Blessings and Greetings to each and every one of you. It’s a great honor to be able to speak to you today. I live on the Rez, in South Dakota. I come from there to here. Over a year ago, in August, I was invited to Standing Rock by Dave Archambault, the tribal chairman of Standing Rock. Today, Standing Rock is Everywhere.
I never thought in my whole life that our travels to Standing Rock would be a life-changing experience for me, in my leadership role. Today, I am traveling all over the world talking about who we are as First Nations, that Mother Earth is the source of life, not a resource.
On September 21st 2017, we went back to Standing Rock. I was one of the speakers there, for the reunion meeting, with a lot of people who had been there, talking about what happened at Standing Rock. The sadness. But at the same time, we felt that Standing Rock is living everywhere in the whole world.
Over the last 100 years, a lot of people didn’t know the Native People existed, on the reservations and everywhere. The old A.I.M. leaders talked about it during the early 70’s, when that movement was going on: Red Power, Black Power, women trying to find their voice. In our tradition there is a balance between men and women. I’ve been to a lot of events in Washington and Canada where Native women are turning up missing or abused. The White Buffalo Calf Woman brought this medicine. We have a lot of respect for women. We stand shoulder to shoulder to respect that sacred fire. Mni Wiconi. Water is Life.
Over a year ago, we went to Standing Rock. We set up what we call an Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) – a spiritual camp – tepees in the center where the pipe-keeper sits. That’s my position. I never thought in my life I would take that position. The elders said it is over 100 years since the Seven Council Fires of the Lakota met together in this way. What got us together was Mni Wiconi.
It was the youth who came to Dave Archimbault and said: “We want to protect the water. We heard about the Black Snake coming, which is the Dakota Access Pipeline. To build it is going to disturb our land and our burial grounds where we set up Oceti Sakowin.
We listened to our chiefs, and followed their leadership with how we do our ceremonies, and we shared our feelings about what’s about to happen at Standing Rock. We know in our hearts that this is a beginning. We signed a peace treaty with the US Government. I know as a spiritual person, I don’t want to talk about the president.
We see many signs: Stand with Standing Rock. Songs come into my mind about “Going to Boston.” To all the people who came to Standing Rock, I’d like to say “Thank you.” All the people who donated the straw bales, I never knew they came from here.
Every day in Council, our job is to maintain peace. Every day something was happening. That’s a job: to maintain peace. It’s kind of hard. What has happened (with the completion of the pipeline) really affected us spiritually, physically and mentally. We were addressing in council what is happening to Mni Wiconi – Water is Life – and what will be our place in the world today.
I felt in one year what we were trying to do in the last 20 years going back to our sacred sites, talking about what is happening to our land and water: Standing Rock really put us into the spotlight. There were 300 flags of Nations flying at Standing Rock. People from all over the world came to Standing Rock, bringing a lot of prayers.
At one point, I remember when the police were plowing through our gravesites. It was the women who ran ahead to stop the plows. The security forces brought dogs. They were riding horses. I remember some of the elders talking about what a warrior is when we ask you to stand up, to stand up through good times through hard times. We call upon our people to stand up
We invite all people to stand with us. But if you can’t be a warrior, you should take your family and go home and pray for us, for what we are going to face. It’s going to be hard. We can’t really say what will happen.
Over the last 100 years, we’ve been through a lot of massacres. In the 80’s, Virgil Kills Deer had a dream. 1986 I joined the ride and became the spiritual leader of the Big Foot Riders (retracing the path of Chief Big Foot to from Standing Rock to Wounded Knee in the winter of 1890). On the reservation we don’t have many horses left. The spirit of this ride was meant to heal. We slept out in the open, in the cold winter, enduring subzero temperatures. We talked about the journey that they made in the 1890s, chased by the cavalry. I never knew I was related to Chief Big Foot until then. In our lives, all of us tried to hide all the pain and the suffering. We are not the only ones. Many nations of the world have endured massacres.
In 1990, I prayed that there would be no more Wounded Knees in the world. I never talked to a lot of people until that ride. In four years’ time I was speaking at the United Nations and in the peace mission to Baghdad.
There was a time when I was very young, after I became the sacred bundle keeper (19th generation keeper of the White Buffalo Medicine Pipe Bundle.) at the age of 12. We lived with no running water, no electricity. My first language was Lakota. I remember my language, my culture and my people. Time moves so fast. As I speak to you today, Honor Sacred Spaces Day, June 21st: International Holiday, at the United Nations and all over the world. (Applause)
The old ones have many medicine, spiritual names, and new names. Maybe someday we can change them back to their spiritual names. That’s the way my life has gone. That water is sacred. Land is sacred. Sacred fire. Now, now is the time to carry that message.
Here is a story I want to share. Our ways were outlawed. You wouldn’t really talk about our ceremonies. Dark times. When I was very young, we had electricity. My father bought a black and white TV. It was the early 70’s. My mother encouraged us to watch the cartoons. But we were not really into that. We were into riding horseback. She was into “As the World Turns.”
I remember one night I went to sleep, half awake. I was watching TV. Someone touched the screen (and the screen cracked open). All of a sudden, people were standing side by side and the Earth was turning. It opened up and all these people were standing there, holding hands. It happened maybe six times.
