Monday, 5 December 2016

Circling Around

In the mountains, snow finally descending as I listen to Psychic TV’s Ov Whales and Dolphins spinning on the turntable. Thinking about the recent visit I had with an elder from the Tsihlqot’in First Nation, how he sat by the wood stove with drum and rattle in his hand, the way his face looked carved from the mountain range he comes from, how his long hair was colored like juniper charcoal and pine ash. 

I closed my eyes when he began playing.

The deer hide stretched over the cedar drum frame reverberated through my cabin with each strike, vibrating both the walls and windows as I was transported to time before the age of disenchantment, when Earth and all of its life forms were considered holy. He sang of the creation time with a rhythm and melody that continually circled back like a round river that flows endlessly.

Gradually, I felt myself being carried by the elder’s rhythm and as I went, I revisited the revolutions of my own life. Circling back twenty years before when I first saw Ts’yl?os, the mountain held most sacred to his people. It stood way off in the distance as I crossed the Chilcotin Plateau in the days before the pine beetle epidemic and the catastrophic fires of the early 21st century. 

How entranced I was by that mountain far out toward the southern horizon. I was just beginning my work with the grizzly bear back then and didn’t know that following their shambling trail would eventually lead me to that very place ten years later. Since then, Ts’yl?os has become quite familiar. The water cascading down its slopes has quenched my thirst, my flesh has been nourished from its abundance, and its contours have given me many stories, some of which are too powerful to be openly shared. And now, two decades after my first glimpse, a respected elder from that landscape has become my friend. 

Again, the circles. 

The next song he sang was for the empowerment of women. In my heart it conjures images of the movement flowering out of Standing Rock. I think of the people who have gathered there despite the freezing North Dakota winter, and the very real threat of violence from the government and its militarized police. Some 10,000-15,000 strong are there to protect the water and defend the sacred, with hundreds of thousands of supporters from all over the world directing love and support toward them. In contemporary times there has never been such a massive convergence of the soul on behalf of Earth’s damaged life support systems. Nor have I ever witnessed such brave determination to stand in prayer and peace to protect life’s most basic and vital element.

As the elder sang and played the drum I prayed for them, as I have been doing every day for over a month, envisioning a circle of protective light around the water protectors and a thousand mother grizzlies broadcasting ferocious love for their children. I could see the multitudes of veterans arriving ready to shield the Natives and their allies from the vicious aggression of the oil company’s guardsmen, while thousands behind them drummed, calling humanity back home to its timeless connection to the Earth with song. I prayed for no more confrontation, but instead that, one by one, the guardsmen realized they were serving the wrong side. 

Remember-there was an officer who took the cup offered through razor wire and drank from the sacred water.

It has been a few days since the elder’s song ended. In that time many more thousands have poured into Standing Rock. On the day before the federal eviction order of water protectors was to take effect, the Army Corp. of Engineers denied the easement required for Dakota Access to lay pipe under the Missouri River. It was an unexpected decision. 

The mainstream media who had been virtually absent for months, even while human rights violations were being committed, were suddenly there proclaiming victory for the "protesters" as they called them. There was a breath of relief, a pressure release and cause for celebration, especially since everyone anticipated that December 5th, the eviction day, would be the most intense yet.

Some water protectors began packing up, but the following day, those responsible for DAPL (Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco) stated with confidence the pipeline would be laid without any re-routing. 

Does this mean DAPL intends to ignore the Army Corp. decision, as it did the last time the Army Corp. ordered it to halt construction? No one really knows, but many at Standing Rock say that until the company agrees to lay no more pipe, water protectors will remain. And so, for them I will light the candle on my altar again, like I have done every night for over a month, and continue to pray for all of those in North Dakota, out in the cold, defending the sacred.