[Sayma-Discuss] Epistle from Travelers to Standing Rock | NEYM: Quakers in New England

Mike Shell bright_crow at mindspring.com
Sat Dec 3 21:35:59 EST 2016


Please share this widely.








The Oceti Sakowin camp, North Dakota | Image by Noah Merrill 

Epistle from Travelers to Standing Rock

Dec 2, 2016 

To Friends In New England,   

We write to you on our return from the prayer encampment of the Oceti
Sakowin-the Great Sioux Nation-in what is now known as the State of North
Dakota. Led by the Standing Rock Sioux and the other tribes of the Seven
Fires Council, thousands of Indigenous and non-Native people from across the
country and the planet have gathered in this camp as winter comes. United in
prayer and ceremony, they commit their bodies and spirits in deeply
prayerful nonviolent direct action to ensure that Native sovereignty is
recognized, that the so-called "Dakota Access Pipeline" is stopped, and that
the precious water and ecology of their region is preserved for this and
future generations of living beings. We were honored to be guests of the
camp from November 24-26, 2016.

We traveled with prayers and donations from New England Friends, and with
New England Yearly Meeting's statements of support and solidarity: the
Minute Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery
<http://neym.org/minutes/library/minute-repudiating-doctrine-discovery> ,
the Minute of Support for Standing Rock
-economic-justice>  from the Committee on Racial, Social and Economic
Justice, and the public statement "A Call to Prayer and Support for Standing
Rock <http://neym.org/news/call-prayer-and-support-standing-rock> " written
by the Presiding Clerk and Yearly Meeting Secretary. We also delivered a
banner created by teenage Young Friends in support of the water protectors.
We stood together as our Yearly Meeting secretary, Noah Merrill, offered
words of gratitude and shared what he was given to say on our behalf with
the tribal elders. He spoke of our commitment to acknowledge the wrongs of
the past and our prayer that we will continue to discover how to live more
fully in right relationship with our Indigenous relatives and with all


The Oceti Sakowin camp is located on the banks of the Cannonball River on
land controlled by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers-land promised to the
Sioux by treaty, but taken for other purposes although the treaty was never
revoked. The camp, situated on river bottomland, is a vast field of tipis,
tents and improvised structures. Perched on the ridgeline above the camp,
which includes an ancient Sioux burial ground, is a continual heavy
surveillance presence: military vehicles, armed police, spotlights,
helicopters, airplanes and drones encircle the camp.

When we saw the camp it struck us that we were witnessing a vision of the
future. We understand this to mean two things: We were reminded that growing
climate disruption will increasingly force people from their homes, creating
many more such makeshift camps in our world, in the shadow of repressive
force. But equally striking was the fierce assurance we felt that many more
will be led to such bold acts of holy obedience, coming together across our
differences to do the work of God in these times.

It is our deep hope that as Friends we will find ourselves following the way
of Jesus-standing with and recognizing in ourselves and our faith
communities the condition of the poor, oppressed and vulnerable rather than
struggling to protect whatever relative affluence, comfort, security or
privilege some of us possess. It is in protecting our own vested interests
and maintaining the illusion of our superiority and separateness that we
lose sight of the sacred relationships upon which all life depends.


As guests in the camp, we dedicated our time to service-simple tasks of
sorting donations, splitting firewood, and making food. Working alongside
others who had come for this shared purpose, we found relationships across
boundaries of distance and background. Through this experience of service we
were reminded that common labor binds us together, and that no contribution
offered in faith is too small. While it can be tempting to view the work of
building the Beloved Community as being about heroic deeds or grand
projects, far more often it is these small unnoticed acts of service that
provide the space for us to meet each other and-through the Love we find
together-to meet God.


Our time at Standing Rock closed by attending a press conference (link is
external) <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgSkdCxUabk>  led by David
Archambault II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, responding to the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers letter stating their intention to close public
access to the camp on December 5, 2016. In the voices raised in that press
conference we encountered the living God-the same Spirit attested to by
Friends throughout our history.

Nick Tilsen, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, lifted up these words:

"Where we arrived at as a people ... we went through a lot of healing, we
went through a lot of ceremonies, and what's left is pure love for our land,
pure love for our people, and there's not a place for fear in that. And so
to the Army Corps who sent that letter, the message from Indigenous people
here is the letter means nothing to us."

Facing the threat of the forcible closure of their camp, the speakers on the
panel expressed fearlessness-a fearlessness arising from a Power that comes
not from institutions, uniforms and guns but from inward conviction, from
the unquenchable fire they have found in their hearts. Their articulation of
this inward experience was an example to us, and we hope that we too can
learn to stand ever more solidly in this Power.  

Once again we are invited, through faithfulness, to the quiet yet profound
voice of Truth that whispers in our hearts and gives us courage and power to
walk boldly in uncertain times. When we give ourselves over to it, we know
we too can enter into this Kingdom where our hearts are clarified in
purpose, where we cling less to the illusory safety of our culture, where we
feel more closely the security and Love of God.

We ask all Friends to continue to pray that the Spirit protect the
Indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock and to continue to advocate, by
all means possible, in support of their holy work to oppose the Dakota
Access Pipeline and to re-envision a world where we all live in right
relationship. We affirm that following the guidance of Indigenous leadership
is essential for all who seek to support this witness. While conditions may
change rapidly, we encourage Friends who may be led to respond to the
invitation of the Native elders to travel to North Dakota in a spirit of
solidarity and service to seek ways to do so, with humility and boldness.

In the Love that binds us together and frees us from fear,

Christa Frintner (Cambridge, MA), Meg Klepack (West Falmouth, MA), Noah
Merrill (Putney, VT), Jay O'Hara (West Falmouth, MA), Kim West (Cambridge,
MA), Honor Woodrow (Framingham, MA)


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