Reweaving the Dawn
Part II of the Anishinaabe Sojourn
Sunrise, as you enter the houses of everyone here, find us.
We struggled with a monster and lost.
Our bodies were tossed in the pile of kill.
We were ashamed and we told ourselves for a thousand years,
We didn’t deserve anything but this
And one day, in relentless eternity, our spirits discerned movement of prayers
Carried toward the sun.
And this morning we are able to stand with all the rest
And welcome you here.
We move with the lightness of being, and we go
Where there’s a place for us. —Joy Harjo
5:00 am June 7. On this day we move into action. I wrote in my journal. It’s too early for my groggy brain. What the hell? Am I throwing myself over a cliff- who do I think I am? I’m a hobo rolling over many miles. …500 miles, 500 miles, 500 miles, Lord I’m 500 miles away from home… What can I do to stop the onslaught of Enbridge’s embedded system of oil extraction, oil sludge, transport, oil refineries, slip-slop coverage with the endless leaks? I and a caravan of Water Protectors are rising before the sun this Monday to descend on Hwy 7 near Park Ridge to stop an Enbridge water pump station.
Sunrise, as you enter the houses of everyone here, find us… It’s a good thing I promised my RiseaTeam to do this action. Forty of us have practiced for two full days how to lock-down and stop the machines. The Ojibwe Giniw Collective strategize on Enbridge. My mossy fog fades when I see 20 college-age folks filling water bottles grinning and stumbling. As Larry* sits their lanky body on a sofa, I notice the bright red painted toenails . I close my journal — my resolve to resist has returned.
And one day, in relentless eternity, our spirits discerned movement of prayers…
Am I a Water Protector? I take a sip of mint tea as people sit up and roll up their sleeping bags. I am trying to allow the Anishinaabe people to live fully. The Indigenous people and allies living in this area are the true Protectors. Several people line up in front of the bathroom. Most eyes are unfocused. Tea is so warm. Thanks for water. My partner Rema is packing her bag. Thanks for Rema, for everyone. This work to block the Tar Sands pipelines allows me the privilege of being a Repairer.
of prayers carried toward the sun…
I’m not a Protector. As a settler from Massachusetts, I live on property stolen from Wampanoags. Nor am I here out of guilt. I rest my bed and hearth on Wampanoag land. I’m sojourning in Anishinaabe land to repair the way the US government steals land over and over. Today I will dig my feet into the land and say to Enbridge. STOP. Go no further.
Didn’t Gandaff block the Balrog, saying “You May not Pass?” I will invoke this resolute way to block an evil. Samson fought Philistines, David eliminated Goliath, Harriet Tubman defied the evil of slavery.
We struggled with a monster and lost.
7:30 am I walk to the source of evil to stop Enbridge as a part of the web of Protection. I put my body in the way of the poison deliverers. Harjo’s poem sing bitter, Our bodies were tossed in the pile of kill. I will add my stitch to reclaiming the world. My stitch will not repair the centuries of damage, just one rent in the world’s cloth. Stopping industry is not a sweet prayer of petition. It is real body and soul prayer. Standing down Enbridge’s machines will be a step, an anchor in the storm, a blossom on the apple tree. I dress in long sleeves, sandals, with tons of water. I am sooo ready. Like the Chippewa prayer song — Hear the voice of my song — it is my voice. I speak to your naked heart.
8:00 am With wafts of heat already circling the grasses. I am locked-down with Grandma Rema in front of a fishing boat, called Good Trouble. Rema, a Lakota elder, finally agreed to a chair low to the ground so we could last in the sun several hours. Denali and Gala raised a banner emphasizing importance of Relatives, not Resources, Luz hung a five-foot blue sturgeon from a pole. Our outpost in the midst of the construction was a beautiful oasis. Color. Life. Singing.
The construction site is .3 miles down the road. I saw a few Enbridge jeeps driving out the gate and bushwhack rapidly to the highway. Why did they hightail out of range? The cowards- doesn’t Enbridge know after 6 months of direct action that Water Protectors openly commit to nonviolence? Even name-calling isn’t allowed in our discipline. The 100 or so workers disappear.
8:30 am NV affinity groups flood on foot through the front gates. Rema and I are super attentive. Most names are obscured for security in case detectives nab our data/ conversations. I’m a white cis-gender person 65 years old. I am bloated with privilege, and I don’t want my acts to harm (Zee Gods!) any Water Protectors. I balance silence with truth. Am I holding counsel, or acting bold? I am a Repairer accepting the security culture.
Two black figures in tights and hooded caps leap from the highway through the pasture. The two in tandem swing left across a sloping meadow. I almost saw a sword brandished as a yelp cried out. Another pair leap from the highway carrying a ladder. The Ninja runners slip through some rabbit hole and head into the compound. A ten-foot ladder mounts the fence. They are reclaiming this Enbridge fortress. Love and Nonviolence remap the meridians.
The tactic to overtake the Enbridge pump station comes off seanlessly. Rema, I and 25 others are locked down near the boat. Another 25 are locked to the machines up the gravel road. The Enbridge work stoppage — a success.
And this morning we are able to stand …The repair begins here.
This land does not belong to the feds or the fat CEOs. It’s not American soil. The lumpy fenced areas have drills, bulldozers, and pumps. Enbridge has illegally committed home demolition to loons, lynx, white pelicans, skunks, and platter-size turtles. The road machines seem in good condition, the ground a dusty wasteland. I take a long slake of water from my Camelback backpack. Of all habitats, Rema and I are just where we should be planted.
9 am June 7 (still) Native people and non-Natives flood the area. Now we are 600 strong, most people move freely- No Enbridge employees, no police, no snakes. The Water Protectors have the day! I have no ID, no cell phone, no cord to electricity. It’s hard for me. I want to record this moment. My body is tense. I have all that I need, I tell myself.
