The forgiveness ceremony that occurred at the Standing Rock reservation as part of the veterans coming to support the water protectors has not been widely reported, but is, I think, a significant part of the many remarkable things that have been occurring there this year. The uniting of so many Native American tribes, the largest since the battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, and the power of the elders and the people, with their amazing, disciplined dedication to practicing nonviolence, even in the face of intense violence, has been inspirational, capturing the admiration of so many across the globe.
The environmental movement has welcomed the leadership of a people and their culture that always has, and continues to show how human beings should live in relation to mother Earth and all our relations. This was expressed so well with the following statement from New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers) after a visit to Standing Rock:
“When we saw the camp it struck us that we were witnessing a vision of the future. We understand this to mean two things: We were reminded that growing climate disruption will increasingly force people from their homes, creating many more such makeshift camps in our world, in the shadow of repressive force. But equally striking was the fierce assurance we felt that many more will be led to such bold acts of holy obedience, coming together across our differences to do the work of God in these times.”
According to SALON online, Wes Clark Jr., was part of a group of veterans at Standing Rock who on the day after the Army Corps announcement, joined Native American tribal elders in a ceremony celebrating the Dakota Access Pipeline easement denial. After several Native elders spoke, thanking the veterans for their support, Wes Clark and the veterans joining him at the ceremony knelt before the elders, and he said:
“Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. When we took still more land and then we took your children and then we tried to make your language and we tried to eliminate your language that God gave you, and the Creator gave you. We didn’t respect you, we polluted your Earth, we’ve hurt you in so many ways but we’ve come to say that we are sorry. We are at your service and we beg for your forgiveness.”
According to USA Today, Chief Leonard Crow Dog, a Lakota spiritual leader, placed his hand upon Clark’s head. “We are Lakota Sovereign nation. We were a nation, and we’re still a nation,” he said. “We have a language to speak. We have preserved the caretaker position.” The chief added: “We do not own the land. The land owns us.”