COME AS YOU ARE. That is enough. Bring your prayers, bring your helping hands and an open mind. The vision has been written, and if you feel the call, come do your part with an open heart.
I am writing this as a volunteer and good intentioned ally for the people of Standing Rock, the water protectors, and the children who have come to participate in the wonderful school that is being created there. I wanted to share my most honest, humbling and respectful experience, as I understand that there will be many who come to offer their gifts and teachings for the school in the future, I would like to share a few insights for you.
Things are changing all the time at the Standing Rock camps. For me, the greatest lessons learned while coming to Standing Rock was to truly be PRESENT with what was happening in that moment. The ideas and expectations you have about what your experience is going to be like, are good to check in and leave at the door as you enter into the camp. Feel the spirit of the place, and then take it from there. I felt that in my mind, my idea of offering something truly beautiful to the camp (as beautifying the space is necessary amidst the actions happening there), how I wanted it to look like, what I would say to the kids, how we would create it, and my good intentioned fantasy about how I thought it would all go was quickly deflated as I realised that 1.) I had to first find the school as it had moved since Oceti camp had grown, and 2.) be extra considerate of the offerings of teachers already there. Fitting somewhere into the schedule was fine, as the teachers, Theresa, José, and Blaze, were extremely wonderful and accommodating, and as I had arrived during a busy ‘holiday’ weekend, there was an influx of kids as well as people arriving into the camp.
My intention was to bring a prayer to life by creating an indigo natural plant dyed “Water Is Life” fabric sign for the camp, designed together with the kids, and sharing knowledge of this ancient dye craft that so many cultures around the world have used for thousands of years. Indigo blue represents peace in many places around the globe, and as this was my second journey to Standing Rock, I felt an offering such as this was the most appropriate and acceptable ‘artwork’ I could bring on my behalf. As an ally and a guest to this place, and in many Native American traditions, it is customary to introduce yourself by your name, where you come from, and what you are bringing as an offering. As I shared an announcement around the main fire to let people know when we were doing the indigo dyeing at the school, wouldn’t you know it? I forgot to follow that protocol from the start. Not a big deal to most, but in my heart of hearts, it was a lesson for me to remember to slow down, be present and respectful to what I carry, who I am and where I have found myself as a guest on this land. It was actually very empowering to reflect on this after the fact, because it made me realise that we all come from a long line of ancestry, and where we come from matters – it is in the right way to recognise and represent who we are, and truly, people appreciate that.
I was scheduled to offer the workshop to the kids in the late afternoon, and so I arrived to the school a bit earlier than scheduled, and just started creating the sign organically. One by one the kids showed up, bouncing from one activity to another, from circus arts to indigo dyeing, and then someone brought a soccer ball out and everything was fair game. I had several kids at once, although not many, who were incredibly excited to watch this awesome dyestuff turn the fabric from green to blue, wrap up marbles and rubber bands to create little designs all over the sign, get their hands blue and messy in the vats… they loved it! I had two beautiful moms come and help out as well, and some of the kids stayed, some of them left. Eventually, all the kids had gone to play soccer and I was left to finish off the 3 meter fabric sign with the mommas. We had great chats and a beautiful time getting to know each other as we clipped and cut all the rubber bands off of the sign, finishing up the project as the sun started setting. By the time it was nearly eve, I was still working on the last parts of letting the sign dry, it was getting very cold and the sign started getting frozen. I knew it would never dry properly, but I improvised and thought to myself, “You know what. It’s fine. It’s beautiful. Some of the kids came and added their beautiful hands and magic touch to this sign, and my intention was always a prayer, no matter what happens.” (Funny thought process but as an artist and a teacher, I think of these things!)
The next morning we were getting ready to leave the camp, and I dashed over to the school first thing, collected my frozen sign and the streamers we had dyed, went to the top of Media hill, and began tying the sign on the fence. The sun was rising and camp was waking up, smoke from fires and morning mist hovering in the early daylight – it was absolutely stunning. The sun began rising over the hills and I looked at the sign attached to the fence – it was a prayer. It was the good intention that I had set to offer here, and even if not all the kids participated and even if no one had noticed it, it didn’t matter – what mattered is that I held that intention in my heart to offer a bit of peace and beauty to an already beautiful place that is under so much tension from outside forces. We all are moving parts, weaving our way into this blanket as a single thread, offering support and change to this movement.