Determination, Defiance, and Peace: Day 2 at the Standing Rock Sioux Nation

By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler

We did not arrive at the Strong Heart camp until early afternoon on August 31st. We spent a few hours just interacting with camp residents. We talked about the Lummi Totem Pole Journey 2016; the history of what Jewell James has done in the past with his totem journeys to New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. in the wake of the tragic September 11, 2001 attacks; the design and elements of the pole that was in the Strong Heart camp near the prayer circle; and we heard and told lots and lots of personal stories.


Flags of a few tribal Nations fly over the Totem Pole and Strong Heart Camp

I took photos of all the flags, many of which had been added since we were at the camp on August 30, including the Lummi Nation flag.


The entrance into Strong Heart Camp is flanked by flags of many Nations showing their support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe action to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline


The Lummi Nation flag is flanked on the left by the Abenaki St. Francis Band (Vermont) flag and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (Washington) flag on the right

Totem Journey 2016 is an experience of unification, of “One Heart, One Mind.” It is an experience of education, bringing information to people who may not be aware. It is an experience of love and power. And it is mostly joyful in the camp. I learned about how young children learn to drum, by imitating their parents, listening to the songs, watching and joining into the activity, sometimes just with a fly swatter for a mallet.


Gerald Charging Eagle (left) and Tyson (right) teach their children to drum

I must include one remarkable quote from a man whose name I did not get and who was talking about the spirit of the camp and its people: “The contentment of the heart is what we speak.”

Later in the afternoon, the camp organized an event so the Totem Journey delegation (which includes Jewell Praying Wolf James, Master Carver of the Lummi Nation House of Tears Carvers, Doug James, Jewell’s brother, Fred Lane, videographer of the Totem Journey, Phil Lane, Hereditary Chief of the Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations, Cedar Parker, Tsleil-Waututh Nation of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Rueben George, also of Tsleil-Waututh Nation and son of Dan George) could make formal presentations about the journey, enabling Jewell to tell the story of the pole.


Lummi Elders and Totem Pole Journey leaders Jewell and Doug James begin the presentation of the Totem Pole at Strong Heart camp with a song

Deborah Parker, Cedar Parker’s mother and Tulalip Tribe member, also spoke and told a story of something her son said to her earlier in the day: “’The Creator wants us to feel the Earth, and that’s why we’re here.’ And that’s a beautiful teaching from my six-year-old son. He knows why we’re here. He can feel why we are here, his little feet touch the Earth and he knows why we are here! He knows why we took the journey here, and he’s not missing school because this IS his school, right here. And you, my dear relatives, he’s watching each and every one of you and how you care for the land.”

The words from Phil Lane, Rueben George, and Jewell James were especially powerful in this sacred location, and they spoke so forcefully that other camp residents from down below the prayer circle came up to hear what they were saying. They spoke eloquently of our overuse of fossil fuels, the damage it is doing to the planet, to the animals, and to the people.

Totem Journey 2016 is on a mission to connect with people, to tell the story of the pole, to talk about everything we know of the use and abuse of corporate power, particularly as it is reflected in the fossil fuel corporations, and to be present in solidarity with the people we meet who all want the same thing: a living, breathing Mother Earth for our grandchildren and their grandchildren, and for all future generations.