Oceti Sakowin: A Place of Spiritual Power

Access to the Oceti Sakowin Camp by journalists is restricted to Native Media Only, who are required to check in when they arrive.

By Vi Waln

Oceti Sakowin Camp, located just north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, is a place we all must visit. There have been many great photos, stories and video clips from this camp shared on social media sites. People who use social media and cannot travel to visit the camp in person, do appreciate all the shared photos and videos.

Certainly, a vicarious experience of what the camp is like can be had by viewing social media updates. Yet, unless you’ve actually visited the camp, you haven’t felt the level of spiritual energy present there. There’s a huge difference between viewing events online and being physically present to participate in living history.

In the movement to protect humanity’s Water of Life against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), there are several camps established in North Dakota. Sacred Stone Camp was the initial camp founded by Standing Rock tribal citizens last April. This camp is located on tribal land near the community of Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

Another camp was also established on Standing Rock tribal land. This camp is adjacent to the Cannonball River on the south side. This area is referred to as the Sicangu Spirit Camp, dubbed as such by the Rosebud tribal citizens staying there.

A group of concerned folks recently formed the Sacred Ground camp, located north of Oceti Sakowin. This camp was established after DAPL workers bulldozed an area said to contain burial sites and cultural artifacts. The people staying in that area are camped in the ditch off Highway 1806.

The Oceti Sakowin camp is the largest. It is located on federal land managed by the US Army Corp of Engineers. This camp is on the north side of the Cannonball River.

The Red Warrior camp is also located in this area. When viewing photos on Facebook, the Oceti Sakowin camp can be distinquished by the many flags posted along the entryway. These flags represent nations from all across Mother Earth.

Consequently, a camp of this size doesn’t exist without problems. Yet, I didn’t visit the Oceti Sakowin camp to focus on politics and drama. There is enough of that happening on my own reservation. I went to Standing Rock with the intent to pray for humanity’s Water of Life.

The level of spirituality present at the Oceti Sakowin camp was evident within the first hour I was there. Helicopters fly over the camps on a daily basis. It’s extremely annoying to everyone. In fact, I learned that at least one of those helicopters was allegedly flying in violation of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.

A helicopter appeared in the sky shortly after I arrived. Looking at pictures of helicopters on Facebook is totally different than seeing them in person. Yet, soon after I looked up to see the low flying helicopter pass over the camp, I also watched an eagle gracefully fly over. The mere act of that eagle flying over the camp right after the helicopter did, dissipated all the negative energy I felt the aircraft bring. I was amazed at the level of spiritual energy I witnessed in that one moment.

A large group of Aztec dancers from Minneapolis, MN began their prayer dance at the Oceti Sakowin Camp near the Cannonball River on October 1, 2016.

I was also fortunate to witness prayers from a group of Aztec dancers who visited the camp. Donned in full regalia, the group took the time to make their rounds dancing throughout the camping area.

The Aztec dancers were accompanied by their drum.

They completed their ceremony at the main public gathering area near the entrance. We happened to be on the road as the group moved toward the main area. The spiritual energy of their powerful songs, prayer and dance was very intense. The only way to describe it is to say it nearly knocked me over.

A view of the Aztec dancers coming up the entryway as moved toward the main area.

We also witnessed the arrival of the Oglala Lakota youth runners and horseback riders from Pine Ridge, who came in support of the No DAPL movement. The energy they brought was just as powerful as that of the Aztec dancers. That is, as we stood at the big drum singing the prayer songs, I experienced the same type of sacred energy I feel at sun dance. It was amazing.

A group of Oglala Lakota youth arrive at the Oceti Sakowin Camp on October 1, 2016.
Oglala Lakota young people on horses were welcomed into the main camp area.

Also, my Native American Church relatives from Rosebud sponsored a prayer service while I was there. We offered prayers and spiritual food at the river following the ceremony. I truly appreciate the good intentions of my relatives in sponsoring this ceremony for the Water of Life.

Water Protectors who attended a Native American Church prayer service led by Chet & Melaine Stoneman, Sicangu Lakota, on October 1-2, 2016 were treated to this cake as part of the ceremonial dinner.

Unfortunately, the news of the US Court of Appeals ruling against Standing Rock’s request for an injunction to stop DAPL construction seemed to be a setback for all Water of Life protectors.

However, a Joint Statement from Department of Justice, Department of the Army and Department of the Interior Regarding D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Decision in Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. US Army Corp of Engineers was released on October 10 which called for DAPL construction to remain halted while the issue continues to be investigated.

We have to keep praying for our Mni Wiconi. Our faith in the power of our prayers can help turn things toward the good in ways we may not expect.

I encourage you all to go visit the camps. Even if you stop in for a few hours, you won’t regret it. If you can’t make the trip to Standing Rock, please keep the human beings who are there in your prayers as they are now preparing for winter.

Pray every single day for our Water of Life. Our coming generations are depending on us to guarantee their access to clean drinking water.

Mitakuye Oyasin.




Published by Vi Waln


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