Justice … Thoughts on Standing Rock


eagle-featherWe are a part of Creation; thus, if we break the Laws of Creation, we destroy ourselves…

We, the Original Caretakers of Mother Earth, have no choice but to follow and uphold the Original Instructions, which sustains the continuity of Life. We recognize our umbilical connection to Mother Earth and understand that she is the source of life, not a resource to be exploited. We speak on behalf of all Creation today, to communicate an urgent message that man has gone too far, placing us in the state of survival. Not heeding warnings from both Nature and the People of the Earth keeps us on the path of self-destruction. These self-destructive activities and development continue to cause the deterioration and destruction of sacred places and sacred waters that are vital for Life.

We respect and honor our spiritual relationship with the lifeblood of Mother Earth. One does not sell or contaminate their mother’s blood. These capitalistic actions must stop and we must recover our sacred relationship with the Spirit of Water

In a Sacred Hoop of Life, where there is no ending and no beginning!

Onipiktec’a (that we shall live).

Nac’a (Chief) Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle

Today is the International Vigil for Standing Rock.  Just days after police from several states, together with the National Guard, arrested scores of Native Americans and other protestors who have been facing down DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) workers with their heavy construction equipment clearing the way for the almost 1200 mile long pipeline.  Plans call for it to deliver as many as 570,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota’s Bakken and Three Forks oil fields to a river port in Illinois.

Many, many Native (and some other) protestors found themselves shoved into dog kennels after they were taken off the buses from Sacred Stone Camp (site of the protest) and had their forearms inscribed with numbers.  Just like, some point out, in Nazi death camps.

For that reason alone this situation demands attention of justice minded human beings.

Instructions for the vigils, intended to be held at many locations around the world:

“Wherever you are, pray on this day for all water protectors who have been injured or imprisoned, and for the horse that was killed by police. The world joins in prayer for HEALING for those at Standing Rock who experienced such intense trauama (sic) on October 27th. We also join in prayer for the men and women police who brutally harmed the water protectors. We also pray for the pipeline workers and those who finance them. May they all be blessed and healed and reconnected with the earth. We pray for everyone as we know that in the end we are one, inseparable human family. In forgiveness, hard truth, courage and faith, we will arise from this hardship.”

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a man who commands respect in his position as traditional leader of his people, as well as for his wisdom, has called on US President Barack Obama:

“You are ignoring our pleas to use your time as President to move us toward sustainable development as fast as possible, because of our Mother Earth – our Grandmother Earth, is sick and has a fever. We as people that want to do Creator’s work to create these changes and are stuck with using oil, because it is all you have allowed to invest in to transport this country.

It is time you stop this desecration of our sacred sites….”

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/10/28/chief-arvol-looking-horse-obama-keep-your-word-166266

Which all brings a boiling soup of conflicting thoughts to my mind.  As a very long time supporter of sustainable development as well as wise stewardship of our planet, I am a believer in the “keep it in the ground” view of fossil fuel extraction.  Peak oil is a thing of the past, I have read here and there in financial news, with a smile on my face.

The way the oil industry is going at extraction doesn’t necessarily indicate agreement with that view.  I’m not going into a lengthy comment about all this.

Recently I sat in my living room with a young Australian/Persian chemical engineer who had left his oil job in Texas in disgust at corporate practices.  This intelligent fellow has, nonetheless, a genuine belief that oil and gas can be sustainably extracted from the earth using carbon capture techniques.  This is an area where development is urgently needed, and there are jobs for those with appropriate skills.

He pointed out that the world is far from being ready to get along without oil.  That despite rapid progress in wind and solar alternatives, the one technology that rivals fossil fuels in the ability to adequately supply the world’s energy needs is nuclear — a very fraught alternative.  There is the somewhat safer thorium alternative to uranium, which is being used in some Chinese plants.  There are controversies with that, too.

My friend was only reminding me of facts that seem reasonable in other sources, but the timing was good in relation to what is going on right now in North Dakota.

I think that this is more an issue of human rights than of oil production.  Says Chief Looking Horse:

I am not a member of leadership under any political government, I stand in position as the center of our people, the voice of our traditional government, and so this communication is nation to nation, as indicated by our treaties. Additionally, we have over 300 flags of indigenous nations including other countries supporting our stand, because they are suffering as well. 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/10/28/chief-arvol-looking-horse-obama-keep-your-word-166266

As a lifelong Baha’i I have never been a member of a political party, other than for the day that it took once in the 1970s to vote in a particular primary, then immediately switch back to status as an Independent.  Also as a Baha’i I stand up for human rights, always.  Hence I sign petitions to move the pipeline.

