Hundreds of protesters and veterans held a “forgiveness ceremony” at Prairie Knights Casino and Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday, one day after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Elders including Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Ivan Looking Horse and Faith Spotted Eagle spoke about the results of Sunday’s momentous decision to deny Energy Transfer Partners an easement to drill under Lake Oahe to complete the disputed pipeline.
Faith Spotted Eagle spoke about how better relationships between veterans and natives can help each other heal from their post-traumatic stress.
“We stand strong with our brothers, our uncles, our fathers,” she said. “[The pipeline] is just one of the things we continue to fight: sterilization of women, the oppression and taking of our children, the Indian Child Welfare Act. As you stand here with us, victims of the holocaust that came, we are so happy that this day has come: this intersect of your PTSD and our PTSD.”
Phyllis Young said the Standing Rock camps are a peaceful movement but “may have to make a move to defend our territory.
“It’s not about war and trauma. We have to cast off that mindset,” she said. “Sitting Bull said to take the best of what they offer and leave the rest behind. We must think about human values more than that of the dollar. The dollar is still drilling under the river.”
Young said that natives have survived incredible odds and are the only people who’ve had an executive order for mass execution.
“We have to move forward with green, renewable energy,” Young said. “But we have to revolutionize the way of life here and that’s the capitalist world … We are sovereign.”
Gen. Wesley Clark Jr., who spoke on behalf of veterans at the forgiveness ceremony, talked about the transgressions of whites during colonialization and in military actions throughout history.
“We took more land. Then we took your children. Then we tried to take your language. We tried to eliminate your language that God gave you—that the creator gave you,” Clark said. “We didn’t respect you. We polluted your earth and hurt you in so many ways. We have come to say that we are sorry. We’re at your service and beg for your forgiveness.”
Leonard Crow Dog, a respected Lakota elder and renowned native rights activist, put his and on Clark’s bowed head and granted forgiveness for crimes against natives. Crow Dog is known for his activism for keeping Lakota traditions alive and uniting all Indian nations as a leader of the American Indian Movement. He has often demanded justice for hate crimes against the Lakota.
“We are Lakota sovereign nation. We have our language to speak. We have persevered as caretakers of this hemisphere,” Crow Dog said. “Honor the Lakota nations. If you don’t honor them, we’re not going to pay no taxes anymore to the Internal Revenue Service.”