Reflections on prayer, peace at Standing Rock

Martin Reinhardt

During my two recent visits to Standing Rock, I gained a deep appreciation for the power of prayer and peace in relation to the protection of water. I was out at Standing Rock during the Thanksgiving break and again a week later for the gathering of veterans.

re-ReinhardtAs an Anishinaabe Ojibway person, growing up I was taught that water is the lifeblood of our Mother Earth. It was no surprise to me to learn that other people are also taught this idea. The water protectors at Standing Rock say “mini waconi,” translated as “water is life.”

There is no doubt that without water, we all die. It is imperative that we take a stand against the forces that are contaminating our water, and putting legal obstacles in our way as we try to access clean water. Water should be a right for all beings human and non-human, and we should be willing to fight for it as if our lives depend on it, because they do.

I was impressed with the peaceful nature of the people I encountered at Standing Rock.

On Thanksgiving day, my family, friends and I stood across from the place they call Turtle Island, and we sang a few traditional drum songs. When we switched it up and began singing a protest song, one of the young women approached me and said, “Brother that is a beautiful song, but we ask that only traditional songs be sung here as it is a sacred place and we don’t want to incite any violence.”  I said, “sure, no problem, I meant no disrespect.” She assured me that all was OK.

When I returned for the gathering of the veterans, I was once again reminded of the prayerful and peaceful nature of the camps. As we were briefed on our mission, the tribal elders told us that we were not there to engage in any violence, but to stand in protection of peaceful people who were praying so that they didn’t get hurt.

It was a different role for me and many others who assumed that we would bust through the razor wire and take over the drill pad site to shut down the pipeline. Instead we would put our bodies between those who were sworn to serve and protect the people and the people themselves. How ironic.

While some of the other veterans and I wandered about looking for things to do after being there for a few days, we heard the great news that the Army Corps of Engineers had ordered a halt to the work. It was a joyous occasion and there was much celebrating. We enjoyed a bison stew made for us by the community members.

Apparently, our presence made a huge difference.

In my years of service in the Army, I never felt as gratified as I did that day, knowing that my peaceful and prayerful service made a  difference in the protection of our Mother Earth.