By Angela Reed
We were sitting in a field on the edge of camp at Standing Rock, a Native American reservation in North Dakota.
I was sitting in a group with lots of new friends: a few I knew, a couple I thought I could have known another time, and several I didn’t. For those of you may not know, there have thousands of people camped there the past few months in protest of the installation of an oil pipeline called the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is mapped to go right under the Missouri river, threatening many of the Midwesterners water supply.
What you really need to know about this pipeline is it was originally routed to go near Bismark, North Dakota. When the idea was brought up that it could be dangerous to the water supply for the people there, it was rerouted to go through Standing Rock reservation. This is an example of how Native Americans are treated. Why are the people in Bismark more important than people on the reservation? That is the question none of the government officials want to answer.
The group I was in—titled non-Native allies—was assembled to help new people in camp. Although they made it clear that is by no means exclusive. One of the facilitators asked, “Who here identifies as a colonial settler?” I hadn’t ever heard of that term before, at least in this context.
We broke off into pairs and I asked my partner, “Why would anyone want to identify as a colonial settler?” She said she could see why that wouldn’t be a desirable thing but that it could give one a role to play. After that something inside me clicked. I had known for awhile that I felt a kinship with Native people and felt their oppression was one of the worst and well-hidden things about our nation, but I hadn’t found a purpose or a way to express that feeling. The truth is I still haven’t found a real concrete way of it. The spiritual path is like that though, with some varying degrees of vagueness and uncertainty.
Since I’ve been back I’ve spent hours at the library researching things like the land I live on. We call it Lawrence, Kansas but it hasn’t always been Lawrence. Most likely a Native tribe inhabited these lands before colonial settlers came.
I believe one of my roles in life is to be a bridge-maker. By bridging the past and the present, western society’s culture with indigenous culture, and enemies with friends I hope to help us heal. In order to do that I have to do what is in my power to understand the past, understand how power has been abused and used to oppress people and understand how it is still playing out today.
What does it mean when I buy a pair of inexpensive tennis shoes at wal-mart? Do I think about where the materials in the shoes came from? Do I think about the working conditions of the person that made or helped make them? Do I think about how they got to me from the factory and the type of energy used to get them there?
Thinking about these things may not seem directly related to an issue about a pipeline running through Native American reservation land, but it is related. What kind of lifestyles have got us under the impression that it isn’t or that it doesn’t matter? Finding which tribes lived on the land that my apartment sits on is one way of unlocking the truth, reminding myself and hopefully others around me of that truth.
By choosing to be a more conscious consumer I can continue to live in more truth as well.
Am I privileged with a right to have new shoes every couple months or more, but someone in another country with less means to acquire money isn’t? I can also ask what makes me think I need those shoes, or want the shoes or deserve the shoes? White privilege and supremacy has been rampant in this country for a long time—centuries. Yes, I could argue I earned the money to buy those shoes. Isn’t that why I go to work at a restaurant, spend hours on my feet, feed people food I know to be mostly unhealthy in order to buy shoes so that I can be a little more comfortable standing on my feet for hours? Or am I earning money to fit into a society that treats me like trash if I don’t?
The rabbit hole gets deeper and deeper as you can see. I’m not the only one to dig deeper. It’s important for all of us to start digging deeper.
Let’s do our best to live true and free in a way that lifts up others, so they can do the same.
Angela Reed is a massage therapist, energy healing practitioner, and full-time mom. Angela began her healing journey many years ago (around 2002). Throughout the journey, she has learned and used many tools such as inner child healing, writing, counseling, meditation, and many others to help heal her past. Having come from a challenging, traumatic childhood had made it difficult to be the person she knew in her heart was possible. Searching for those tools has brought much joy, and of course, there have been many tears and frustrations as well. Awakening again and again to this moment is the simple mantra of her life. Writing was first a healing modality and now has become a passion. Without passion and love where would we be?
Editor: Dana Gornall