VOICES FROM THE PEACE FRONT—Water Protectors at Standing Rock
1000 GRANDMOTHERS TO STAND IN SOLIDARITY FOR THE WATER PROTECTORS
by Christinia Eala
Good morning and a warm handshake to each of you whose eyes see this story. I will pack to travel to Chicago very soon to visit my daughter and two beautiful grandchildren. I struggled with the decision to travel that way because I want also to be back at the Protectors camp in North Dakota to help with preparations for winter, but first I NEEDED to reach out to each of you who have taken the time to join this page and to “speak” words that have been on my mind. Foremost, I am thrilled to be a part of this 1000 Grandmothers stand and know that like each one of you, wherever we stand, wherever we are, we complete this Sacred Circle.
I offer thanks and much love to my sister/friends, Elissa Tivona who thought of this lovely idea, Carol Rothman, (Elissa’s dear friend from protests past) whose encouragement and organizational skills mean the world to us, and Mary Dorgan, an Irish lass who created this page for us with much love coursing through her fingertips with each stroke of the key, …and of course Holly Near, who wrote the lyrics of her song “1000 Grandmothers” which has such power and meaning for those of us of a certain, grandmotherly age. The first time I listened to it (two weeks ago, or thereabouts)) I choked on air through my tears. And still, when I listen I can’t speak through the thick emotions that arise in my throat. Thank you Ms. Near for a song that has awakened and brought forward the Warrior Goddess me and so many grandmothers.
As I write this thinking of the ‘1000 grandmothers song’ the words that grabbed my heart and attention were these:
“If you think these women are too soft
To face the world at hand
Then you’ve never known the power of love
And you fail to understand
An old woman holds a powerful force
When she no longer needs to please
She can cut your shallow life to bits
And bring you to your knees
We best get down on our knees”
As I heard those words for the first time, I found my mind starting to wander to the many stories and songs I’ve read and heard about the strength of grandmothers and one of those brought is the story of “Two Old Women” by Velma Wallis. It is “based on an Athabascan Indian legend passed along for many generation from mothers to daughters of the upper Yukon River Valley in Alaska, this is the suspenseful, shocking tale of two old women abandoned by their tribe during a brutal winter famine.
Though these women have been known to complain more than contribute, they now must either survive on their own or die trying. In simple but vivid detail, Velma Wallis depicts a landscape and way of life that are at once merciless and starkly beautiful. In her old women, she has created two heroines of steely determination whose story of betrayal, friendship, community and forgiveness ‘speaks straight to the heart with clarity, sweetness and wisdom’. (Ursula K. LeGuin).
At the time that I first read this book, these two old women made me think of the many journeys my sister and I traveled together and how as children we depended on each other for survival many times; and then one day, we found we had to travel separate ways and so we did…for many years. She married and had her first daughter at the very tender age of 17 while I left home at that same age and made my way to Los Angeles in order to explore and possibly re-invent myself. I believe that my dear sister was carefully molded to become a caretaker of others, (whether this was by the Creator of All That Is or our parents no longer matters) but that is what she did her entire life, was take care of others.
She cared for a neighbor’s wife as well as our mother admirably, and then her half-side when he became very ill. She was by the side of each of them when they crossed over. After her half-side made his Journey…she realized, at 68, she no longer knew who she was or what her purpose in this life was. I offered to show her many ways that she might find other roles, which would still be in service to others, but after much reflection, I believe she was too sad for what she never had; the freedom to choose for herself what her life would have become, and too tired to come explore with me, so she left me…her little sister, which is where her care-taking began. But that is another story. I pray that when it is time for me to transition, she will be among the first to greet me with a warm hug and show me around.
Her crossing had a huge impact on her children and mine of course. It awakened them to the REALITY that life is NOT INFINITE after all. So when I had open heart surgery they became very protective of me…over-protective. But six weeks post surgery, I went hiking with friends in the canyons of beautiful Colorado, and felt the Earth Mother beneath my feet again. I inhaled the scent of the mountain environment we were in, I listened to the sound of the wind singing through the trees in harmony with the birds and the insects, and I felt a hunger course through my body. A hunger to see, feel, hear, smell and touch everything the Creator of All That Is gave each one of us to enjoy.
So I set out to do just that, but my beloved children had other plans for me. They wanted me to stay home and stay safe but in my mind, that would make me in-valid as a woman who still has much to do before I exit stage left. As it’s said “I’ve got places to go, things to do, breathtaking sunsets to see, great people I have yet to love and hug.” So while I understand and try to respect my children’s concerns and reluctance to let me continue my explorations…explore I continue to do because like the ‘two old women’, my inner strength, that I allowed to become dormant, has been reawakened and I realized playing the societal role expected of us dear “old grannies” was just not who I am…I still want to visit the Indigenous Peoples of every nation, in every environment around the globe and do ceremony with them and eat their food and dance their dances…and fight the GOOD FIGHT with them, and each of you…and me by their side.
It was this…and so much more that took me to Standing Rock to be with the People of ALL NATIONS. As everyone I met there has said…I could not have NOT traveled there.
I love you all and I offer each of you Wicosani in your life.
Christinia Eala is a Lakota Elder, grandmother of 13 beautiful grandchildren, and Director of Tiyospaye Winyan Maka, a small non-profit seeking to assist the women, children and men of the Pine Ridge Reservation to build sustainable homesteads on ancestral land.
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