Today is a day of celebration, a day to lean into joy. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not be granting an easement under Lake Oahe for the Dakota Access pipeline to cross the Missouri River, just a half mile upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman, Dave Archambault II said in a statement,
“We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.
With this decision we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones, many of whom have sacrificed as well. We look forward to celebrating in wopila, in thanks, in the coming days.”
Last week I checked in with Rachel Irwin, who was at the front lines of the Standing Rock protest. I asked her a few questions for a peek into what the experience was like.
1. What made you decide to join the protests at Standing Rock?
I’ve been following what’s happening at Standing Rock for a few months, and something inside of me needed to be there. As an experiential learner, I wanted to see what was happening firsthand so I could speak about it intelligently and confidently, plus I would know the truth. This situation felt way too important to ignore. After having the experience, I feel that people who are guided to be there or assist in some way, even if it’s through prayer or positive thinking, are actually feeling the call of the prayers. The power of prayer is now embedded in my heart, and I continually pray anytime I think about this. I understood the context of the question, but at camp, they will tell you “we are protectors, not protesters.”
2. What is the number one take-away from your time there?
My biggest takeaway from this experience is to pray for the next 7 generations. No matter what the belief system of a person, if we all considered our choices and how they will affect the next 7 generations, we’d live in a much more mindful world. Short-term profits that run the risk of poisoning drinking water for 18 million people, wouldn’t even be an option.
3. I’ve heard that there were some people there who treated the experience like it was Burning Man or Bonnaroo. Did you see any of that?
Burning man people – I did not see that. In the new comer orientation, it was stated that Standing Rock was not Burning Man, so maybe there was an issue in the past. However, they guided us to reassess our intention for coming, and realign with the group intention of being a water protector. No part of the ongoing ceremonial space, aka the entire camp, should be used to promote business, or to show your social media following how cool you are for being there. I personally didn’t encounter people treating it like a festival, and I didn’t see any drugs or alcohol. I saw the pure, raw beauty of people functioning as a whole, finding roles versus being assigned roles. Although I’ve never been to Burning Man, Standing Rock was definitely a purpose driven event, as we all had the common vision. The friends I traveled with who have been to burning man said it felt much more authentic at Standing Rock, as there was no feeling of being part of a costume contest; people at Standing Rock were dressed practically in attire that would keep them warm.
4. You spoke to me in an email about the ‘fullness’ of the experience. Tell me more about that.
It took me a minute to realize what the question meant since I returned to a more ‘disconnected’ lifestyle, but I’m super grateful to hear the question because the feelings of fullness returned! It was so incredibly powerful to be unified with people who have the same vision and are on the same mission to actualize that vision. Everyone was aware of the unanimous relationship we share with the earth, and the importance of having clean water in our lakes and rivers. There was a deep respect for all! So many indigenous people genuinely thanked us for coming, and there was a welcoming unlike what I normally experience here in the United States. This whole movement is an indigenous-led movement, centered in prayer and peace, and being part of this unified heartbeat makes me feel full! The prayers are not only for the people protecting the water and the water itself, but also for the people who are defending the pipeline, as they are unaware of our duty to protect our earth mother. For me, I feel that the group consciousness, listening to heart-centered stories, living each day with the basic necessities while helping and deeply respecting others, created the feeling of fullness.
Rachel Irwin is a delightful yoga teacher, organic farmer, and (as you can clearly see) an earth-centered free-spirit moving to Costa Rica in 2017. She will be leading yoga retreats that are not to be missed. Rachel is one of the yoga teachers at the January yoga teacher training and we are so lucky to have her on staff at Pavones Yoga Center.