Remembering Standing Rock

Guest Commentary

Published November 26, 2017

This past week I watched Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock on Netflix and was mesmerized, shocked, horrified and saddened. It was particularly impactful seeing it so close to the one year anniversary of backwater bridge.

I remember that night. I was not there. I had left Standing Rock back in September of 2016. Before the craziness. Before the human rights violations. Before November 20th.

I was LIVE on the air hosting the Red Road Radio Show and watching Kevin Gilbert’s Facebook live stream of the events and I was relaying them to my audience on my show as they played out that night. I couldn’t believe it was this country. I couldn’t believe it was 2016. But it was.

After years of doing my show I knew that the struggle for awareness about the challenges in Indian Country was a tall order and nothing new for those who live there. Indigenous activists have been hard at work for decades fighting for basic civil rights. Basic human rights. The right to vote, the right to practice their religion, the right to speak their own language, the right to demand liberation from an assimilation policy that forcibly removed Native children from their families and into far away boarding schools, and the right to tribal sovereignty as guaranteed by treaty. The struggle was always to let the world in on that battle. So they could see the inequity, the oppression, and suppression of sovereign Native Nations. The violation of treaties and the stealing of land and resources.

For some reason, humans have the propensity to take things that they don’t understand and force them to bend and change them into something more comfortable and familiar. And when that doesn’t work out, well, then the answer jumps to – let’s silence it, make it impotent, or discredit and deny it. Before long the slippery slope of this process leads to destroying that which they do not understand. We can find examples of this throughout human history. There is no shortage of these stories in the relatively short lifetime of this Republic.

Ted Eagle on the left. Young boy is my nephew Maddox Eagle. Ted Eagle is enrolled member of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The fact that Energy Transfer Partners, Morton County, the Army Corps of Engineers, the state of North Dakota, the Department of the Interior, the mainstream media, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Federal Government, and the majority of the 300+ million people living in this country do not understand nor can they interpret American Indian treaty law, or Indigenous culture, tradition, sacred places and spirituality has led us to this place in 2016/17 and soon to be in 2018.

I have family that lives on Standing Rock. I just got back home from visiting with them and some friends not even a week ago. I stopped by the campsite just off HWY 1806 on my last day there. I sat by the side of the road and could feel the prayers of the people still clinging to the trees, the prairie, the fence posts. They flowed under and over the bridge at the Cannonball River and they spoke of a time when the people stood up for water.

To all of you who were there in a good way, your presence can still be felt. To all of you who prayed, your words echo with the wind. And while the whole World heard your cries and your prayers, somehow they remain in that place. On that prairie. Frozen in time. Still alive with the same energy and life that put them there.

Keep making a difference. Keep learning the truth and speak it. Indifference kills prayer. Faith will sustain it.


Lew Hastings is producer and host of the Red Road Radio Show.


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