The Lakota medicine man, Black Elk, had a vision in which the seventh generation of young native people to be born after the Europeans came to this land would return to their cultural and religious roots. His vision saw tribes coming together and the eventual unification of all races for the common good. Many indigenous people believe that the present generation of youth is that Seventh Generation.
This column is not about whether or not the Dakota Access Pipeline is a good idea or needed. This is not about the realities of global climate change. It is not about condoning one person’s cowardly act of defacing national memorials. It is not meant to be anti-law enforcement. You are free to not read any further.
This is about the Seventh Generation.
I am impressed with the young people of the International Indigenous Youth Council at Standing Rock. Did you know that in April of this year indigenous youth organized a relay run from Standing Rock to the US Army Corps of Engineers office in Omaha, Nebraska? They ran 500 miles to take a letter of protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline to the Corps’ district office. The pipeline was approved anyway.
In August these brave and committed young people again took to the road and ran from their home in North Dakota all the way to Washington, DC. They took turns running the more than 2000 miles to deliver a petition containing more than 150,000 signatures to the national offices of the Corps of Engineers. No one seemed to notice.
In October, a group of young men and women erected a teepee in the lobby of Hillary Clinton’s Brooklyn office in an attempt to get her attention and to deliver a letter to her staff stating their concerns about the pipeline and for the environment. They were completely peaceful. They weren’t arrested, but they were pretty much ignored.
Indigenous young people have run to Standing Rock from the Pine Ridge Reservation, from Arizona and elsewhere. They didn’t just post their support on Facebook with their cell phones. They put their feet on the ground and ran.
In the last few weeks these same young people have made a stand in front of the pipeline. They have been maced, shot with rubber bullets, had loaded rifles pointed at them from the turret of armored vehicles, been arrested and charged with rioting and other offenses. And still they walked peacefully and prayerfully to the Morton County Courthouse where they asked for and gave forgiveness to the law enforcement officers there. They have made silent prayer walks to the front lines and offered sacred water to the policemen stationed on the other side. They prayed to be freed from hate and fear.
These young people are not leaving unsigned graffiti on public property. They are not cowards. They are not afraid to stand up for what they believe is right. They pray for their friends and family and for mother earth and the water we all need for our lives. They pray for the health and happiness of the police officers, pipeline workers, National Guard and Highway Patrol officers. Would you or I have the courage to do the same?
What are we teaching them? We tell them to work in the system and the system ignores them. We tell them to be peaceful and we react with fear and force. We tell them to negotiate and then they are delivered ultimatums. How their passion and commitment is received may determine whether they are empowered for the future of their people and all people or if they are broken. The third alternative is that they may become radicalized like those who throw Molotov cocktails and advocate retaliation.
Black Elk and other native elders spoke of the choices we have. Jesus said we are to love others as we love ourselves. We can choose to seek reconciliation, compromise and understanding. We can choose to listen to these young members of the Seventh Generation. Perhaps they can teach us to forgive, to ask for forgiveness and guide us toward becoming one race, the human one.
Copyright © 2016 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains