Compassionate Earth Walk joined by Lakota Sioux and Nez Perce Activists
My return to the Compassionate Earth Walk pipeline pilgrimage was both inspiring and brief. During the few days I walked with Shodo and her merry band of walkers, we were joined by an assortment of local pipeline activists. Faith Spotted Eagle, an elder from the Yankton Sioux Tribe, walked one morning along with Wayne Frederick, the manager of the Rosebud Buffalo herds and Gary Dorr, an activist from Nez Perce who had recently participated in a Tar Sands megaload blockade in Idaho. Their stories of their concerns for the land and the continued abuse of government and industry in indiscriminately plundering the earth for material gain rang consistent with the narrative we heard all along the walk. Another highlight was meeting with John Harter, a white rancher and local hero. He represents one of the only landowners in South Dakota unwilling to be bought by TransCanada. He has bravely taken them to court and refused to allow them to cross his land. Unfortunately, due to the laws of “Eminent Domain,” he is likely to lose. Eminent domain is “the power to take private property for public use by a state or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.” I noticed in my conversations with the local tribal members, that there is a certain bitter satisfaction in knowing that white landowners are experiencing now some semblance of what they have experienced for generations — powerlessness in the face of colonization, domination and greed. Still, there was a sense that the resistance, however small the individual actions may seem, is cumulatively having an effect. Every delay, every resistance, however small, contributes to the financial and moral strain on the industry. While our small action as the Compassionate Earth Walk sometimes felt “too little, too late,” ultimately, I believe the pilgrimage encourages, educates and inspires many along the route to continue their efforts, large and small. This solidarity is critical and I choose to remain convinced that it all makes a difference.
After walking over thirty-two miles in three days, I chose to depart the walk and return home. I was deeply grateful for the brief time with them and the opportunity to complete my pilgrimage in a good way. Jon, one of the wise elders on the walk who had been there from the beginning, sang a beautiful song as part of a simple ceremony to send me off. It came to him in the moment and only after he completed singing it four times did he understand why this song had come. It was a song of the “chanupa”, the sacred ceremonial pipe of the Sioux. He told me that that chanupa is a way to communicate with the spirit world. He said, “I see you as a walking chanupa, always connected with Spirit,” and he blessed me on my way. Thank you, Jon. Thank you, Shodo. May you continue in strength and commitment and may it serve the earth and her people.