Standing Rock: Breaking Open to Feeling

By Grace Slocum

This is my story of how I came to be at Standing Rock and what I witnessed while being there.
Standing in the darkening summer/autumn transition night, I hear the song come through the microphone. He is holding his phone up to the mic, and this song is leaking through …

It starts out soft and slowly we, standing in a circle, catch on and start to sing together, join together in a chorus of voices which are straight harmonic expressions of our souls. Our hands are touching, and we are turned inward together. I feel it with my whole body. I have to go. I need to go to Standing Rock this weekend. All the stories fall away, and I am standing naked in truth. This is what is most important. Something bigger than my own mind extends through me like a hand and propels me forward.

I feel on fire. I feel determined. I feel it in my heart. A heart pull, tugging me to this land that I have never been to before. This land that is a sacrifice zone, so `business as usual` can continue. Tugging me to these people that historically my own ancestors have slowly pushed out of their homes. It is my responsibility to the people of the past, to the people of the present, and to the people of the future that I show up and support this encounter in any humble way that I can.

I arrive back in Boulder and something is missing. Some part of my limbs still remains with the people and the land I have just come from. I feel a bit dismembered. I remember. What it is like to be living in a community of shared power, of sacred chaos, of prayer, of deep purpose, of water. Images flow through me, and my body rumbles as it begins the process of integrating back into modern life.

The image of the grass flowing in the wind like water.

The smell of the sage as hundreds of people pass through its smoke.

The bright colors of feathers. The weathered smiles. The sad eyes. The touching of the ground with tobacco.

I see an image of a mother with her child. I remember Shea and how we played, and he took me down to the water and taught me about wandering, freedom, and saying sorry. I remember the bee and how it came to me and wanted me to know about the pain of separation. We cannot do this anymore! It screamed! Living apart is like hell. Recognize us! See us! We are sentient! Like you! No bad, right, good, wrong, better, worse. The moment you think you are better than us, we will sting you, hard. Because that is not the way. It is pain for all of us if you continue to live like this… and shirk your destiny as caretakers of the Earth.

Water Protectors.

We are not protesters, we are protectors.

I watch as he raises his hand up in prayer, addressing the spirits. Calling out, his voice strong and singing. Hello beautiful, brave world! I am here! I praise you. Oh, beautiful water, thank you. I give thanks, and I am humbled by you.

I fall back from the others and find myself amongst the grasses. I tread near a tree that overlooks the plains. I bend softly down and place my hand near it. Hello cousin, hello friend. May I feel your rough and tumbled skin? I sink my hand into its flesh and feel the grandmother hiding inside the bark. She gives me a warm smile. A smile that makes my body writhe with deep feeling. And suddenly the grief pours through. I am sorry, I hear myself whispering. I am sorry what we have done to you. I am sorry that we have forgotten. That we cut you without asking. That we cut you down sometimes and do not even use all of your limbs, leaving you sitting there, bleeding out. The blood is not easily visible, yet I know it is there. I know you are bleeding and crying out, but we cannot hear. My heart hears. My heart hears you, and I bow my head in deep sadness. I bow my head in shame and humility for the division amongst us. For the ignorance, the blinders over our eyes and ears. I plead for forgiveness. May we make this right again. May we restore balance between our relations. May the crying out of the grief-stricken ones awaken the cold hearts of many, and may we rise, to meet ourselves in the tides, the skies, and the trees.

I am struck to the core by my experience at Standing Rock. It continues to swirl in my bones. The front lines will teach you what is real, I hear echoing around inside. They will give you a chance to touch what is really happening in our world. It is a place where anyone is welcome who feels the heart pull to relate differently with the world around us. It is a coming together, a unity fed by the uniqueness of each person`s particular gifts, skin color, and voice. Unity that is informed by the past, grounded in the present, and looks with hopeful and focused eyes to the future.  There is no centralized form of power at Standing Rock. It is the emerging of and returning to a community that is planted by power with one another instead of over.

I feel that this kind of power is stronger than any corporation or any sum of money. This kind of power is the kind of power that will carry us into a sustainable, just, and livable world.

Before heading into Sacred Stone Camp, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe said to me: `In a way, Western culture has taught you to shut down and shut off your feeling. Now, we need you to turn that back on.`

A verbal invocation to feeling. To communities of urgency. To fierce recognition of our times and what they are asking of us. To setting a strong boundary. With love, with tenderness, with compassion. No, we shall not allow this anymore. No, you shall not pass.

We are building a new way.

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Grace Slocum is currently a Naropa student, eco-poet, healer-activist and sound artist. She is an edgewalker and is dedicated to decolonization. You can follow her on her blog: or soundcloud:

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