Saturday, 23 August, Noon – 5:00 pm
Blessing ceremony at the Lower Brule Reservation.
Profits and Prophecies
Kul Wicasa Oyate—(Lower Brule Sioux Country, South Dakota)
“Without water, our tears are all that is left to drink.”
The six-hour ceremony with the Kul Wicasa Oyate (Lower Brule Sioux Tribe) at the Lower Brule reservation began with humor, progressed into a deeply moving ceremony and testimonial to the vision of the totem pole journey, and ended in an impassioned plea from a young Sioux woman fighting to stop the southern progress of the “black snake.”
Lakota George is a flutist and flute maker, a man of deep cultural knowledge, and more than a little good humor. He told of his plan to someday write a book based on his experience touring the United States, entitled: “What Not to Ask an Indian When You Are on a Vacation.” Among other things, he told us he was once asked: “How long have you been an Indian?”
But humor gave way to a sacred ceremony and the thoughts of the members of the tribe on their plight, and their fight, against the Keystone Pipeline~the “black snake.” A young woman spoke of her dream in which the snake was approaching from the north, consuming the water, killing all life, and making the people ill. Standing against the snake first were the women, then the men, then the traditional leaders, and behind them the children. Those who were made sick were being passed back to be healed.
Other tribal members spoke of the “corporate espionage” and the corrupting influences of efforts to buy off tribal leaders, divide the community, marginalize those who oppose the pipeline, and divide the tribes against each other. “It’s an old story,” Jewell James of the Lummi tribe said, when he rose to speak,” as old as the first efforts to steal our land, your land, and silence us. Their greatest fear is that we will unite.”
Despite the challenges, the tribal members attending the blessing ceremony left no doubt that they, and most of their community who understand the issue, firmly oppose the pipeline proposal that would devastate and denature their homeland. Their passion and spiritual connection to the water was evident in the ceremony down on the Missouri River (“muddy water”). The Kul Wicasa tribal people and the Lummi stood in the waters of the Missouri as the prayers were offered and water was gathered for the travelers to take on their journey to eventually place in the Salish Sea.
Returning to the site of the ceremony the lead speaker asked that all those assembled join in a prayer for the land, the water, the people and all our relations, and that the pipeline be defeated. “You can use any words you want to use, in any way you choose,” he said. As the prayer and the round drum invoked this ceremony, the sun broke through the clouds over the ceremonial grounds. After the prayer a Kul Wicasa person told of a vision of a battlefield. During the battle the field was suddenly illuminated and the warrior woke up to the light to see more clearly and deeply the way to success and victory. “They have profits,” another tribal speaker said, “but we have prophecies.” The passionate words of the young Sioux woman warrior at the end of the day spoke to the spirit of defeating the “black snake” and corporate injustices, of uniting the tribes and their non-Indian friends and neighbors, and setting the stage for a new era in our shared responsibilities to the land, to each other, and to the Creator.
There was no question that this grassroots movement in this part of Sioux Territory would secure victory. Their passion, their understanding that others stand beside them, their humility, pride in their heritage, and great love of their homeland would guide and protect them. Jewell James let them know that the Lummi stand beside them, reading a letter from Timothy Ballew, the Chairman of the Lummi Nation.
“Our commitment to place, to each other, unites us as one people, one voice to call out to others who understand that our shared responsibility is to leave a better, more bountiful world for those who follow,” the Chairman wrote in his letter.
Photos from the ceremony with the Kul Wicasa Oyate and that day’s journey
by James Leder
Story by Kurt Russo, photos and captions by James Leder