As I write this, we are about halfway on our journey to Standing Rock. It’s 6 in the morning and we’re blasting Grimes and Hayley Kiyoko in our car out of the three we have in our caravan. I’m tired, but I am feeling very grateful to those who have supported us in this journey though donations, prayers, candle-lighting and sigil making, and dozens of messages filled with love, concern and care. This immense showing support from my community is so humbling and appreciated, there are just no words. The crew we’re heading out with is solid and supportive of one another as well. We took about a dozen selfies by the time we stopped for gas and food just barely a block away from our starting point.
As for our timing, despite a frightening turn of events as the state has come in stronger, more violent opposition to the water protectors, the symbolic importance of being at Standing Rock over the Thanksgiving holiday is not lost on me, on any of us. If anything it is probably felt even moreso given the urgency of things there. I feel like it was almost divine providence that led me to come at that time and I don’t even believe in that, at least not in the traditional sense.
As we make our journey out, there’s lots of emotions, chief among them nervousness. For the indigenous among us, there is also a desire to be with elders, partake and witness native ceremonies and peoples. Other than that, what can we, especially those who are not Indigenous, expect or preempt? What are we walking into, exactly, and why? A knee jerk in me wants to say what I always do, “As a radical Afro-Latina activist,-” but that simply doesn’t cut it here. None of us have ever been on the front lines of a battle like this and this is not my land, my people. My work, my history, my struggle leads me here, but that doesn’t mean I understand or know exactly what I’m doing.
Now, we have been following the news coming out of Standing Rock since the beginning and especially this past weekend. Like I mentioned, we have seen and been deeply shaken by the attacks levied against peaceful water protectors rightfully protecting their people, their land, their water, our collective future from corporate colonialist interference, stories of elders in critical condition after being hosed with toxic chemical-laced water in freezing temperatures, of Sophia Wilansky’s gruesome injuries after being struck with a concussion grenade. I have also been following the disrespectful and even colonizing behavior of outsiders coming to Standing Rock without the proper respect for what kind of space they are entering and what is expected of them, taking resources and treating it like a festival. So how do I fit into the preexisting infrastructure and protection and resistance being so beautifully demonstrated, specifically, how can I be of most help and not a burden (or a fucking asshole)? I am anxious and unsure, and as an organizer who prides herself on her ability to find my role and execute it well, this is a daunting place to be in.
However, I don’t want to pity or center myself, and I definitely cannot allow myself to be too afraid to do the right thing. I understand and accept that sacrifice and risk is a part of this. I am trying to bone up on everything I hear and see coming from Indigenous leadership on Facebook and make myself sit with it all.
In the end, there is something bigger than myself at work here and being that there is also something bigger than us in dire need of protecting, it makes sense that it is something I cannot yet preempt or understand on the level I am at, and it would be arrogant for me to do so. It will take being there and present and being in community with for me to understand my role and purpose and I am trying as best as I can to prepare myself for what will be expected of me.
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