MANY WAYS OUT OF 'NO WAY' at Standing Rock

Rev. Karen Brammer, Standing Rock, part 7

Of the 9 days I have been here in North Dakota so far, I spent maybe 5 of them across the hall from Rev Karen Van Fossan doing whatever might help her and the congregation do their part. This is a congregation of around 50 members that has risen to the challenge of providing support to the Standing Rock Water Protectors since spring of 2015.
  •  They have been continuously present and reliable as allies to the camp leaders, so much so that they were invited to host the December 4th Interfaith Prayer Service - a deep honor given by Chief Arvol Looking Horse.
  • They have collectively provided a yurt at the camp which has a volunteer house manager, Terry who is taking time off her job to create safe and healing space.
  • They have hosted many, many visitors coming through to witness and work at Standing Rock.
  • They have hosted public education, multiple opportunities for conversation, and are a major drop off point for a steady stream of donations. 
  • They respond to dozens of media requests for information and interviews.
  • They continue to be in conversation with each other and their neighbors, honestly grappling with the complexities of taking a very public, very unpopular stand.
They would never have imagined back in 2015 being able to do all this with so few people! Yet, in collaboration with many partners, they have done so .

One of the things I have heard Rev Karen Van Fossan say is that Oceti Sakowin Camp, over and over becomes something way beyond the capacity of her imagination. What was a small, prayerful and determined gathering of tents and leaders has become an encampment of well over 7000 people, many of whom will remain through the winter.

Over 300 brilliant and wildly flapping flags represent the presence of native nations from all over the world. I have difficulty finding the words to describe anything close to the colorful layout of tipis, yurts, longhouses, tents, and other structures where people go to pray with others, where they get trained to fulfill their obligation to the camp, where they go to find healing, to eat, to get water and supplies, to take care of their needs. Around-the-clock security is done by trained volunteers, many of them on horseback or walking through the deep hours of the night. And over and over the paired power of corporate fuel and government has thrown down difficult and sometimes very dangerous crises.

I bow in honor and deep appreciation of the resilience and tenacity of the many native leaders who continue to guide this movement of Water Protectors when many of us might well have given up thinking there was no use resisting. They are about Prayer and Water. Their process is about finding a way out of Big Business and Big Government finality.

This morning we learned that $1000 fines would be levied on anyone bringing supplies to the camp. Of course that resulted in waves of protest and planning and reaffirming our purpose. Then later today we heard that the fines will not be given. Please read this powerful statement by John Bigelow http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/sovereign-creed on the Oceti Sakowin Camp web site.

One of the many results of this Water Protector movement for me will be a cellular memory of praying, trusting, and living the determination to make a way out of no way, together.

One way you can continue to help is to encourage others who have not done so, to give.
May I suggest TWO places for donations?

Direct donations to Oceti Sakowin Camp

Donations for the UU - sponsored interfaith yurt that hosts elders and folks who arrive without a place to stay, AND for 10 corn pellet stoves to heat structures on the site.


GOOD Heat for Standing Rock!

Rev. Karen Brammer, Standing Rock, part 6

Despite the eviction. Despite the snow, endless wind and cold. Despite the order to search and fine anyone caught supplying the camp, the camp will continue. Here is one way to help finanically (my hope is you continue to send messages to the President, the ND Governor, the sheriff's office, and more).

The folks who sponsor the Interfaith Yurt (hosting elders, and other visitors who support the camp) are Unitarian Universalists of Bismark and everywhere. They have taken a leap of faith and ordered 10 corn pellet stoves for $15, 000 to distribute through camp.

Now we need to help pay for them in contributions from $10 to $5000 or whatever you can do. If you are able, please share this link and request, and give if you are able.  The money will help pay for the yurt and stoves. Once you give through this link, you will receive updates from Liz, a person I have been working with shoulder to shoulder for the Water Protectors.


Thank you so much.
Water is Life.
With love, Karen


Fines for those bringing supplies to camp!

Rev. Karen Brammer, Standing Rock, part 5

The camp has been weatherizing rapidly. Sources of heat and water being secured.  Left to ourselves, I see no reason that this order to fine $1000 as a way to force evacuation, based on the safety of the camp makes any sense at all!! Make of it what you will, but my sense is that we are going to have to raise a lot of money to pay fines as deliveries continue to be made. Peacefully and Prayerfully.

