Artful Land Care

Standing Rock 2018

In YCM on June 13, 2018 at 12:00 pm

I’ve known about the Mandan people for more time than most westerners west of the Rockies.  Mostly because I married into a North Dakota family.  As one might suspect my knowledge was rather lacking as a white non-Native marrying into a white non-Native family. Of course my schooling was lacking in the Nativeness of the landscape as well.  My education was better than many, I figure, because my junior and high school years were the years of the Red Power movement.  Not only did I have access to nightly news events: Occupation of Alcatraz Island 1969-71, Wounded Knee incident 1973, but I went to a fairly progressive High school for the era that allowed for an edgy curriculum that include Native American studies.  Once I get to the bottom of it though, I knew nothing of indigenous history by the time I graduated High School.

Since last Saturday I have been hanging with a number of High School students in North Dakota, on the Standing Rock Reservation where Dakota and Lakota (mostly) people live.  The reservation itself is a small piece of what was once the Great Sioux Reservation, which went through a great reduction after gold was found in the Black Hills in the early 1870’s—enough of that though, typical history can be looked up.  I find myself on the reservation because of two people, Laurie Pound-Feille and Bill Spangler-Dunning.  The two of them have taken the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 2017 resolution on Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and started putting it into action. One part of that resolution is for “Regions and congregations to develop and nurture relationships” with indigenous people/nations of the landscape in which they reside.

Building upon relationships, particularly with Father John Floburg, developed during the Standing Rock protection/protest of 2016-17, they invited youth from all Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) regions to visit the Standing Rock reservation for a full week to Listen, Learn, Prayand converse.  I get to hang along.

I too often don’t pay attention. And I more often don’t think high school students are paying attention—when I think they should.  We were walking through an unoccupied Mandan village at Fort Lincoln.  The area I found the most interesting was the ancient terracing of the ground where homes were once long ago.  The least interesting was reconstructed Mandan housing no one ever lived in.  It was clearly built for our edification only. I walked in and out of two structures along with everyone else.  During our time within the structures the group talked to one another.  Father John give some of his insights.

As we walked out of the second, Kindle, one of the young men made a comment.  I don’t remember the exact words, but they were along the line of “I need to remember this…” and went back to take pictures on the inside.  I was about to move on when it occurred to me that I had been living out the racism I’d been taught so well over the years.  To not take this moment meaningfully, to not to try to move into the place deeply, was to hurt the land which holds the story of an ancient people andto hurt their descendants.  Had Kindle not helped me with that thought and realization, I would have left the place, as thousands of others have, without any sense of the created relationship between this particular ground and this particular people.

I’ve known of the Mandan for a long time.  Thanks to two leaders and seven young-adults and a local priest, I am beginning to learn of the Mandan and their ground.

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  1. As always Dave, well said! I remember visiting there my junior high school years and then that year in American History the teacher telling us about the Mandan people and going on and on and me saying “they lived in a really cool place and I’ve been there.” And I remember the teacher simply saying, “that’s nice Carl.” It and all the places you are during this time are really special and sacred places! I am glad that you, Laurie, Bill and the young folks are there “representing!”

    Liked by 1 person

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