Many people greet us. Jane Fonda comes tagging beside Winona LaDuke. I speak with some Indigenous folk. A tall person dressed in a bright red robe strides. I’m transported as if an elk stood head peering at us. They were a Ogichidaakwe, a holy warrior, with an 8 foot staff with eagle feathers hanging down the sanded sapling. I hardly heard Tara Houske’s greetings (to both of us but mostly to Rema), I was mesmerized as the staff was rolled above our heads. The silent feathers flicked by the breeze, looked like wind chimes that would be heard only if the world stood still. I was under the dome of the holy. Suddenly a breeze swept across my neck. And this morning we are able to stand with all the rest …And welcome you here.
I paid lots of attention to strong Indigenous women who passed by: Tara Houska and Dawn Goodwin, other tribal folx. Bill McKibben honors these women who’ve “waged a stout campaign through a bitter Midwestern winter. Why then has Biden’s government been hoodwinked that the new Pipeline 3 is permissible? Line 3 is the same volume of Tar Sands as the XL Keystone is?” As I sit hours in a northern heat wave, I’m appalled and still stunned that the USA can give subsidies to oil companies. A wave of cheers bounced over the peace encampments when we heard the Keystone pipeline was officially dead, it will not be built.
Rema says this nation lives in a fantasy- How can the US stay in Paris Accords, (aka reach zero carbon emissions) while still gobbling fossil fuels. I shake my head agreeing with Rema. Enbridge’s legitimacy is cemented to many cornerstones of the law of the land. the claim of eminent domain, the papal Doctrines of Discovery and 1850 Swamp Land Act. I join the PeoplesTreatiesGathering which look at all the written laws with Turtle Island nations abandoned by USA. In the name of trade and progress White invaders stomped on the Sauks and Chippewas. In the name of civilization missionaries stole the Ute, Cheyenne, the Lenape children and isolated them in boarding schools. This history drives me to be a Water Repairer.
The feds are feeding Enbridge, the fat Black Snake. I remember many hours reading aloud to my sons Harry Potter’s fight against the dark powers. Line 3 is a Nagina, a serpent led by a dark Lord. All the Tar Sands pipelines Lines 4, 5, and 6 seductively promise more industry, more work, more leisure. But really gas lines are horcruxes tied to Lord Voldemort, our ecocide. I want to share this with Rema who doesn’t hear very well, so I simply tell her, “The Black Snake will eat itself.” She nods vigorously.
I squint and watch young people hauling lumber and coils staging blockades in the road. With a megaphone someone is singing from the front of the boat. The crowd responds Water is life. Mantras don’t always work in our favor, but I nod to the drumbeat. “Water is life. Taa-ta-tum is Life.” Four years ago at Standing Rock we said Mni Wiconi. We are resurrecting another Standing Rock here in Minnesota. I sip water —we’ve good reason to be thirsty.
Many songs float across the reclaimed land. A butterfly emerges from the grass and swerves away from the crowd’s vibration. A new union song with the Spirit of ‘We Shall not be Moved.’ rings over us, We’ve come too far; We won’t turn ‘round.
We’ll flood the streets with justice; We are freedom bound.
9:45 am Grandma Rema and I unfold our legs and unlock from the tube. No police threaten us. Rema wiggles to pull out her right hand and I do the same with my left hand. I meet Gegee and Ronja*. Gegee at 10 is off school today, offers to smudge me with a sage stick. I lift my arms horizontal and the smoke drifts fragrantly. I smile. Gegee in a calico long skirt and T-shirt, looks carefully at my back as she smudges up from my knees to my shoulders. I scoop the holy fragrance up around my scalp and mouth. When I thank her, those solemn eyes give me a glance of generations before her. She moves on to purify Rema, and Ronja tells me of her family. “It’s hot there too… How dry their Pueblo home is…how low the great Colorado River is.” We both wonder whether our gardens will survive. My eyes smart and glisten. Maybe the smudging was strong,
I talk with new friends about parts of colonialism that we hope to reprogram.
- Seeking instant gratification like not waiting in line or hot chocolate after sledding
- Thinking that I deserve the shiniest apple. When I surmount hard tasks, where is my free lunch? In white culture I live expecting people to make me an exception to the rule.
- Competitiveness- when I’m fast in the ticket line, I want the best seat in the house. White culture gives medals or awards to honor the rich, entertainers, athletes.
- Colonialists view water and land as a resource, not a sacred source. Humans think that we are superior to nature. Water protectors see that we’re part of the web.
I pull back thoughts of Oreo cookies and a soda. Yup, I notice that in stress, I want some chewing gum, some fake sensation. This is so colonialist. When can I get a free lunch? It’s not even 11:00. I think of Tara’s eyes, the butterfly, the staff of Ogichidaakwe. Some parts of white culture I don’t need. Am I willing to let go of excess? M&Ms? We move with the lightness of being…
On site people Water Protectors alternate between lock-down with taking long breaks. Sitting in the shade eating chips, many Protectors rest. Simultaneously, I glimpse a new kin-dom under the trees. Someone throws back their head and laughs. This is part of something new. Laughing and new thought patterns are required as we dismantle colonialism. We move with the lightness of being, and we go Where there’s a place for us…
I thank the nearby cottonwood trees. Before I complain about the heat, I remember to throw in other thanks. Thanks to Jo who gave a song, thanks for a sense of safety here. Thanks for the flash of wind on my neck. Rema and I commiserate how long the day is. Maybe a key to locking into web of life is staying low and staying grateful. This lesson will help if I spend hours in a holding cell. Being grateful ushers in grace. Rema lies down curled up on the grass.
Where there’s a place for us.
Part II of three parts. Actual names of Water Protectors are not disclosed.