This from the local paper:

Maxine Herr, spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff's Department, said law enforcement is "being observant" of where vehicles heading down county roads near the camp are going and could potentially pull over vehicles suspected of delivering supplies to the Oceti Sakowin camp, which Gov. Jack Dalrymple ordered to be evacuated on Monday. Herr said officers will warn people they could be subject to an infraction with a maximum penalty of $1,000. 

"The spirit of it is public safety," Herr said. "Its not safe for them to be down there in those conditions."

A spokesman for the governor said the key word was "potentially" and that the evacuation order was made with "no intention to block supplies going to the camp."

"The governor signed this evacuation order out of concern for the safety of those that are down there at that camp," said Jeff Zent, spokesman for Dalrymple. "(He) had no intention to create some sort of supply blockade."

Herr said there had not yet been reports of law enforcement stopping such vehicles. There are no plans for a roadblock on Highway 6, the main road to the camp, she said.

Herr indicated that prohibited supplies include "anything that goes to sustain living there," including wood, food and blankets. 

"They need to evacuate," Herr said. "The executive order is clear that it’s public safety. If they ignore it, they have to live with the consequences of potentially freezing to death."

Herr indicated the rule applies equally to individuals and businesses ferrying supplies to the camp. 
Dalrymple issued the mandatory emergency evacuation order Monday directed at the hundreds of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters camping on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land near the Missouri River. The edict was issued as a winter storm has dumped at least a half foot of snow throughout the central part of the state.

The order is effective immediately and will remain until the governor rescinds it.


Rev. Meredith Garmon

It’s an Anglo-Saxon word that hasn’t changed since the Old English god -- "supreme being, deity." It derives from Proto-Germanic guthan, which derives from Proto-Indo-European ghut- "that which is invoked." Ghut- also morphed into the Old Church Slavonic zovo -- "to call," and into the Sanskrit huta- "invoked," an epithet of Indra, the Vedic deity of Hinduism, with mythology and powers roughly similar to the Greek Zeus. Also, the root of Ghut- is gheu(e)- -- "to call, invoke." So God is that which we invoke, call (upon) – whatever that may be. You know that old, terrible joke that the only time a Unitarian Universalist minister says the word “God” is when he stubs his toe? Turns out, that use of “God” may not be very far from its most ancient original meaning.

Alternatively, some trace the word to Proto-Indo-European ghu-to- -- "poured," from root gheu- -- "to pour, pour a libation." From this comes the Greek phrase, khute gaia -- "poured earth," referring to a burial mound.
"Given the Greek facts, the Germanic form may have referred in the first instance to the spirit immanent in a burial mound." (Calvert Watkins, The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots)
On this line, “God” is “that which is poured.” Isn’t that evocative? I love the way this mixes sacredness with a flowing quality.

From the Proto-Indo-European dewos- came: the Greek Zeus “supreme god and master of the others;” the Latin deus "god; deity" and the Sanskrit deva-. The root of dewos- is dyeu- "to gleam, to shine," also the root of words for "sky" and "day" (e.g. diurnal). The god-sense is originally "shining," but "whether as originally sun-god or as lightener is not now clear." Putting together this etymological line with the first two gives us a definition of “God” as: the shiny, flowing thing that we call upon. As attempts to eff the ineffable go, I think that’s actually pretty good.


Standing Rock: Prayer Service, Sun Dec 4

Rev. Karen Brammer, Standing Rock, part 4

Sun Dec 4, 10AM Central/11AM Eastern Oceti Sakowin Camp

If you cannot attend in person, attend wherever you are. Join in Prayer. If you are so inclined, let us know in advance that you plan to do this so that we hold you in our awareness around the central fire.

We have been invited to show up and Pray with Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the White Buffalo calf Prayer Bundle.

If you are able and so inclined, send a prayer in writing. I will bring it in some way to the ceremony. If you want your denomination to be visible, let me know.

Info and registration at https://tinyurl.com/standingrockdayofprayer

I just got off a call on which 500 people participated. Dec 4 Interfaith Prayer Service organizers Ronya Hoblit, Acting Director of the Native American Training Institute (NATI) and member of the UU Church and Rev. Karen Van Fossan, Minister at the UU Fellowship and Church of Bismarck-Mandan helped people understand what is going on at Standing Rock, and filled in some of the unknowns about the prayer service. We learned that over 30 communities of faith will be represented at this service, and veterans will be a strong, nonviolent, supportive and honored presence among us.