My left brain persona understands that is isn’t necessarily racist for DAPL to have moved plans for the pipeline away from Bismark, a population center in the area — but it is very wrong for the thing to be placed where it is now supposed to go, right by the Standing Rock Reservation, where vital water as well as numerous sites held sacred to the People are located.  Given the centuries long genocide against the continent’s indigenous people and their cultures, this matter takes on urgency in today’s horrifyingly divided world.

Moving the pipeline elsewhere — and I do not know the problems with that would be facing planners and engineers — is utterly vital because of this country’s tendency to put unhealthy, polluting operations right up against minority homes, away from more “upscale” areas.

We are sorely tried to find agreement among ourselves in the US this political season.  Issues long simmering beneath the common surface are ready to blow up like a volcano.  Dakota Access is a situation with the potential to expand understanding of one another, as well as of the explosive questions regarding fossil fuels, global warming, jobs, the meaning of justice — and of humanity.

O SON OF SPIRIT! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.

The Hidden Words

Butterfly on her toes

 I remember the pow-wows, the moccasined feet stepping, leaping, fancy dancing, shuffling amongst persistent sounds of rattles and jingle dresses, whirling shawls and feathered head dresses, ankle bells and stomping.  Above all the keening singers at the giant drum.  That drum, relentless pounding in flawless sync by four men, sometimes more.  

All of it, a prayer.

Like being hit by lightning, it was, the first time I recognized the beat of Earth’s heart in the sound of the great drum.

its throb, my heart.

A voice inside the beat says,

“I know you’re tired,

but come, this is the way.”


comma butterfly on my toes 2
The question mark is a small, white semi-circle on the underside of the second wing

A native American butterfly sits upon the toes of the descendent of British colonizers of the continent.  The tiny creature is widely known as the Question Mark Butterfly.

The descendant considers, heavily,  the centuries-long genocide some of her ancestors began,  waged against North America’s indigenous peoples.  Focusing on the punctuation mark on her visitor’s underwing, she has a lot of questions.  The big “Why?” of the family tree.

She, who loves and respects the people she came from in this day and age, draws ever more strongly into her heart the friendship she has with various descendants of the first Nations known to have inhabited North America.

Their ready humor, biting though that may be.  Their smiles, their readiness to help her in ways she needs as a person of special mobility challenges, their readiness to share from their hearts, to look at the future we enter together, so many different kinds of people from such diverse spots on Earth.

She knows a little about the long awaited justice these Native people long for.  She knows of the kidnapping of children to drain their language and culture out of them, the beatings, the shootings that still happen — she saw them herself, back when she was a journalist.    She remembers how many Massachusett Indians sleep alongside her forebears in a small cemetery on a forested hill back on the East Coast.

She smiles, because she also knows the outstretched hand of friendship, the offering of prayers and dance for universal peace and friendship Native people continue to offer to the world.  She knows of the important speeches some of them make before the United Nations — in common with indigenous leaders from other spots on Earth — prescient warnings of global climate disaster should the governments and industrialists of the world fail to cease its over-exploitation of resources.

She remembers smoking the pipe with William Commanda,  Band Chief of the Kitigàn-zìbì Anishinàbeg First Nation which is near Maniwaki, Quebec, and roughly fifteen others.  Him she knew as Grandfather Commanda.

He brought a large group of people through New Mexico in 1995 as they were walking from Mashpee, Massachusetts to Santa Barbara, California, both places she knew well.  Inspired by Native traditions this group was marching for the Earth.  This walk was known as Sunbow 5.

She followed Sunbow’s progress through their online presence, exchanged emails with the walkers, arranging for them to visit Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Baha’i Center for food and fellowship.

Grandfather said:  No one ever said this walk was going to be easy; we have simply understood that it needed to be done, and so we are doing it.”

An inclusive visionary, was Grandfather Commanda.  His Earth marchers included Native people, a Japanese monk, a writer (or two) and several unquenchable brawlers.

During the Albuquerque dinner Grandfather collapsed, and went by ambulance to a local hospital…  Though he quickly returned to Sunbow 5, he was obviously drawing much from his great strength.  He was 81 at the time.  He offered the world his good energy for another sixteen years.

This woman remembers how quietly, even humbly, Grandfather Commanda became ill at the dinner,  not disturbing the many who had not noticed his distress.

