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


  1. I am humbled by the number of people I know who support the Standing Rock Water Protectors by sending resources directly there and/or support me financially to go on your behalf. I will post reflections here as often as possible. Know that I carry many of you in my heart, and stand there to amplify your collective love.

    1. I am humbled to know somebody who is in the middle of the muck, trudging along, fighting such a worth while fight. Namaste.

  2. HAPPENING NOW: At Standing Rock, County and National Guard forces are firing water cannons at water protectors in 26-degree weather, as well as tear gas, mace, large rubber bullets, noise cannons.

    COMMIT2RESPOND: The Governor of North Dakota and the President both have responsibility for the National Guard's actions and the power to stop this from happening again.
    Write to the White House: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/write-or-call
    Write to the Governor of North Dakota: https://www.governor.nd.gov/contact-us

  3. Thank you for going. The more witness, the better. Safe journeys to you.

  4. Hello.
    Today I work with Rewv. Karen Van Fossen, minister of the UU congregation in Bismark who has been leading strong faith based support for Standing Rock.

    My task here today is to build the interfaith list of state and local faith based contacts for organizing.

    This evening I will meet with the congregational team that is working directly with Native coordinators at Oceti Sakowin Camp for the December 4 interfaith prayer event that we people of faith and conscience have been asked to paticipate in.

    See this link for the invitation from Chief Arvol Looking Horse https://tinyurl.com/standingrockdayofprayer .

    To learn more about the Dec. 4th Interfaith Day of Prayer and other opportunities for solidarity, please join me in a conference call discussion on Wednesday, November 30th at 6:30pm CST. This call will be facilitated by Unitarian Universalists who have been working directly with Native coordinators at Oceti Sakowin Camp. People of any and all traditions are welcome to join this conversation. https://zoom.us/webinar/register/38285d61065385894ac87b605f06faf5

  5. A Personal note:
    I am staying at the Ramada Inn in Bismark, ND as my base. The church is less than a couple miles from me. I have not yet been to the camp, but will be on Oceti Sakowin camp tomorrow afternoon and much thereafter.

    In the meantime I am so curious about the flow of groups of 2 to 5, to and from breakfast this morning. Literally moving down hallways and on sidewalks, like streams of physically identifiable people. Native leaders and families taking a break from the camp. Young adults on their way to protest - dressed in layers of camping and cold weather gear. And National Guards men (have not met others of the Guard yet). As we eat, you can hear murmurings about tear gas, water cannons, ambulances. Quiet recounting from different tables and over the constant news broadcasts. What a different world I have landed in.

    Each breakfast table, as it empties and fills seems like separate human streams. They move in lines and groups, seemingly carefully around one another on the river bed so as not to intersect. I have begun to introduce myself carefully, respectfully, hoping to learn. It feels though, something more like veins of crystallized forms of our humanity, rather than a smoothly flowing river of streams meeting in the same place. Potent in ways I can't quite identify yet.

    Tomorrow, it is likely that one of my jobs will be to continue the infrastructure support of the Unitarian Universalist yurt which is the onsite base. The other huge needs are to help weatherize and cook, and to Pray. You can help with the last. Thank you.

  6. By the way, some folks have asked me about legal issues at Standing Rock. You might want to check out this link http://earthjustice.org/features/faq-standing-rock-litigation#

  7. I bow to the UU Fellowship of Bismark, ND and their minister, Rev Karen Van Fossen. This small group gets it done! Working in collaboration with native leadership at Oceti Sakowin enough to be honored with the task of hosting the interfaith day of prayer on Dec 4, hosting visitors to the camp, setting up an interfaith yurt on site (16 people slept in it last night - think sardines - warm and alive - but sardines!), and much more. I am so grateful for their passionate commitment and delighted with their spunky love.
    I spent just a few hours at camp today as the sun set. My thoughts and heart are so full that I think I won't try to write about it until morning. But I will say that I have never experienced anything like it before. It is huge - thousands of tipis, long houses, tents, yurts, and buses. People of all ages. It is clean and well organized. Cooperative efforts are everywhere to feed, clothe and train everyone to live respectfully and joyfully in such close quarters. I am so moved.

