January 1, 1970

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Standing Rock Reservation. North Dakota. USA

TREES PLANTED

Meet April Robertson, a woman whom I’ve never actually met! I am friends with her mother, artist Deb Johnston and have never had the opportunity to meet her fabulous daughter. When Deb showed me this photo of April, I was overwhelmed.   April1   I asked April a few questions and she was kind enough to respond. This woman is amazing. Why did you go to Standing Rock? The journey of embarking on Standing Rock, North Dakota was an easy one.  Directionless with nowhere to be, passionate about this issue that I had both been following closely for months. I felt fiercely unafraid & incredibly overwhelmed by the events taking place in North Dakota. To put it simply I felt called. I felt a responsibility. I felt a duty and it seemed necessary that in my position I answer to all of those things. To stand with the Lakota Sioux people, with people from all walks of life, with our brothers and sisters alike, with our foes, with the land, with our beliefs, with our actions and with complete solidarity. To peacefully fight a battle that was in the best interests of every person who has feet upon this earth and water in their bodies. April3 Why do you care? I care for a monumental amount of reasons. I care because basic human rights were in violation in a number of ways and it seemed in no way that this was coming to a halt but only worsening, I for one did not feel content with ignoring this. Despite difference in hemispheres, blood, colour of skin, culture, appearance, the native people fighting this battle are my family, my friends and I will not be segregated from them or their difficulties. I will not turn my back on them because our realities are vastly different, I will join them and I will support them because of the common truths we do share. People’s voices, rights, beliefs and cultures were being suppressed. I cared because our earth was being harvested irresponsibly for the short term, for financial gain, for a resource that simply will not last forever. The practise of sustainability was being completely disregarded along with the honour and respect of the earth, the land and its longstanding sacred and cultural ties to Native Americans. An authoritarian & tyrannical government was hiding behind democracy freely exercising their brutality and finding every possible avenue to skew the perspective of the majority and cover their tracks. I cared because I want a sustainable, clean, free, nurturing, safe and respected world for all our generations to come. And most of all I want a planet for them to stand on in harmony. What was your most memorable moment? There is a particular moment that stands out in my experience. It was during some of the last days spent at Standing Rock. Due to a series of volatile and violent events spanning over the previous weeks, law enforcement had setup a barricade lined with razor wire, concrete blockades and flood lights on the Backwater bridge near to the Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. It was here that most of the front line actions and peaceful protests were taking place. Although there had been an array of war zone like conflict erupting at this point in the previous 2 weeks prior upon the native Sioux people and the supporters of the Standing Rock movement. Due to this there was a constant police presence there, ensuring that no one could or would attempt to cross the barricade and if anyone was to even get close to the barricade, you could fear for your life and for your freedom. Over the hill from the Backwater Bridge barricade, just out of sight, is where the Dakota access oil pipeline build was taking place and being prepared to be placed under the Missouri River, a precious water source for the Sioux people and a precious resource of our world. On this particular day, the Dakota Law Enforcement had announced that no one was to proceed to be on the Backwater bridge at all. We were advised that if we were to cross that line we would be fired upon and arrested by authorities. I was walking with a friend to the Backwater Bridge arm in arm, with a colourful kite flying high behind us, to stand in prayer, to observe and to for me to have a moment of coming to peace before leaving the Camps. We were mere metres away from the authorities at the barricade, burnt out trucks and debris still lay scattered all over the road and we along with two elders sitting in peaceful prayer were the only ones on the bridge. Over megaphones we were advised to retreat to the south side of the bridge and not precede any closer. A change in wind forced our kite to fly and fall on the opposite side of the bridge, the side lined with armoured trucks and guards still. They were on high alert and somewhat startled by the kite. We walked towards the barrier, with our hands raised above our heads to show we were of no threat. We spoke loudly to authorities that we were simply proceeding to retrieve the kite and kindly asked that it be returned. They allowed us to walk to the front. Once there, we were greeted by a group of around 5 heavily armed riot police. They gave us back what we had asked for and in that moment we couldn’t refrain from a whirlwind of emotions taking over. With tears streaming from our faces, with the other elders standing back from the barricade watching the situation unfold, we asked the police how and why they were allowing this atrocity to go ahead. We spoke calmly and peacefully, we spoke human to human for a moment amongst the chaos. In that moment I felt incredibly overwhelmed, I wanted to say a million things and I found myself clutching at words. Face to face with people defending the cruelty of this earth, the inhumane treatment of human beings, what were meant to be the protectors were the feared and here we were standing right in front of them with the opportunity to say something. It was painful, it was raw, it was deeply unnerving. I asked questions with answers to no avail. I was greeted with ignorant responses and justifications to the disaster that they were fighting to allow. Complete belief that the pipeline was the answer. Disconnection from the consequences and a short-term perspective. However I could see and feel something in their eyes when they looked at us and heard us speak of the water, of the earth, of the people and why we were here. Something strong and something powerful. Something they couldn’t quite understand. Maybe regret, maybe uncertainty, maybe compassion. I remember one of the officers turning to me and saying “we are here to protect you” and in response I ended it with “I am here to protect the water the and the people and if you were here to protect me you wouldn’t be standing there behind the concrete, you’d be standing by my side. We wouldn’t be frightened of you but we are”- it was the truth and he felt it. Upon reflection this was where I came to. We are one, we feel the same emotions and nothing will ever divide us, only the barriers we create within our own reality. Violence breeds violence and so on and its time to change this existence of ‘us & them’ and share this earth in unity. I wish I had of said a million more things in this moment as I walked away from them but what was said was almighty and of great teaching to us both. In the words of one of my sweetest friends, ‘if you sit and watch the seeds you have planted waiting for them to grow you lose the opportunity to plant more seeds’. I pray that the seed will be planted from standing Rock where next time we meet, we have no limitations, concrete, uniforms or guns between us and we have water that runs clean and freely not black with oil and tainted with greed. MNI WICONI (WATER IS LIFE) A seed was planted, that I am grateful for. April2 What’s next? Education, action, transition and change. Paired with patience & understanding. Things will not change overnight. But we as a human race have a responsibility to care for our world & its inhabitants. We have somewhere along the way disconnected from that responsibility and that commitment to become a very selfish species. It will take a big sense of re-programming attitude, behaviours, deeply rooted systems and societies on a collective and individual level. That is not impossibility and I see it happening now and in the past. We are laying the foundations of change and beginning to rebuild, piece by piece. ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————- Thank you. Slàinte – Colleen

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