stage–I had no frame of reference, no context, breathing-human or other connection to understand why I was being asked to go.
The context was not revealed, either, when cohorts of Nicholas Black Elk joined my growing council of many as the months went on. They include Chief Red Wing (Mdewakanton), Sitting Bull (Hunkpapa), Touch the Clouds (Minneconjou), Chief Red Feather ( Sans Arc), Chief Red Cloud (Oglala) and others who are not Sioux, not chiefs but men of great standing in their day. Some are carriers of the medicine way. Some warrior, some purposeful peacemakers but they are with me in scores. And, somewhere in the mix, allied but not as visible (but certainly visceral!) are the Old Ladies. Those women who rattled my cage to get me moving toward the Dakotas last summer and on July 28 this year–nearly 13 months to the day that Black Elk first introduced himself to my world.
Even when I got on the road, I had no idea where I was going. I had some awareness of the #noDAPL protest because I follow the Indigenous Environmental Network but it seemed to me that being sent there was too simple, too easy or obvious–because often, even with maps and roadsigns given in vision, the people or places with which I’m to connect don’t always appear so clearly or quickly. And, again, because I don’t identify as an activist, it didn’t make sense.
I drove in the general direction, guided by the ancestors of a specific, breathing Mandan associated with thisness, whose ancestors wove me into his world less than 24 hours before I was to leave.
Less than 14 hours before I was scheduled to leave, a phalanx of invisible riders astride painted horses arrived on the wind, letting me know that they–and others–were waiting for me, wherever I was going.
And at 4:00AM the next morning, we left Helena for Twin Buttes, ND, and unknown points beyond in what many call an act of ‘blind faith’.
Mr. Mandan (not his real name) and I spent two days working together and part of our discussions included celebrity and Three Affiliated Tribes’ involvement in the pipeline protest but, still, there was no clear ‘click’ for me as to why I was being sent south.
As I moved past the Red Warrior Camp heading south, my only comment to myself and my invisible entourage was ‘Well, there aren’t as many people as I thought there were.” I drove on. Still wondering.
I stopped in Fort Yates, ND, the seat of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, to see what there was to see, and if clarity would visit in the form of a person or road sign.
When that failed to bring the desired result, I made a beeline to the visitor’s center. Every now and again, like then, reservation visitor’s centers are like one-stop shopping for spirit-related wanderings and one question can lead to all answers. I walked in and began vibrating with the space and the young woman who listened to my story said, “Oh! You need to go to Sacred Stone Camp” and drew me a map to a place I called home for over two weeks and will continue to do so as the seasons roll on.
Why? I didn’t understand it when I got there and, even still, after being gone a week, my surety waxes and wanes while the connections expand and I’m pulled back and being permanently planted.
Without the guidance of my human helper at the Visitor’s Center, I would have not known even where to go. The timing of her direction was such that I rolled into camp and immediately learned that I really could cook for a small army when thrust into an empty kitchen and a reported 300 people to feed.
For days, I cooked and I cried and I cursed and rolled my eyes when Old Ones tapped in. Brought 1000 miles to cook and do dishes? Funny what happens when you think things should appear a particular way, eh? And funny how we forget to unravel the definition of sacred so that we can see it in the shit-ton of detritus.
I was only one of many brought to the Cannonball River directed by otherworldly means. I heard stories of recent dreams directing the way, visions from as far back as three decades ago coming into being beckoning for their seers, and more.
I may not be an activist and I may not be Native American (though I can assure the doubters that I’m not the wanna-be that so many of us are painted as) but I have been woven into the community of both by Ancestors, my relationships with the waters and beings attached to them, my relationships with archetypes and myth-inspirers, and my gifts connected to the healing of historic trauma for people and places. This I know. The hows of it unfolding I don’t yet. There will be a time for revelation of these truths in the same manner Nicholas Black Elk’s vision from 144 years is being revealed today.
The lack of clarity does not diminish the truth of the knowings that these Old Ones brought a daughter home purposefully. They show each step of the way. With respect, occasional reward and a richness of life like no other alive.