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Standing with Standing Rock Reservation: A Native American Story

It's Native American Heritage Month, and I want to share a personal story in honor of all the Native Americans on whose land we live and move freely.

As a Shaman and Medicine Woman, I am honored to facilitate the healing and awakening of humanity. This year, I was honored to be invited to join in several ceremonies with the Lakota people of Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota.

Although I myself descend from multi-ethnic ancestry including Native American, I was born in the skin of a black woman; and this was my first time on a reservation.

Like many around the world, I watched in amazement as the youth of Standing Rock faced DAPL in 2016. Fast forward to 2023, I wasn’t sure what my own experience would be on Standing Rock…and to be honest I’m still processing and integrating my own healing from being in Ceremony there. This retelling is about my experience of the Lakota People of the Sioux Nation.

Mitákuye Oyás'iŋ (All Are Related) is the Lakota motto. As I sat, listened and learned around a fire in the middle of camp on a windy September afternoon, I felt the truth of those words resonate in my heart. The Lakota People, whose numbers once numbered over 100,000; are still grappling with the trauma of the American Holocaust. With less than 1200 Lakota living on Standing Rock Reservation and an estimated 250+ MMIWG from their community alone this year, they believe the American Holocaust continues and that their cries for help continue to fall on deaf ears.

Yet at every moment of conversation the stories they told offered opportunities to laugh, grieve and connect. Each night I listened to their stories and their commitment to forgiveness, to living Mitákuye Oyás'iŋ. Not at all what I expected to hear from people whose wounds have never been healed.

Hurt people hurt people. Healed people heal people. My dark skin made some Lakota wary of me. While many embraced me and accepted my medicine as a much needed gift; some were distant and distrustful - one man even called me a ‘drug dealer’ who was there for drugs. Of course, growing up black in America this kind of name calling is not new to me. When I encountered Lakota who seemed scared of me; I understood with great compassion the lies that have entrapped us all. Mitákuye Oyás'iŋ. None of us are exempt from the legacy of lies that we inherited from colonialism.

Yet just as I persevere and serve wherever Spirit leads me, so I persevered and served the Lakota People on their land. My own ancestry includes the Creek and Cherokee Nations. I grew up on Creek land and raised my kids on Creek land until this year. I’ve since relocated to Quapaw lands. I’m ever present to the privilege of growing up and living on my ancestral lands. Something many Native Americans cannot claim themselves. Oh privilege! It comes in so many ways, shades and shadows. On (Lakota) Sioux land, I felt the land itself cry and grieve with a ferocity I’ve never known. I saw the Wanbli 🦅, sacred symbol of the Lakota People watch me as I moved from town to town across the Rez; giving regal nods of approval when I offered tobacco to the land, cared for the children, loved the horses and served the People.

I ate with The People. Cried with The People. Laughed with the People. I became ‘Mitákuye Oyás'iŋ’ in a way that I was not before. And Wanbli watched.

Every life is sacred to Lakota, and yet theirs continue to be marginalized and forgotten. Their story is my story as a BIWOC. I was myself amazed at how at ease I was in their presence. I felt like I was at a family reunion, a gathering of souls that I knew and had missed and was excited to reconnect with. Several Lakota felt the same about me. Often I was torn between documenting my experiences and just being present to the raw beauty of The Lakota, their stories and their land.

I was honored further to be invited back to support the local community in creating an international and sustainable community complete with growing plots for food and medicine. My intention is to take my family with me; I want my children to be, know and live Mitákuye Oyás'iŋ in the way the Lakota Law outlines. The Lakota remember that children are the future and perhaps my children and theirs will BE THE CHANGE all people of color desire.

In the meantime, I will continue to listen and learn. To check my privilege. And to, like the Lakota- believe in the power of forgiveness and that all life is sacred.


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