How to Stop a Black Snake


New York Times

DEC. 10, 2016

Near Cannon Ball, N.D. — Last Sunday, the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock in North Dakota was slick with icy, packed-down snow. The mud was glass. Veterans poured in, having traveled all night to support the people protecting their water from the Dakota Access Pipeline.

I linked arms with Loretta Bad Heart Bull, and we teetered up to the central prayer circle with Art Zimiga, an Oglala Hunkpapa Vietnam veteran who had just been gifted a pair of crampons. The sun was still warm, the air scented with burning cedar.

The sudden announcement that an easement to cross the Missouri River had been denied by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, dealing the pipeline an apparent setback, sent roars of joy, waves of song, disbelief, joy again, all through the camp.

Dancers swirled, women gave high-pitched Lakota trills, people roared “Mni Wiconi,” water is life. Some wept, sank to their knees, waved wands of smoking sage. Loretta grabbed my arm and tugged me closer to the circle, into the crowd. She is a no-nonsense, funny, sharply dressed woman. Everybody let her through.

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