As the violence at the site of the the Dakota Access Pipeline protest grows, we have the opportunity, as a mindfulness/Buddhist community to lend support to the defenders of indigenous rights and the integrity of the land.
There is a time for silence and a time for speaking. The protection initiative led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe challenges not only the Dakota Access Pipeline but the fundamental presumption of the Western economic model which centralizes private profits, relegating people and planet to the margins. The actions by the State of North Dakota, the US Government as well as a myriad of corporations, fossil fuel companies and banks have made clear that colonialism, the unethical and unlawful seizure of lands and waters by use of force, is alive and well, on display for all who have eyes to see.
Will we turn away from this suffering? If we stand by, what meaning does our wish for the welfare of all beings have? Without action, our warm-hearted expressions risk being relegated to mere sentimentality. As a matter of practice, you might notice what arises in your own body in response to the stories and images radiating out of this standoff. What beings and views are being defended by the members of Standing Rock and what tactics are deployed in that defense? Likewise, what beings and views are being defended by the government enforcement agencies and what tactics are deployed in that defense? What happens in your heart as you consider these questions, is there tightening or softening? How intense or spacious is your mind?
If the stand taken by the Standing Rock and allied communities resonates, we invite you to get involved. Just as the giving of dana (or generosity) represents a powerful opporttunity to enact our understanding of the teachings, so too does a moment of standing against systemic harm and injustice in the defense of people, their descendants and all the other beings and ecosystems impacted.
The Women at Standing Rock are offering us all extraordinary dharma teachings, as exemplified in this call for mutual forgiveness between Water Protectors and local police:
One more note on this initiative. We celebrate the courageous actions of the Sioux Tribe and their indigenous allies as providing a rare line of defense against climate chaos as well as the understanding of interdependence and karma implicit in their response. By standing for Mother Earth, they stand for all of us. Yet the focus of this initiative, this call for solidarity, is the fundamental dignity and respect owed these communities. What we are witnessing can only be described as blatant racism and environmental injustice. For far too long, the rights, dignity and well-being of native peoples has been sacrificed in favor of their white counterparts through the theft and exploitation of their lands and waters. We invite you to practice with us today by acting in solidarity with this necessary and courageous resistance.
Buddhist and Mindfulness communities are responding to the call to join in solidarity with Standing Rock. For example, the Earth Holder’s Sangha collaborated with us on this statement and the Soto Zen Buddhist Association authored their own letter of support in early September: SZBA Standing Rock Letter
In collaboration, we invite you to