Perhaps what I miss the most is being referred to as “Warrior”:
“Warriors protect your sisters. Protect your aunts and grandmothers. Form a line to surround them in prayer. Hold the line, warriors!”
“Warriors form up. We’ll build a fire for the women’s sweat. A big fire. Be in prayer as you build this fire. Think of the women in your life. Think of the women you love. Hold them in your heart as you gather wood. Hold them there as you chop it. This whole ceremony is a prayer. After the fire is built, you’ll stand guard over your sisters. Make sure no one comes in to disrupt the ceremony. Make sure no one is gawking or taking photos. Make sure the women feel safe, so they can be in prayer. Make sure the fire is healing.”
“Warriors! Don’t leave anyone behind. You need to watch out for your elders. Make sure you offer them a hand to get back to safety. Your duty is to protect your elders. To protect your sisters. To protect the future generations. Warriors! Be strong! Protect life!”
My inner Aries, God of War, already feeling greatly encouraged with an ax in my hand, swinging at the logs, building camp fires, and living a rugged simple life, smiling to be referred to in this way, empowered by a culture of strength.
Though, one day, an elder revealed “The Warrior” in Lakota culture is not so much a person who goes out onto the battlefield, ensnared by a cycle of bloodshed, but instead is a person who is heavy with heart, feeling all things, and following the flow of life through their veins, protecting those around them, recognizing the sacredness of life and how the heart’s ability to love is the only way to restore balance, when darkness has overtaken the light.
It is this second definition of Warrior that I felt the strongest while camped out with fellow Water Protectors in North Dakota, defending the Sacred Waters of over 32 million people downstream, living off the land in a community strengthened by Love. There are plenty of days where the weight of my heart caused tears in my eyes. I would weep by the river I stood near to defend. Other days, I was overwhelmed by so much hope and love, my whole body glowed from the embrace of this inner warmth. Inside myself, I felt a peace of action. Doing right by my being.
Daily, I felt my Celtic origins coming to the surface. My Irish ancestry mystified by the land on which I lived to protect. Earth which lived to give a foundation to my community. A balance of Mother and Steward. My Pagan heart warming me through Grandmother Winter’s onset of cold, a lesson of humility, while Grandfather River flowed by increasingly charged by our prayers, to which an elder said:
“We drink this water, DAPL drinks this water, the police drink this water. We are all drinking this water that we’ve put so much prayer into. Eventually, these waters will be so full of prayer, they will be unable to resist. The conflict will resolve itself. The people of this land will be healed. The scars on the Mother will be replaced by a harvest shared by all. A coming together of all people will be celebrated. Water is Life will be the refrain.”
I met some of the bravest, most creative, inspiring, strong people during my time at Standing Rock. They came from all generations and backgrounds. Something pulled at their hearts and brought them there. Some traveling thousands of miles and across vast landscapes and even oceans. Over 500 flags from over 500 indigenous nations displayed in the wind, proudly. These Water Protectors each from a long line of warriors, using their hearts to defend the sacredness of life.
This battle is ongoing.
It will spread to each of our communities.
Everywhere it spreads, be sure there will be Warriors there to carry Love in their Hearts.
Enough Love to Protect Life.
No Spiritual Surrender.