  8. I think I should not miss blogging at the end of the day. So much happens so quickly. One thing that is important to know is how profoundly well organized the camps are, and safe. Clear lines of authority, centered in Oceti Sakowin leadership. High expectations for contributing to the work of the camp, training and support to do that, core presence of the sacred, clear - very clear focus on why we are there. It makes me aware of how scarce that kind of way of being is in my life, including my faith community. Something to think about.
    I am preparing to go to camp for the day and leave in 15 minutes. Warm clothing, a skirt to wear over my pants in honor of the Lakota request, willingness to be present to who knows what. I am fully in awe of what is at play as this is Thanksgiving Day and one native family from Flagstaff already has recounted stories of witnessing the water cannons turned on his community as they danced sacred dances, telling me Thanksgiving feels almost grotesque in that light. Yet we are welcome in the camps to support building a new way.

  9. We started our caravan to the camp at 8am expecting to get there at 9 as usual. Midway there, the oncoming traffic was exceedingly high volume. We knew it had to be an action in the making, a risk of arrest in demonstration in town. We stopped our caravan to figure out whether to join the demonstration, and decided to continue to camp knowing everything would intensify there, and we had work to do.
    We learned at camp that DAPL created covered work spaces near the river so they could continue drilling even though they do not have permits. At least in part in response, four different protect and water protection actions took place this day in four different areas. I have not heard the news yet of what the public is seeing.
    Anyway, I get ahead of myself. My task this morning was to work on weatherizing the yurt. I carried wood, thought out loud with the house organizer about what might work. In the midst of that process, a security guard rode by on his horse yelling, "All women and children cross the bridge now to get to safety on undisputed tribal land. Urgent. Bring a sleeping bag.Go now." The women quickly figured out who needed rides.
    I drove 3 children and 2 women to the other camp not knowing anything about what the threat was. We kept each other connected and brave.
    It did not take long before we heard an announcement that it was a false alarm. Someone yelled, "Shots fired. Evacuate." over the security system. I am still not clear whether this was a planned drill, a mistake or something in between.
    While we reorganized to return, one of the Lakota women elders spoke to us through a bull horn. We learned a lot about readiness. We learned that camp founders and leaders are planning daily for emergency responses. We learned that multiple people had significant and lasting reactions to the "water" that was sprayed via water cannons that freezing Sunday night - something was added to that water as an irritant.
    As much as this camp often feels like a winterizing festival, and a great experiment in living with new, compassionate rules, the truth is that it is an embattled encampment. It is Sioux land, owned by treaty, being taken by eminent domain via the Army Corps of Engineers, DAPL private security, the National Guard and 5 state police departments.
    One of the results of today's alarming evacuation was to remind us all that we could be overrun at any time. I worry for the native people who remain after so many of us leave during the bitter winter.
    After we returned to camp I went to work in one of the tented kitchens washing dishes. It was glorious to see the incredibly well run cooking and cleaning areas, and the eating and story telling area. Just beautiful and fun.
    My colleague and I needed to leave around 3 so drove home with Dakota butts lit up with raspberry red strokes of sunlight. Breathtaking. Complete with pheasants and antelopes.
    When we got back to town, we got a call that one of the young men who was arrested needed a ride from the jail back to camp. I drove this young man and listened as he talked and cried about the hateful stares of those who aimed water guns at him. Cried as he told the story of talking with one of the cops who walked him to his cell - talking about going home after missing his family Thanksgiving meal (to arrest him), that he would love his kids that much more. That this young man was risking arrest for the cop's kids too.
    This young white man cried, too because it was hard for him that some of the native men at camp did not trust him. Even though, he said, he was willing to give his life for this cause. He knows about systemic racism, and it hurts him.
    But we talked about how building those relationships, no matter what the results of this encampment, those relationships were so important. And to keep at it. Love is what it is about. Love, and stopping the insanity to the best of our ability. Amen.