Continued from Let the black snake lie
Monday, October 3, 2016
“So now you’re calling me ‘sensitive’?”, the sixty-ish dark-haired woman said. Arm extended, hand pointed down as if to push me away, she stepped back.
Taken aback I stuttered, “I’m sensitive too.” What’s wrong with being sensitive? Knowing nothing of the American Indian Movement, I had asked which she preferred: “Indian” or “Native American.”
“How can we understand each other if we don’t ask questions?” I was really trying to understand. Or at least I thought I was.
“I’m tired of this conversation,” she replied, “It’s so ‘common.’”
“Do you have any grandchildren?”, I pivoted. Too little too late. The conversation was over.
Pushed by the wind, I scuffed my Birkenstock way back down Media Hill — so-called because you could get the strongest cell single on it. Under a gloomy sky so unlike the previous day’s hopeful blue, I walked to the Oceti Sakowin Camp’s main gathering area. I sat down on a white metal bench, my back to the Direct Action Principles.
Direct Action Principles posted at the Oceti Sakowin Camp
To my left — the kitchen tent where volunteers prepared meals. To its left — a white refrigerator truck. In front of me — a smoky fire — one of many smoky fires scattered throughout the camp. You could smell them day and night. On the far side of the fire — a dirt stage and sound equipment.
The night before I had danced around the fire to honor three members of a Canadian tribe who had traveled over 7,000 miles to support their southern brothers and sisters. A bent but not broken old man, white ponytail, cacky pants and green long-sleeved button down shirt, set the pace.
There was no dancing this late grey afternoon, just dinner prep. A man in his thirties sat down to my right. He wore a black New York Yankees baseball cap, black long-sleeved t-shirt, grey sweatpants under long blue basketball shorts, diamond studs.
“I’m John,” he said, offering his hand. He was Rosebud Sioux from South Dakota.
“I don’t know why I’m here,” he began. “I guess I just wanted to see it with my own eyes.”
“Me too,” I replied.
” — I ask people what they want to come from being here,” he continued, “how they want this whole situation to resolve itself. Most can’t tell me.”
I mentioned the pipeline workers, their kids and mortgages. They needed to work to support their families, just like everyone else. John agreed. He liked to look at all sides of an issue. But he wasn’t always like this he said. When he was 25 years old, he almost went to prison.
John and his brother got black-out drunk one night and stole and burned a man’s van. After spending time in Reservation Jail, the Federal authorities came for John two years after the crime. “The Federal Government has jurisdiction on Indian lands,” he told me. I didn’t know that. “I was facing 20 years in a Federal prison.”
“It was 2006,” he said, dark eyes going back to that moment of deepest, darkest despair. “It was around 1:30 AM. I was on my knees, scared to death. I didn’t want to go to prison. Please don’t let me go to prison I cried over and over again. And then a sense of total calm came over me. I felt His Grace and Mercy. The Creator saved me that morning.”
John wrote letters to the van’s owner, the judge, his mother — begging for forgiveness. Freed, he vowed to be the best man he could be. “I’m not perfect but I do my best,” he said.
John’s search for The Truth began that day. He read the Bible three times, quoting passages to me. He asked religious men — medicine men, priests, pastors — to explain The Creator, the Creation Story. He got different answers from each. “There should be One Truth,” he said. “One Truth.”
I didn’t talk much, just listened.
“You should read ‘Crazy Horse’ by Joseph Marshall,” he said. “I had to read it twice to really understand it.”
“Thank you,” I said as John finished his story, “I will. Thank you for talking with me,” I added. “I was feeling a little down. I offended a woman earlier today.”
“That’s not hard to do here,” he said, smiling. And then he was gone.
Intending to stay at least another week, between the lack of Internet which was being jammed — 4G yesterday, 3G and 1X today — the 30- to 40-mile-per-hour winds and vicious rains which slammed into Pegasus’s 16 tons, and the unpredictable energies carried on the wind like smothering smoke, I left camp the next day.
I couldn’t stay. This wasn’t my place.
Even though I’m back in Deming, New Mexico, my Heart remains up north. I send Big Love and Light to All in accordance with The Highest Good.
Love will prevail.