Gratitude and Reverence for Standing Rock

By Cynthia Donner (Guest Author)

This reflection is written with most humble and sincere appreciation for Standing Rock and the American Indian Nations’ leaders and people who have led so many diverse communities and groups in the struggle to save precious water that sustains us all.

From my perspective as a facilitator of learning for students pursuing degrees in social work and thereby committing to values and principles of human rights, social and environmental justice; there are many lessons to reflect and build on that the leaders, water protectors, and allies involved at Standing Rock have blessed us with:

  • Courage to face violence, and conflicts with both oppressors and allies
  • Commitment to stand peacefully and consistently, for the long haul
  • Perseverance in withstanding harsh forces and threatening conditions, with minimal shelter and reprieve
  • Wisdom to honor the process and all involved, regardless of personal agenda
  • Planning before action; strategically, reflectively, responsively
  • Mobilizing a strong network of people on-ground and on-line, with communications to connect people, facilitate actions, and sustain the process and people in it
  • Healing Ceremonies, connections, and prayers on-ground, and in many communities around world that united people and invited reconciliation
  • Policy/legal advocacy with an organized network of people and coalitions putting pressure on political leaders on the local, state, and national levels.

Each of the examples on the above list (that is not complete by any means), can and should be reflected on deeply for understanding how to work for social justice in these most challenging times. It seems Standing Rock is the epitome of a spiritual or collective awakening among people diverse in tradition and experiences, but common in a struggle that more about all of our survival than any one of our single interests.

To me, what has unfolded among people in the Standing Rock struggle represents the reverence we all need now to sustain the future of people and our planet.

This kind of reverence can bond previously isolated individuals who were suffering alone, and connect multiple coalitions previously working their own causes, together in a collective movement focused focused as much on solidarity as the common goal.

This kind of reverence is reflected in the thousands of people who joined with fear and trepidation; worked through conflict that came from within and outside of themselves; and found courage from the wisdom of leaders and a vulnerability as common as the cause.

This kind of reverence thrives on empathic relationship, based on trust and commitment, with each other and our earth.

This power to continue with these efforts and any of the many future challenges facing us with the kind of inspirational reverence demonstrated here.

The struggle is not over, but the taste of victory is upon our tongues. May the thirst for justice be daily quenched by reverence for ourselves, each other, and our earth.

The Water Ceremony, by Ojibwe Artist and Scholar, Carl Gawboy
The Water Ceremony, by Ojibwe Artist and Scholar, Carl Gawboy


I am deeply grateful to the dear friends who agreed to share their reflections about the recent events in Standing Rock: Dakota Access Pipeline Halt.

Cynthia Renee Donner is an instructor of Undergraduate Social Work with The College of St. Scholastica, delivered at the Fond du Lac Tribal Community College in Cloquet, Minnesota. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota with husband Carl Gawboy, who is an enrolled member of Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and artist. He completed The Water Ceremony, shown here, in 2014.

23 thoughts on “Gratitude and Reverence for Standing Rock

  1. Well said, Carol. I’m pleased it’s turned out well and I hope it will stay that way. But if there has to be a further fight, I know there is strength to do it. Thanks for involving me in this struggle through your posts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments, Cynthia. I’m grateful to another friend named Cynthia for sharing her reflections this morning and for agreeing to allow me to post them here. My thoughts this morning were focused on logistical things I needed to do for my class and sorting through my feelings about the further challenges ahead that you mention.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you Cynthia, a beautiful and instructive post. So helpful that you have articulated what we can learn so that we may build upon successes, and so wonderful that the most common word I have seen over the past 24 hours is solidarity. I think it was a concept twice-removed for a majority of people until this moment.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you, Carol. I will read your words to my local sisters and keep a copy close by to remind me to turn your blessing into action: “May the thirst for justice be daily quenched by reverence for ourselves, each other, and our earth.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bowing with respect for this understanding, Carol
    that a future for human beings is only possible
    by making real sacrifices
    and giving up the so called freedom
    of disengaging from the web of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is beautiful and inspirational. I hope many people have a similar take on this historic event at Standing Rock. We need to keep this sacred feeling in our hearts and build upon the courage shown by the Water Protectors in order to bequeath to future generations a world worth living in.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “To me, what has unfolded among people in the Standing Rock struggle represents the reverence we all need now to sustain the future of people and our planet.”
    ~ The struggle continues. We cannot be weak of heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My husband just sent me the following link. Is it possible that the horror of trumpland, could result in the shining of the light?
    I don’t know, but for the first time since the election, I think it might have a tiny window of possibility.
    Led by Native Americans, in their gravitas, as the elders of this land, mobilized the military, including retired General Wesley Clark. These veterans, for the first time chose a line THEY wanted to defend, without being ordered. All united to save America and her amazing natural glory.
    I have lived a long time as have you. I never have personally witnessed such perilous times.
    Could you ever have imagined this starting?
    I guess the change for America and the world is this, the corporate rulers of the world who used to stay hidden, are now coming into the light of the Trump administration. Now we all know who a our oppressors are.
    Hope and despair belong together.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cindy, these are such important insights. Thank you. Without challenges, many become complacent. Standing Rock elders and protectors have been a powerful example of wisdom, courage, and love and have inspired many others to do likewise. There is great hope, but I am convinced that each one of us needs to do what we can to remain vigilant, compassionate, and focused on peaceful, inclusive thoughts and actions. ❤


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