I told my father about that dream. I saw a fire in the center (of the Earth) When you ask something, in our tradition it takes a few days or months, maybe a few years. In our way, you don’t try to make things happen. You pray about it.
In 1994, in Janesville, Wisconsin, the first white buffalo calf was born. We went there and did our ceremonies. In our prophecies, it is said a lot of white animals will be born. Now, almost every year white buffalo calves are born.
From here on you are going to see Earth changes. The winds changing; earthquakes happen where they never happened before. What we are faced with in this world is that man has gone too far. We are going to see these things much sooner than further on down the road. We are going to see these things. Wild fires on the West Coast. We witness Mni Wiconi at Standing Rock. We witness the volcanoes.
These are warnings. Because we warned that someday you would create that which you can’t control. And that day is here. So we, as spiritual people, we go back to ceremony. We often know what’s going to happen in the future if we don’t straighten up.
When I was 12 years old my grandmother passed on the sacred bundle. It is not something that is passed on by vote. Spirit elders tell us. And the spirit elders said, “If the people don’t straighten up then he shall be the last sacred bundle keeper.” I never joined the military. I never used foul language. I go to sacred sites.
Sacred fire and Mni Wiconi. When these two came together, they brought the sacred energy of creation. Since then the sacred sites have existed like a church, a school. The pictograms are where people go to spirit quest, but in our dreams, our visions, we always know the spirit. But we also know the 7th generation. As we come back to Sitting Bull’s land – Standing Rock – let’s put our minds together and see what we can make for our children.
These are some of the words we heard at Standing Rock. As we stand together at Standing Rock, no one person is leader in the circle. That circle is bigger now – the hoop of the world. We’re all one: the winged ones, the things that fly and crawl and swim. The old ones say only the rocks and trees – the Earth can talk.
The Great Spirit gave us the sacred land not to own but to take care of. Take care of our medicine plants, and the animals. When we came here, we came with nothing, and we leave with nothing. We have to take care of that – the spiritual. We have to do good. It makes a circle. If you do wrong it comes back to you twice. It’s a circle. If you do good it comes back to you twice.
I know about the ceremony. We have to honor the spirit. When the child is born, the old ones talk about the tepee is a vortex to sun and moon and stars – the star knowledge. I hope someday we can teach our language in that school, and in community colleges. Sitting Bull said: “Take the Good and Leave the Bad.” Some try to use the education system today. But we still maintain our culture and language: that’s who we are. We use our tobacco to talk to the trees, the sacred fire, and water of life. Like you have today.
That’s really beautiful to know that each and every one of you have helped us by standing together with Standing Rock. And now Standing Rock is everywhere. I know that the women up here have worked very hard and laid the groundwork for us to speak here, so I’d like to say, “Thank You for doing that.”
At Standing Rock, we were talking about Mni Wiconi, and the elders talked about the Tree of Life and about here on Turtle Island, our sacred ways. We take care of the heart of Mother Earth, with neighboring tribes, the Arapaho and Cheyenne. We do ceremonies at the Black Hills.
Those of you who never went there should go to South Dakota. It’s a beautiful place. It’s shaped like a heart – the Black Hills. They took a picture (a satellite photo) – this heart – all the rivers and the sacred mountains look like an open heart when you fast forward it. We do ceremonies there. It looks like the heart is pumping. Maho Paha – call it that from now on.
I grew up with songs, with traditions, with ceremonies. We share that when our people come to the Black Hills. In Standing Rock we talked about the Tree of Life, our ceremonies. Mother Earth has the same amount of water as the Sundance Tree and our bodies. It’s the sacred heart – the Black Hills. It looks like a tree from satellite views. We have that tree in our heart.
When a child is born we ask the medicine man to pray with us over the afterbirth. Open it and it’s a tree. At Standing Rock we said this river will affect all people that drink from Mni Wiconi. From satellite view, on Turtle Island all the rivers are connected. It’s a big tree. We’re going to make this Turtle Island Great Again! By respecting ourselves and our water and Mother Earth. It is a very beautiful time – the changing of the four seasons.
People died and went to the spirit world. Some came back to tell us. A lot of our people are not going to the spirit world; their spirits are still stuck here. They died in some tragedy, or from drugs or alcohol.
Be spiritual. Complete the circle by honoring the water of life, the tree of life. We are all part of it. The Great Spirit. We follow the Great Spirit. So – no fracking. No GMO food. We need to live in peace. War is not good. We must stay in peace.
The old ones always remind us that peace starts in your heart. Every day, get up in a good mind. You have to take care of yourself. If something is bothering you, take care of it. It’s not healthy. Take care of it. Pray about it. Give it to the creator.
Like the spirit of the Buffalo, we always have to go forward, all through time. As spiritual people, we are all part of the great circle of life. The Great Spirit would never give you something you can’t handle. As we gather together here together to talk about Standing Rock. It’s a whole way of life we are going back to. A way of prayer. Thank you very much. Aho.
Abundant gratitude to David Detmold, who biked to Standing Rock last year, for his transcription of this address, which was edited for Servant Song.