In the morning of my first full day at Standing Rock, I awoke to the sunrise and the song of the Four Directions echoing over the camp. Quickly unwrapping myself from the emergency blanket, sleeping-bag liner and mummy bag in which I’d coccooned against the frigid night air, I did my morning preparations and hurried down to the central drum circle for the morning’s ceremonies.
The singer was just turning over the mic to Lyla June Johnston – “the singer who blew us all away yesterday with her beautiful voice and inspiring message,” he said. She came to the center – an internationally recognized performer with a mission to empower Indigenous youth – and…well, a description won’t do this poem justice. I cannot imagine any more powerful expression of the beauty and divinity of life – the life that these people are putting themselves, possibly their lives, on the line to protect.