During the Sunbow 5 walk Grandfather’s activities were continuous.  He also joined with other Native leaders, in support of harmony between the different peoples.   Here’s an excerpt from the Sunbow journals, for October 6, 1995:

In Washington, DC Grandfather Commanda was up well before the Sun, as is his habit, and made a short journey to the Washington Monument for Sunrise ceremonies at the “One Mind, One Voice, One Heart, One Prayer” vigil in the heart of the city.

With cane in hand, Grandfather walked across the mall to the sacred fire in the center of the circle of tipis set just to the north of the Washington monument. There he joined a ceremony being led by Corbin Harney of the Western Shoshone Nation. Mr. Harney and his helper sang five songs, and asked the people—over 200 of them at sunrise—to dance a simple round dance and thereby help to anchor the energy of the songs more strongly to the earth with the sacred intent of their steps.

Later in the morning Leon Shenandoah, Tadadaho (Chief of Chiefs), Iroquois Six Nations, led a half-mile walk to a site near the Lincoln Monument where three Trees of Peace have been planted in recent years—one in the South, one in the West and one in the North. On this day Chief Shenandoah presided over the ceremonial planting of a fourth tree in the East direction—signifying the beginning of a new day for the Seventh Generation of children to be born since people of different colors began to move onto this Turtle Island continent. As the Washington walkers drummed, chanted, and stepped toward the young white pine at the planting site, a tangible wave of energy preceded them by a good 40 feet.

Over the course of the weekend Grandfather Commanda spoke both privately and publicly about the Sunbow 5 Walk for the Earth.

The Question Mark flits off and onto toes belonging to the descendant of British settlers to the USA, punctuating her musings with its indestructible continuance over the centuries.  These small orange and brown butterflies with their black spots are found, long term, all over the country.  So are the descendants of early British settlers, right alongside members of 560 federally recognized sovereign Indian Nations (plus a fair number of tribes seeking federal recognition) and descendants of immigrants from countless other countries.

How to work towards making things right, just and equitable for the People who were here first?

Shut up and listen, she thinks.

Just listen, pause, for a change.  Stop assuming that you know so much.  Maybe there’s more to wisdom than you picked up with your fine education, your good jobs, your great successes in business and government.  Other ways of knowing than through division, political wrangling, coups, scheming.

Listen to the sounds of wind ruffling through prairie grasses, the grunts of buffalo, chittering of sandpipers and swallows, the spout of salt water drops and air from a breeching whale, the nearly soundless wingbeats of a Hawaiian pueo crossing the brilliant glow of a full moon during a special man’s memorial service.  Listen to ocean water rippling over the sunken USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, to the hoofbeats of nomads on their small horses in Mongolia.  Hear the wind roar through urban canyons, walls of granite and glass.

Listen to the Native voices.  Earth’s heartbeat in those drums.

Listen and hear the voices of forces so much greater than any of us, for the force of love that keeps all of it, and us, going.  All of us, the rich and stingy, the rich with helping hands held out, the homeless, the workers, the peasants, the scientists and teachers, the subsistence farmers, the GMO developers — the grumps, grouches, the curmudgeons, the atheist and the devout, the writers and  the lovers.  The Morris, kabuki, ballet, the fancy dancers, alongside the square dancing set and flamenco performers — the sea of humanity is filled with sparkling jewels when it comes to ability to express and relate to one another.

The Earth, our shared home, is a symbol of humility:  

”They… should conduct themselves in such manner that the earth upon which they tread may never be allowed to address to them such words as these: ‘I am to be preferred above you. For witness, how patient I am in bearing the burden which the husbandman layeth upon me. I am the instrument that continually imparteth unto all beings the blessings with which He Who is the Source of all grace hath entrusted me. Notwithstanding the honor conferred upon me, and the unnumbered evidences of my wealth – a wealth that supplieth the needs of all creation – behold the measure of my humility, witness with what absolute submissiveness I allow myself to be trodden beneath the feet of men….'”


Love holds the universe together — we need to learn to draw from it, thinks Woman-with-Butterfly-on-Her-Toes.  Use it to be free of hatred, prejudice towards one another — what a remarkable feeling!  To love, without condition.


Rumi, who lived during the Golden Age of Islam, was writing at the same time when the Anasazi were at the center of a vast trading center in what is now the American southwest:

Are you jealous of the ocean’s generosity?

Why would you refuse to give

this love to anyone?

Fish don’t hold the sacred liquid in cups!

They swim in the huge fluid freedom.

comma butterfly on my toes
Listen to the Sioux version of Amazing Grace