My heart is in Standing Rock, even as my body is in my warm, comfortable, safe apartment outside Dallas.
My heart is on the prairies of North Dakota, so very like the prairies of southeastern South Dakota where I grew up, the prairies that knew me and which carry my stories and the stories of my family.
My heart is with the Missouri River, the mighty river that runs through my hometown and in which I have swum, fished, floated, and frolicked. The river that nurtures my prairies, and which nurtures her people.
My heart is with the protectors, those I know personally and those who I will never meet but with whom I feel a deep kinship because their feet walk the same prairies that made me who I am.
My heart is in Standing Rock, but I cannot go.
I have been saying that, if it were three years ago when I was a footloose freelancer, I would have been in the camp on the banks of the Missouri months ago. That I wish I could be there, that I would be there but for the full-time job that keeps me here in Texas.
But the more I reflect, the more I know that it is not my place to be in Standing Rock right now. I’ve been reading troubling reports of White activists, including some from my own spiritual community, coming into the protectors’ camps and taking up far too much space, talking far too much and listening far too little, stomping on sacred ground with colonizer and White Savior mindset. And while I know — or at least I think I know — that I would not engage in this behavior, that I know better — I also know that I cannot be there.
It is not my place to go to Standing Rock, no matter my love for those prairies, that river, those people.
It is my job to be here. It is my job to keep boosting the voices of the Native media, and of the protectors on the ground, as I have been doing since the summer. Most of my friends — and many of their friends — have told me that the first and only news they had of what was happening in Standing Rock was through my Facebook news feed, long before the national and international media started covering it. While I sometimes feel like a keyboard warrior, I know that sharing that information is one of the most powerful things I can do as a White woman and a child of those prairies.
It is my place to donate money, for supplies and to help those who need to be at Standing Rock. Donating money, rather than items or supplies, is most helpful — the protectors are drowning in items that have been donated but which they cannot use. The medic and healer camp needs herbs, milk of magnesia (for treating tear-gassed eyes), and supplies. The sub-zero Dakota winters will soon settle in, and there’s a desperate need for cold weather gear and equipment.
When I feel helpless looking at the violence and human rights abuses at Standing Rock, I remember that I am in a place to help, even if I am not on that sacred ground.
My heart is in Standing Rock. All the way from Texas.