An Open Letter to the Heartland: Let’s Protect the Sacred Together

A few weeks ago, a Gathering to Protect the Sacred from the Keystone XL Pipeline took place between Natives and non-Natives from across the continent on the Ihanktonwan (Yankton) homelands near Wagner, SD. Our friend Phyllis Cole-Dai from Fast for the Earth was there, and she has written a powerful “Open Letter to the Heartland” about her experience of the Gathering, and her hopes for the future of this struggle:

My impression was that the “Protect the Sacred” gathering was a powerful experience for many who attended, native and non-native alike. As I heard various people saying during our last day together, “This is just the beginning,” and, “We have to keep doing this.”

Faith Spotted Eagle

Faith Spotted Eagle at the Gathering to Protect the Sacred 1/23-1/25/2013.

What was the “this” to which they were referring? Was it only our resistance to the Keystone XL? I don’t believe so, although that is crucial. Was it our celebration of native lifeways and spirituality and history and community? I doubt it, although that, too, is extremely vital. (Indeed, I’m convinced that our immersion in native spirituality greatly facilitated and deepened the best of all that happened during the gathering.)

No, I believe that the “this” we have just begun, and which we must carry forward, is the work of healing–healing both among native peoples themselves, and between natives and non-natives. I know that the word “healing” may sound overblown and presumptuous, but it’s the only word that seems to fit. Forgive me if I overstate things, but at times during the gathering there were some truly wondrous dynamics moving in the circle, beyond my ability to put into words…

As I drove eastward [after the Gathering was over], the stars were brilliant above me, and the moon hovered immediately before me, bathing the quiet landscape in bluish-white light. And I remembered how the same Ponca truthsayer who had identified the “new Indians” had reminded us during the last hours of the gathering, “This struggle will be long and hard. But we are not alone. We are the Star People. We come from the stars, and the stars are always with us, helping us. And Moon Woman is above us, shining down.”

Of this I have no doubt. No doubt whatsoever.

You can read the whole letter over at Fast Talk, Fast for the Earth’s (excellent) blog. As we wrote yesterday, small gestures can give us courage in the face of overwhelming odds. So it’s good to know that folks like Phyllis are committed to protecting our sacred earth, that although we have a long road ahead, there are others making the same journey and waging the same struggle.


About sdpeacejustice

The SD Peace & Justice Center connects a grassroots network of South Dakotans working for social justice and against violence and oppression.
This entry was posted in Essays, Faith & Spirituality, Keystone XL, Tribal Sovereignty & Native Issues and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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