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.
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.