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Rapid City Community Conversations
Healing and Transformation
~ Mary Burrows
Author's note: By the time the reader enjoys this story,
circumstances at Standing Rock will have changed.
The meeting took place at Community Action Program
(CAP) building in Rapid City on 28 October 2016. Linda
Edel, long-time director of CAP had just that week begun her Journey.
Following a potluck, and after attendees had shared the values they had brought with them (most mentioned was 'hope') to the Conversation, facilitator LaMoine LaPointe began by encouraging all who wished to share memories and tributes to Linda Edel, friend to many and champion for all, with an encompassing dream of the future. Through many tears, we all learned about Linda's generosity and dedication.
The major focus of the Conversation that day was the protest movement ongoing at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, where protesters were known as Water Protectors.
Chas Jewett, local activist, gave a first-hand account of being on the front lines of the action, which she described as “intense.”
Protectors were constantly aware of “the cloud of violence just over the hill.” Infiltrators were present in the camps, which led to mistrust of strangers. The same day as the Conversation, a man wearing a bandanna, disguised as a Protector, drove his pickup into Oceti Sakowin camp and fired a rifle. It was revealed that he was actually a security employee of pipeline interests.
Protectors were surrounded by tanks and high-powered weapons. When the front-line camp was raided (because they were occupying private land), the raiders used tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray, along with beating the People with batons. The camps were buzzed by helicopters flying at 50 feet. Raiders even started a prairie fire in order to subdue and arrest the People.
Water Protectors at Red Warrior Camp were professional resistors, and may or may not have been armed, but the People themselves were unarmed. They had formed a great, unprecedented alliance of over 100 tribes to protect the Sacred Water.
“A lot of what goes on [in the camps] is guided by ceremony,” Jewett said. “We are feeding our Ancestors with constant prayer. The Spirits and the 'little people' are with us. The violence is super scary, but I am unapologetically at Standing Rock. What is happening there is connected to what we started here [in Rapid City]. The world is paying attention!” (The arrival of satellite dishes at Standing Rock had finally signaled the presence of the media.)
LaPointe continued to draw the connection between Rapid City and Standing Rock: “What is happening now at the Cannonball River is a community struggling to emerge. Values are at the center of the Conversations and essential in developing a new community. We were dissatisfied by the ways People were treated in Rapid City. The Community grew tired of the violations of their civil and human rights, the losses of life, and the dis-respecting of their children. In our innate goodness, we pushed back. Standing Rock is a microcosm of what is happening here.”
There is an on-going world-wide Indigenous awakening, and people throughout the world have become aware of what is happening here. The Community Conversations have begun the impetus for the changes that are happening in Rapid City and beyond.
“It is important that we transfer our knowledge to the young people,” Sandra said, “so they can re-connect with who they are.”
Progress on He Sapa Otipi was discussed. Dr. Craig Howe, Native American architect, has suggested that there be a competition among Native architects to design the building. In the interim, Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender has provided rent-free office space at 520 Kansas City Street until the Otipi is built.
The space will serve as a resource center and also as a base for Gene Tyon's non-profit addiction program that works with youth on an outpatient and aftercare basis. Gene is planning to apply as a 501c3 entity, but currently lacks the funds needed to submit the application.
Jane Murphy gave the joyful news that He Sapa Otipi had been asked by the Ludwick Family Foundation to apply for—and subsequently receive—a grant, based upon the friendship between Sharon Ludwick Warner and Chas Jewett and in honor of Chas' activism work in the community. The $98,000 grant is for one year.
The Black Hills Powwow Parade was “very well organized” this year and “presented a positive appearance to the community” with 57 floats and 14 dignitaries. Lunch was also served following the “fantastic and well-attended” event.
During one of the earliest Conversations, a young man chided the group to “do something” instead of just talking. As a result, an apple orchard was planted and is thriving in a location near the CAP office. There was mention of placing a marker in memory of Linda Edel among the apple trees and of, perhaps, another orchard.
“The challenges in North Dakota are the same as we encounter here,” LaMoine summarized. “Every community needs values. We will be successful because of innate goodness, positive mind, and our values. Begin now the community you want to be in the future.”
Photo Credit: Mary Burrows