Standing Rock: After Demoralization, Love

Rev. Karen Brammer, Standing Rock, part 3

I have not gotten to the training to be part of the group of volunteers providing emotional support to those who have been demoralized or traumatized. I intended to get to the scheduled training a couple days ago but woke up feeling my own despair which was leading me to a sense of panic. So I stayed put, called a sister to cry (thank you), took a bit of time off to relax and pray. Then requests for transport and purchasing and all that started coming and I was on my way. I hope to get to that training soon to provide a shoulder for others.

Because there are many things to demoralize. In addition to the obvious violence, some of which has made headlines, there are the smaller acts of violence.
  • More than a few people being refused service at restaurants and stores when they are visibly identified as Standing Rock supporters. 
  • A jailed Water Protector feeling sick because every other inmate in the jail was a native person who did not have a team of support people waiting to bail them out, legally advise and transport them to safety. 
  • unintentional, "small" incidents of racist interactions that happen all the time at camp. Those of us raised with white orientation cannot anticipate all the ways we do not know what we don't know! And it is painful to cross the line and be told we are off. And so good to deal with it as white people together.
  • When we cook food taken from many 8 foot tall isles of donated food, it is impossible not to remember that just up the hill there is a small community, peopled by native families, most of whom are living in poverty. 
  • And the infiltration of camp by undercover detectives and agents who are able to "pass". This instills a sense of anxiety about who has authority, who is trustworthy, who is agitating non-violent responses in a tumultuous moment. 
So, after demoralization is love. Even during demoralization is love. One young man said to me that he is finally for the first time in his life letting himself let go of control, along with the expectations that he has to fix everything, or can. He can only do that because his cohorts and fellow Water Protectors are calling him out when he tries to control, and they still love him through it.

Everything that people need to live at camp is given freely, without cost. There is an abiding sense of belonging, caring, kindness. Love. The expectations are that we will all be as generous as possible and that we will take no more than is needed. Sometimes locks are needed, but rarely. Everyone at camp is expected to get training in how things work, in basic racism awareness, and beyond training, to work. Chopping wood, digging trenches, cooking, doing art for the camp, cleaning outhouses, hauling, providing security, teaching the children, caring for the sick, building and winterizing structures, standing in resistance, on and on. And all day, every day there is a central fire at which, I think most of the time, a chief presides who is chatting, telling jokes, chanting, making announcements, delivering decisions. Including.

Last night's concert with Native Chiefs, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, John Trudell's Bad Dog, Joel Rafael and Jason Mraz was as powerful a healing service as I have ever attended. The music included invocation of all that is sacred. The musicians evoked our highest intentions of protecting the people and land. They boldly helped us express anger, grief, triumph and peace. Love was all pervasive and healing.

Oh, there are so many many ways to love.


Standing Rock: Another Day

Rev. Karen Brammer, Standing Rock, part 2

      While at camp today I learned of many things that were needed for people to remain in the oncoming cold weather. I made a list and went back into town. Your donations to Gofundme purchased a small but excellent part of that list:
  • propane tank and propane, 
  • Pediolyte for dehydration of those working outside all day, 
  • tissues for the many dozens of folks getting colds, 
  • backpacks for hauling supplies, 
  • some camp chairs, 
  • plastic bins for medical supplies, 
and more. The needs are great, so if you would like to help buy more on the list, please do go to Gofundme. Oh, and you donated $ for gas I use to fetch jailed Water Protectors, and to send a native family home after a 3 month stint of building the movement there.

      As I was shopping, I got another call that a jailed protester was being released and needed a ride back to camp. I went to the jail and waited for quite a while. When we finally met, he moved very carefully. It turns out that he was still in much pain from having been arrested on water cannon Sunday - hit with a rubber bullet, as well as the water cannon, followed by being kicked in the ribs enough that he had to go to the hospital to make sure nothing was broken.

      He was released from that arrest a couple days later, but then picked up again on a traffic infraction. He was then charged with 2 felony charges and put in solitary confinement (which we are pretty hopeful will be dropped). While we worked to find out where his truck was taken, I got another call for a second release.

