Life and Death on the Road to Standing Rock

By the second day of travel – en route from Illinois, through the glorious foliage of Wisconsin and Minnesota to North Dakota – I was beginning to feel the energy building, the gulf between the world I call home and the one I was going to visit.

It hit me with a shock as I left the progression of cities along I-94 to enter the rolling brown hills of the high plains…and saw the rising numbers of roadkills, from small, matted bundles of fur to the deer, raptors, and – coyotes? wolves? – on the shoulder of the road. At one point I winced to see a triple death: hawk, wolf, and rabbit, all crumpled at the edge of a cattle-chute stretch of barriers.

Ever since leaving home, I’d been tossing a pinch of tobacco out of the window with a quick prayer to honor each loss, but as they multiplied here I gathered a larger clump in my fingers and released it into the wind, singing the lodge-song my husband used to sing to honor the lives of beings lost through the actions of humans.

An endless blue sky stretched above us, over the towering semis whose slipstream buffeted my Prius as we crossed the Buffalo River, WI;  the lakes dotted through Crystal Springs in eastern ND, and later the Missouri River at Bismarck. I glanced at the reflected blue of the water and the glorious rich greenery on either side, remembering the core statement of the Standing Rock water protectors: Mni Wiconi, Water Is Life.

The ecosystems of these water sources for people and innumerable beings, micro and macro, were at risk of being mowed down and potentially poisoned by a pipeline advancing as relentlessly as any semi…

Unless the water protectors, with their allies in Congress and the courts and the U.N. and – pray God/dess – the White House, could stop it.


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