Long ago our ancestors knew the Cannon Ball River as Inyan Wakan Kagapi Wakpa, “River where the sacred stones are made,” and they knew the Missouri River as Mni Sose, “Turbulant Water.” At the confluence of where those two rivers met was a great whirlpool that created perfectly round stones that were considered to be sacred. When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the Cannon Ball River and altered its course, the rivers quit making those stones. That federal undertaking had an adverse effect on an area of religious and cultural significance to our people. We will never again see this. When man changes the land it is changed forever.
When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the dams to create hydroelectric power, that federal undertaking had an adverse effect on a traditional cultural landscape. Construction had begun north of Standing Rock and they didn’t even bother to tell the people. It wasn’t until the water came that they realized they were flooding the river. There are many sad stories from our relatives and communities that lived on the river bottom about the deep spiritual wound this caused our grandparents. When they lost the river bottom they lost traditional foods and medicine that caused the people to become dependent on Indian Health Service. Prior to that there was no diabetes, heart disease and obesity among our people.
The land between the Cannon Ball River and the Heart River north of us is sacred land. A historic place of commerce where enemy tribes camped within site of each other peacefully because of the reverence they had for this sacred place. In the area are sacred stones where our ancestors went to pray for good direction, strength and protection for the coming year. Those stones are still there. The people still go there today.
The entire route of the Dakota Access Pipeline will have an adverse effect on sites of religious and cultural significance to many tribal nations. Wherever the buffalo roamed our ancestors left evidence of their existence and connection to everything in creation. The aboriginal lands of the Oceti Sakonwin extend as far west as Wyoming and Montana, as far north as the bush country in Canada, as far east as the Great Lakes and as far south as Kansas. Along this construction corridor they are going to disturb ancestral burial places and sites of religious and cultural significance to tribes.
For our relatives traveling to Standing Rock to pray with and support the Hunkpapa, remember, you are on sacred land. Respect each other, watch over each other, be good relatives to each other. Let’s be good stewards to the land and commit to having as small of an ecological foot print as we can. There will be feeds, bring your wateca plates. Let’s try not to litter the land with plastic and Styrofoam. Spread the word, you are coming to sacred land, to a sacred place and need to be respectful and have reverence for the land, water and air.
Blehiciye Po! Take courage and be strong. Our ancestors are with us. We are not alone and will be victorious. Ho hecetu welo.
Jon Eagle Sr. is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.