The Cincinnati Tri-State area Unite in Prayer for Standing Rock

Ohio, United States (RustBelt) – This afternoon at Jacob Hoffner Park in Northside, the American Indian Movement of Indiana and Kentucky with participation from Ohio and  organized by Albert Ortiz, held a prayer vigil to both provide the water protectors with our united strength and to raise awareness of the plight of those at Standing Rock. The event saw many elders and leaders from Indigenous Nations speak out about the cruelty of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Many speakers emphasized the spiritual nature of the fight, renouncing violence in the face of violence from the State.

Normally, when I attend protests or events and report on them, my intent is to be as neutral, yet truthful, as possible. As an activist, my personal spin is present in the fact that I’ve chosen a particular event to discuss here at The Rust Belt Tribune. You’ll note that I have yet to report from the Bilderberg Summit or the Fortune 100’s annual gala (if there is such a thing) or the Neo-Nazis-R-Us Rally. This time, however, I want to discuss how the prayer vigil made me feel. Trust me when I say it’s relevant to the overall report.

It was a beautiful autumn day to spend in a Cincinnati park. The pavilion where the  vigil was held was already full when I arrived shortly after 1pm. Because I felt self-conscious about taking up space, I never even entered the shelter, even when I was invited as a member of Black Lives Matter:Cincinnati or when I was invited by one of the leaders in attendance, Regio Rdz. It just seemed unnecessary for me to want to be in a space where other people needed to be, though this decision did hinder my access to the vigil at times.

There is something about a Native ceremony that both calls to me and makes me realize how divested I’ve become from the earth. The fact that it feels foreign is disconcerting. How is it possible that I, a child of rural America, can feel disconnected? Where did I go wrong? Yet, it does remind me that the concrete and brick and asphalt that surround me are just visitors to this earth, with temporary life spans. Like scabs from wounds, the man made will eventually revert to the natural.

Every prayer that was invoked, every song that was chanted, every word that was spoken, it all was about harmony, peace, love, and spirituality. Those who spoke were very clear that they wanted the power of our love, through prayer, to be what helped guide those in Standing Rock.

One of the elders, who spoke, was a man from Standing Rock named Guy Jones. I’d heard Mr. Jones speak at an earlier anti-DAPL rally a few weeks earlier, so this time I was ready to record his words, which brought me to tears:

“These are gifts that were given to us by a woman. It is the woman,  that is the giver of life. It is the woman, who is our first love. It is the woman, who is our first teacher. This is about feminism. This is about our mother, going back to the beginning, going back to the Earth. The Earth is where we come from, no matter what theology, ideology or belief or religion you have, it all goes back to the origin. And the origin is our Mother. That is important that you keep that in mind.”

Other speakers reminded the audience that the Native culture is a living culture. It is not dead. It is not for archaeologists to pick apart the bones. One man, Chief Matthew Black Eagle Man, told the harrowing story of being sold as a Manitoba Long Plain First Nation into the United States at the age of ten. He was not an elderly man, but a middle-aged man, sold by his “country” for reasons that are inexplicable and inhumane.

Brian Taylor, with Black Lives Matter:Cincinnati reminded those assembled that “water is a commodity. In this system of greed, water is not a priority.”

The overall tone was one of hope, with serious concern as the undertone. Clean water is essential to life. All life on Earth comes from water. We, as humans, cannot exist without clean water both for ourselves and for the plants and animals, which require it to survive. Clean water is a human right, and in the case of the Standing Rock Sioux, their land sits over a large aquifer of clean, pure water. The government has suggested selling the water back to Standing Rock, but why should thy buy something they already “own.” And who really owns water and why is it a commodity in the first place?

 The final message was that winter is coming. The High Plains see wind chills in the -80F range and sustained wind chills in the -60F. They need winter clothing, winter shelters, firewood, food, and money. In addition, you can donate to the Red Owl Legal Fund, which helps water protectors free themselves of felony charges by the state.

To donate to Standing Rock:

This report prepared by Lessa Leigh for The Rust Belt Tribune