It was the last one.
Ninety eight years ago; a relatively short time in the history of our World.
Ninety Eight years ago on January 9, 1918 the very last of the “Indian Wars” occurred on American soil. It was the last time the United States Government would actively engage in battle with the “enemy combatants”…the Native Americans. Until Wounded Knee in 1973.
Those same Native Americans, those whose roots went back more than 20,000 years began the fight for their land, their water and their lives in 1492.
For four hundred and twenty six years, the same battle had played out. Across the country. Across the Indian Nations. Across the generations. For 426 years the original inhabitants of this country fought to preserve their ancestral lands and way of life.
Hunting lands. Lands where they would gather and sing. Lands where young lovers would grow old and rest together for eternity. Lands where young warriors would die. Proudly. Defiantly.Honorably. Protecting a freedom and a way of life that was no more.
A land where 173 women, children, elders and men would die at the hands of a man named John Chivington at Sand Creek. A man who said, “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! … I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God’s heaven to kill Indians. … Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.”
For 426 years, they fought. It seemed a losing battle. Maybe it was. Time would press on, people would die, wounds would heal, children would be born and another 98 years would pass.
Then came an “Indian Uprising”. The kind not seen in hundreds upon hundreds of years. Where indigenous people from across the country…and the entire world would gather. United. Something of a magnitude that had never happened in the history of this country before.
Strong and beautiful women readying to stand boldly for what they know to be right. Men standing proud, long hair brushing behind them, embodying the grace of the warriors who died fighting, so that this generation would live. Children with their ethereal eyes, innocent, yet full of the timeless wisdom of their ancestors. Elders sitting quietly, calmly, as history unfolds once again, as it did in their grandfathers grandfathers time.
Photo Credit: Ev Carrasco
The old ones who had gone before are surely there. In the wind across the plains. In the reeds, slowly twisting as the Missouri river gently flows past, running with the rains of a thousand yesterdays. The elders of generations ago are watching. Smiling. “They are here. Our children have returned.”
This “Indian Uprising”, too, was historic. One would think that the decedents of those who had stolen the land would be targeted. But they were not. One might think that the children’s children from that long ago time would be fighting for their great, great, great grandparents land. But they were not. One might even think that they came to fight an old fight, perhaps fight to heal old wounds. But they didn’t.
They came together to protect. Collectively, they have traveled millions of miles to gather to protect the children, of the children, of the one’s who had murdered their way across Indian country, in the name of Manifest Destiny. They came to protect the descendants of those who had watched but stood by silently as the atrocities happened all those generations ago. The “Indians” came to protect them all.
They came to protect their own children, and their grand children. They came to protect the future. They came to protect the river. The Nation. The planet.
They came to protect the water.
They came to protect the water so that all life has a chance. They came to stop a black snake from long ago Lakota prophecy. A black snake prophecy that reads, “When the black snake comes across our land, our world will end.”
The black snake has come.
And so have the warriors.
They have come to protect the River. The river that millions of people of every color in this Nation depend on. They have come to protect us all.
The Police too have came and riot police with them. The National Guard too. They came with rifles and handcuffs. The company sent private security and dogs. They came to protect the Black Snake. They have come to rid the land of the unruly Indians. Again.
This time is different. A million eyes are watching.
Watching as a peaceful gathering works to potentially save millions of people who would be affected should the Pipeline fail. And they do fail. Pipelines, dams, levys and rigs…they all have failed at times. Engineering and human creativity are awesome! They are also not guaranteed. What IS guaranteed is what would happen IF it does suffer a failure. We’ve seen it. Exxon Valdez. Deepwater Horizon. Just to name two of a great many. We are human. We make mistakes. Systems do fail. Then so do the communities and environments impacted.
The “indians” have gathered in North Dakota. From tribes across this great country, to protect us all. To protect their children, my children, our children. The future.
They have come to protect the water.