Standing Rock


Back in our camper, by the light of the Shabbat candles, I ‘m musing on this astounding week. We arrived at Standing Rock still flummoxed by election returns, and fixated on daily newscasts out of Washington and New York. To our delight we found no mention of the T-word, no fretful forecasts. That’s because the story here is far more compelling, and the historical context of the Dakota Access Pipeline battle much broader–four hundred years in the making.

This week I witnessed a new culture alive in our country, one that’s vast and growing.

I had pictured Standing Rock as a few tents and a tepee or two. In actuality there are hundreds of tepees, yurts, and easily a thousand tents spreading out as far as the eye can see. Building is going on in every direction; vehicles continue to pour in.

These are folks of all colors, ages, and states, who refuse to buy into the capitalist values that cater to a white majority. Unlike mainstream America, this emerging culture holds to wise leadership at its center, indigenous elders steeped in a long tradition of prayer and ceremony, rather than the cult of self, wealth, and materialism.

Here at Standing Rock I have not seen people walking around mindlessly on their cell phones, snapping up photos, or speaking loudly. There is nothing for sale here and you wont see Standing Rock becoming a commercialized venture any time soon. Anything you might need—food, toiletries, medicine, warm clothes—are available for free at open air dispensaries.

The camp orients around four principles:

We are indigenous centered. That means that those of us who are not native to this land and are not people of color must wake up to our assumptions of white privilege and get a new program. In this place, the elders, women and children are seated first, eat first, speak first. Can we white folks wait patiently? Sit with our questions and brilliant ideas? Listen more than we speak?
We are building a new legacy here. It’s a legacy based upon the wisdom of the elders whose lives are steeped in prayer and ceremony. The frame itself is radically different, not our normal Western causal orientation, but one that is utterly uncynical. The Earth actually is our Mother, the Ancestors do guide us when we pray and listen to them. And most salient: Water is life.
Every person is important and useful. There is much to be done. Whether you pick up garbage or write a blog, cut wood, scrub pots, or go out on a direct action, every act you do is a prayer and all acts are sacred. In this place there is no hierarchy in the realm of work.
Bring it home. What is happening at Standing Rock and so many other places on our despoiled earth is the result of unchecked power and greed. This is a moment to prevent more ruin and repair what has been spoiled. What are the issues alive in your own neighborhood and how is the earth, water, and air needing your help? The work before us is everywhere.

I came to lend support to an isolated battle and found an entire movement here, thousands of people who have found renewed purpose. I am one. Together we stand in solidarity with our native nations—at long last—to defend their inalienable rights in this country and fight for the health and future of our earth, which is threatened by the monetary interests of a few. And there is great sense of hope. As one young Standing Rock native said: As long as we stay united and in prayer there is nothing we cannot accomplish.


Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Reggie Gray November 27, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    Tirzah, the way you “walk your talk” is inspiring.

  • Reply Mary DeVuono Englund November 27, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    Thank you for being at Standing Rock for Thanksgiving. You are blessed and blessed to have chosen to be standing with Standing Rock. I’m here on Whidbey Island, where Gabrielle bought land on Sanctuary Lane to come home to, and Norm and I connect with the island nature of the Pacific Northwest. As we came off the ferry, high school students were demonstrating their solidarity with the people at Standing Rock. One young woman, dressed all in shades of ivory and a Peruvian wool hat, was dancing. She seemed to be an image of a snowflake, connecting her to North Dakota. Your description of the fire circle reminded me of New Buffalo, a commune near Taos, where I learned about simple tasks being a prayer and about creating ceremony in nature.

    Your work of compassion in situations of human conflict stretches out in front of you. Thank you for not being discouraged and showing a way forward.

  • Reply Sandy POND November 28, 2016 at 5:52 am

    Yes .. we are all Standing on ” The Rock”

    Mother Earth……we are “The Tribe”

    Not Aliens.(.. not knowing how to be respect, no love, no compassion) eating plastic contaminated food, poisoned water,and disrespecting all other forms of life.
    …. bUT …true human’s . Respecting all life, Breathing fresh air, drinking pure waters, and eating uncontaminated food, because we do have compassion, love and respect for all life, who are grateful and honor The One.

  • Reply Rabbi David Zaslow November 28, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    Beautiful, powerful, inspiring report. Thank you Rabbi Tirzah!

  • Reply Candy Platz November 29, 2016 at 4:45 am

    My husband flies out to Standing Tock from Maine tomorrow, returning for a second time this month. Our prayers for him, for the Water Protectors, the prayers, the world community who stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock community and the Earth herself.– he brings those all with him.
    Sending blessings for safety, serenity and strength…and of course, love.

  • Reply Lois Rosenfeld November 29, 2016 at 9:18 am

    Dear Reb Tirzah,
    Thank you for this heartfelt report from perhaps what will become the center of change for our country… have filled out the picture for me and imparted needed meaning…..

  • Reply Linda Zweig December 21, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Dear Tirzah
    Thank you for taking us to this level of Water Protectors spirituality. May this Army of love overtake the planet.

    • Reply Tirzah Firestone December 21, 2016 at 11:20 pm

      Amen, Linda!

      —— “*The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are*.” ― C.G.

      Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Ph.D.

    Leave a Reply

    two × 2 =