That day didn’t just mark the beginning of more than their university
year. It began a season of intense organization of teach-ins and
lectures. “We saw people begin to acknowledge territorial land,” Spice
said, adding that people are thirsty for knowledge about how
environmental, Aboriginal and peace issues, for example, connect.
Christler said that the size of the groups was a testament also: "We'd
prepare for 70 people for a teach-in, and 150 showed up.”
Christler wondered if there was a syllabus
available so that people
could educate themselves on Sioux and territorial history, as well as
the reasons for the Standing Rock camps. There wasn't, so he got to work
More than just a pipeline, Standing Rock brought
together groups that had been working separately, they both said. "We
have connected with people from organizations, such as Palestinian
support networks, Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, spiritual leaders,
war veterans, and environmentalists, as well as Indigenous from First
Turtle Island and the world."
Spice and Christler eventually
visited the Standing Rock camps to meet with protectors and supporters,
and witnessed police standing on top of burial grounds and using water
cannons, pepper spray and tear gas on people trying to protect the
graves. As Spice remembered it, “there were snipers and military
vehicles on the hills surrounding us, and razor wire between the water
protectors and the drill site."
What’s more, the two
participated in ceremonies and silent prayer walks, as well as witnessed
the Indigenous Youth Council make offerings of peace to the police.
They described a community that was well established: a Montessori
School, first-aid clinics, communal kitchens and talks around campfires.
"There is renewed energy around protecting what is necessary to
protect.” Spice said. “I believe that this energy has also taken root in
cities across the continent."
Although the camps were dismantled
over time, the story isn't over. For instance, the United Church of
Canada has ideas for action and reflection
on Standing Rock. And Spice
and Christler plan to continue theirs: the Work of Settler Colonialism
an interdisciplinary symposium at the University of Toronto in April.
Keep it free!
If you enjoy reading our online stories about ethical living, justice and faith, please make a donation to the Friends of The Observer Fund. Supporting our award-winning journalism will help you and others to continue to access ucobserver.org for free in the months to come.