      This man was arrested today while praying with a group of people in the mall. It was heartbreaking to hear how shoppers in the mall stood around the police chanting, "We support the Blue" and cheered as the peaceful, praying protesters were tackled, thrown to the floor and dragged.


      We have to work to build some kind of bridge of compassion to our neighbors. And it seems as is often the case that police officers need better training.

      Finally on our way, we needed to stop at a drugstore for medication, so I turned. A block away from the jail I was pulled over by the police for turning my blinker on after the required 100 yard minimum.

      The officer was really quite pleasant explaining what I had done until he asked me why I was in town.  He heard Standing Rock and completely changed his tone. He asked for identification of the two men in the car and questioned their business in town. I believe these things were not completely legal on his part so I asked for his name and badge number.  The whole thing made my heart heavy, but we got on our way, thankfully without a ticket.

      When I got these guys back to camp around midnight, an organizer I've worked with closely retold the story of another Water Protector being kicked and beaten. The story was told however, because during the beating the Water Protector was crying out to the officers for his hat. When things calmed down, the officers asked him why his hat was such a big deal. When he said it was the last thing his dad gave him before he died, an officer retrieved the hat for him.

      These officers are not monsters. Yet the special blend of competing values, exhaustion, stress and lack of experience with this kind of sustained mass action has brought out the worst in so many.

      And I know in some of the white Water Protectors as well. If the mindset going into the action is that it cannot fail because our earth is on a ledge from which we will not be able to step back, it is too easy to slip into panic and rage. The thinking is not wrong; we are on a precipice. But the panic does not help us think well, and our words and actions too easily fall away from the prayerful purpose of the native communities who invited us here. It is so difficult, yet most accomplish that peaceful stance through prayer and discipline. It is amazing just how peaceful the vast majority of the Water Protectors are.

      We will sometimes fail, I will fail as I engage folks on the "opposite side" of these issues - here at camp and at home. But we will learn, and keep working at it. What is the alternative? Prayer has to do with strength of spirit, strength of purpose, inviting help from what is most sacred however we define that. Thank you for your prayers. Tomorrow I hope to write more about the Dec 4 interfaith prayer that I am helping to do advertising for.

      Peace and much beauty to you and yours.

* * *
See also
Part 1: Preparing for Standing Rock



Rev. Meredith Garmon

Happy Thanksgiving Day and Weekend!

American Thanksgiving used to be a much more "religious" holiday -- assumed to be a Christian commemoration of God's blessings. It was taken for granted that "giving thanks" meant giving thanks to God, and that "God" was the Protestant deity. Abraham Lincoln's proclaimation of a national Thanksgiving referred to "the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God" and called upon "the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation."

The move to secularize was not far behind: an editorial in 1889 expressed the "hope to live long enough to see a purely human thanksgiving day, with no hint of God in it, with no religious meaning ascribed to it." A couple years later, freethinker (and convicted blasphemer) C.B. Reynolds declared, "We have no objection to pumpkin pie, but protest against its being seasoned with theology." During the Great Depression, the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism lobbied for equal time for a holiday to be called "Blamegiving Day." They had a point: all "the victims of Divine Negligence" do deserve better than civic religious platitudes about how blessed our country is.

What I think we've learned since then, with Unitarian Universalist thought leading the way, is: (a) gratitude does not depend on a Protestant, or even Christian, or even any traditionally theistic conception of "God;" and (b) gratitude for all the blessings of life, health, family, and community does not diminish our capacity for compassion to the less fortunate nor critique of, and activism against, injustice. Indeed, among our chief gratitudes is that we do have hearts that strive to be compassionate; minds that can discern right and wrong, fair and unfair; and hands that reach out to embrace others in caring connection.


Preparing for Standing Rock

Rev. Karen Brammer, Standing Rock, part 1

Navajo/Cheyenne Poet, Musician and Activist, Lyla June Johnston:
The darker the night, the more exciting it is to shine.

The darker the night, the more grateful the people are when we give a little light.

Come on peaceful warriors. We know what to do here. Same thing we always do: Deepen the prayer. Widen the love. Step out in faith.

With Creator behind us, before us, inside us, there is only Grace to be brought. Grace to be had.
I will work to be a good student, witness and ally as I prepare for Standing Rock.
I leave Nov 21 to return Nov 30.
With gratitude for the Grace that has made this possible,

* * *
See also
Part 2: Standing Rock: Another Day