[For a great snapshot of what's happening in Standing Rock and the historical context, watch this: Time to Listen to Native Americans, by Fusion.]
I have a very small percentage of Native American blood, and even when I was little, I loved and identified with that little sliver of myself. When my spirituality started to feel like my own, the very first touchstone was an obsessive interest in native spirituality, shamanism, the Great Mystery, and ways of harmony with Mother Earth and All-That-Is.
I remember when I realized that all the rosy stories from my childhood about the Native Americans and Pilgrims peacefully coexisting were bullshit. In the time since, I've always noticed this lying, covering, and ignoring of the history of the European contact with this country's first people. In recent years, there has been more of a movement to question the idea that America was discovered by Columbus, but still, we have a lot of white-washed stories clouding and covering over the truth of what really happened.
And then, there is the history of the African Americans. What we so often refuse to acknowledge here is how the history of slavery isn't really behind us. It is causally related to so many things happening today, right now, all around the country. The first time I stepped into a prison, I literally gasped as I looked around the intake desk: all the white guards with batons on their belts and the overwhelming number of black inmates. My boss and mentor could sense my shock, and she turned to me and said something like, "yeah, it looks like a slave ship, doesn't it?" Since that experience, I've become more and more aware of how our racist history is having a profound impact, here in the present.
[For an eye opening look at how slavery relates to our current state of mass incarceration, watch this: Slavery to Mass Incarceration, Equal Justice Initiative]
America has some ugly skeletons in her closet. The dominant culture seems to think the closet can just stay shut, and we can just keep all this long gone history neatly tucked away from view, not causing any disruption. But, come on - that is not how things work. Whatever we relegate to the shadows will find its way to the light, sooner or later.
And as I look around lately, it seems like that time is now. In addition to Standing Rock, there is the Black Lives Matter movement. [For a clear and useful explanation of the intentions behind Black Lives Matter, check this out: Do Black Lives Matter To You?] And this presidential election has made many other things that have been seething below the surface more visible: our anger, our division, and our obsession with entertainment over substance.
A time of reckoning has come, and my deepest prayer is that we respond. Brushing these unresolved issues from our past under the carpet will not work anymore, and if we don't change our approach, I sense that our country is headed for a major crisis. We have to realize that there are other ways to respond. We can question the status quo, we can question the stories we've been told, we can question the options placed before us, and we can stand up with those that are speaking a truth that resonates inside of us.
I sincerely believe that it is possible to reconcile, to come together, to unify, even from the state that we are in right now. We can turn things around, if we find the courage to face the past honestly and take a stand for truth.