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Standing up for Standing Rock

Standing Rock protest Photo: Joe Brusky / Joe Brusky via Flickr CC license

As Thanksgiving approaches and Native people and allies face being assaulted by water cannons and rubber bullets for trying to clear a road on their own land, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb prepares to travel to the region and offers this reflection on the situation. An AFSC delegation traveled to Standing Rock in September and produced this report reflecting on the situation and on what those who wish to support can do. AFSC Friends Relations is hosting a Call for Spirited Action next Thursday from 8:30 to 9:30 ET with Jamie Bissonette Lewey, who was among those who traveled on the delegation. She will offer reflections from her trip there and the current situation. - Lucy

A Reflection on Standing Rock from last night... I write this to white allies with deep affection. Standing Rock may be your first experience with a front line.

Lest we forget, what happened last night at Standing Rock has been happening throughout American history and according to American policy even though most of us may not have seen anything like it. It can be very intense to be on a front line for the first time. Stay safe.

Although this is not new or unusual for Native people, African Americans, people of color, it is new for many people who don’t hold those identities to be paying attention and even to experience a front line of police violence.

Lest we forget Wounded Knee, lest we forget Leonard Peltier in prison, lest we forget the history of native people torn away from their families and shipped off to residential schools, lest we forget forced sterilization of native women in the US throughout the last century, lest we forget that Native people have the highest incarceration rates and poverty rates, lest we forget so much of our history related to the genocide of Indigenous America that has been ongoing for almost 500 years. We who care have a lot of work ahead of us as non-Native people in solidarity with Indigenous America.

That is why it is important we consolidate our efforts and allow ourselves to be led by indigenous people, as they have requested time and time again. Our acts of solidarity must include letting indigenous people do the teaching of their own wisdom traditions in every occasion where traditional native wisdom is invoked. The time for allowing white people to speak for native people must come to an end so that a new truth can emerge. Going to Standing Rock does not mean we can teach indigenous wisdom. We can witness, yes, we can be in solidarity in ways being asked of us, yes, but we can no longer sponsor or profit from non-native people teaching native wisdom (except in academic settings where there is accountability). I include myself in this pledge.

Keep Standing Rock in your prayers.

This short film Mni Wiconi features water protectors from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allies trying to stop the 1,100-mile Dakota Access Pipeline - DAPL. Interviews in the film include Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Chairman Dave Archambault II; Jodi Gillette, former White House advisor for Native American Affairs; Ladonna Allard, founder of Sacred Stone Camp; Winona LaDuke, founder of Honor the Earth; and Cody Hall, Red Warrior Camp spokesperson. Created by Divided Films with support from the WK Kellogg Foundation.

About the Author

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb is on the Rabbinic Council of Jewish Voice for Peace and is co-founder of The Muslim Jewish Peacewalk, Mural Arts in Palestine and Young Pacifist and Proud with The Fellowship of Reconciliation. A performing artist, author, and peace activist, Lynn's newest book, "Trail Guide to the Torah of Nonviolence," will be out in April.