How to Heal with and Fight for the Sacred Around You.



We are mostly water.

The earth we live on is mostly water.

Water is all around us.

And yet, as evidenced by the backlash and ambivalence toward water protectors, we believe we don’t need water.

It’s hard to accept, but think about it.

Look around, even on a more ‘mirco’ level. Examine our breakfast tables, the types of beverages sold in our community stores, what’s on the table in our larger community spaces and meeting room tables, what your neighbor is putting on the conveyor belt. And, (if you’re like most of us) you might also need to take a glance at what you are putting into your own body.

It’s obvious from the massive amount of pipelines being put through our communities that we (collectively, as a nation) are really not on the same page about the value of protecting water.

And, it’s obvious from the scenarios I describe above that we are really not on the same page about our own need for nourishing our bodies with water — with good, clean, drinking water and with water-rich, nourishing produce.

I learned at Standing Rock, and as a friend and fellow organizer reminded me last night, we don’t see the connection between the fight for water, and the fight for Indigenous leadership and sovereignty.

Navajo organizer, Mark Charles, spoke at our church recently. He proclaimed the simple truth that native peoples are the host people of Turtle Island, this land that we now call the United States of America. He reminded us that native peoples know why the rivers flow the way that they do. And why the mountains are where they are. And how native peoples know and have known (and have been warning us for quite some time) that we cannot own and subdue nature to our biding. We must understand that we are nature. We cannot eat money. We cannot drink oil.

But we stay stuck, in neglecting our own body’s need for water and in struggling to undo the systems of oppression that keep our land and water at risk. We are stuck. And in some sense, our stuck-ness is understandable.

Things are really overwhelming. We get confused about the right path forward. Some of us just want to leave the decisions about our economy, our land, our water, our health, to ‘the experts’. Whether that be the conventional politicians, lawyers, doctors we’ve been seeing, naturopathic practitioners we are exploring, or other leaders in the push for change. It feels easier. It feels safer.

But we are at a time now when we absolutely must awaken and face the fact that the systems of oppression around us are not operating in our best interest. We all must step up to the work. We all must step up to take care of ourselves. Because while we can rely on aspects of our current systems (e.g. if I break my leg, I’m definitely still banking on seeing a Western doctor for surgery), we must also realize that the corruption of our medical systems, environmental protection triggers, and social change organizations is thick.

We can take our healing into our own hands. And by this, I mean two interconnected things: the healing of ourselves, and the healing of the world around us.

It is good and right that communities of resistance are rising up to protect our water. We need this. The future of our children depends on on the protection of the sacred water.

And — The movement at Standing Rock reminds us that we need communities of resistance that are willing to protect the sacred around us and we need communities of resisitance that are ready and willing to protect the sacred within us.

We need communities of folks who are ready to make change, who — in addition to fighting to protect our water and sovereignty and liberation — are ready to put down our sodas, set aside our coffees and sugar-free chemical sweetners, and to do the simple**, radical thing of drinking some water, eating some fruit, and hydrating our bodies.

Water is life.

The main three questions asked of us at Standing Rock by native leadership were “Who are you?”, (subsequently) “Why are you here?”, and “How are you taking care of yourself and each other?”

The main hub on the organizing wheel at Standing Rock from which all the spokes came out of, was a sturdy, simple, radical foundation of prayer and grounding that allowed for us to tend to our spirits, our bodies, and to one another.

We must begin to understand our healing and wellness — down to our food and beverage choices** — as essential to the transformation of our world.

How many of us run around protecting the sacred — demanding our own dignity or the dignity of marginalized peoples be recognized — while simulatenously neglecting and abandoning ourselves?

Whether you think we need reform, systemic transformation, a full-fledged revolution, a mix of those things, or something entirely different — whatever you believe about how we will change the world for the better, it must include this idea of mentally, spiritually, and nutritionally detoxing ourselves for the work ahead.

Because water is sacred. And so are you.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We need you.

We must protect the water and we must be nourished by the water.

This, is some of what I saw happening at Standing Rock.

So, My #1 simple wellness tip for this season of the liberation work: Interact with nourishing water — Drink it, swim in it, play in it, splash in it, fight for it. And know that in all the ways you interact with nourishing waters, it is part of the resistance.

Standing Rock taught me that #WaterisLife is about resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). And, it’s about resisting more than the DAPL.

We are water. The earth is water. Indigenous wisdom and sovreignty is life.

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**I use the the words ‘simple’ and ‘choice’ to convey that for some of us, this is the case; we have simple choices to make when it comes to our food and beverage consumption, and we need to be clear about that. We also need to be clear, that these are not simple options or choices for many. And for that reason we must also join the long-haul struggles for access to healthy food and water for all. For those of us who have the choice, let’s begin the work of beginning to make wiser and more liberatory choices. Again, for the sake of our own healing, and for the sake of the world. We need you. Need you healthy.

Kelly Strickland