Water is Life

Water is Life September 11, 2016

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I offered the following meditation at my Unitarian church today, as part of our Water Communion/Ingathering Service.


The planned Dakota Access Pipeline would transport a half million barrels of crude oil a day, from the Bakken oil field in North Dakota to a refinery near Chicago. The Pipeline is on the tribal lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and upstream from the reservation, endangering the reservation’s drinking water and profaning ancient burial sites. We know the pipeline is not safe: there were 300 oil pipeline breaks in the state of North Dakota in one year alone.

For months, thousands of Indigenous activists have set up resistance camps along the pipeline route in a historic moment of nonviolent resistance. Peaceful protesters defending their drinking water from bulldozers have been attacked by private security companies with guard dogs and pepper spray. Meanwhile, the state withdrew state-owned water tanks from the protest site, despite sweltering heat.

Construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline is still underway. On Friday, a federal judge held that construction can continue on the pipeline. The tribe is appealing that decision. (Meanwhile, the Obama administration has paused construction.)

Anti-pipeline activists have adopted the Sioux saying “Mni wiconi” / “Water is life.”

I want to share with you the words of Anna Lee from the Standing Rock Youth:

“I’m 13 years-old and as an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, I’ve lived my whole life by the Missouri River. It runs by my home in Fort Yates, North Dakota and my great grandparents original home was along the Missouri River in Cannon Ball. The river is a crucial part of our lives here on the Standing Rock Reservation.

“But now a private oil company wants to build a pipeline that would cross the Missouri River less than a mile away from the Standing Rock Reservation and if we don’t stop it, it will poison our river and threaten the health of my community when it leaks.

“My friends and I have played in the river since we were little; my great grandparents raised chickens and horses along it. When the pipeline leaks, it will wipe out plants and animals, ruin our drinking water, and poison the center of community life for the Standing Rock Sioux.

“In Dakota/Lakota we say ‘Mni Wiconi.’ Water is life. Native American people know that water is the first medicine, not just for us, but for all human beings living on this earth.”

The following prayer is an excerpt from the Onadaga Thanksgiving Address, which is recorded by Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass. Kimmerer herself is a botanist and a member of the Potawatomi Nation. I share these words with you in a spirit of respect for indigenous peoples and the waters that we share:

We give thanks to all the waters of the world.

We are grateful that the waters are still here and doing their duty of sustaining life on Mother Earth.

Water is Life.

Quenching our thirst and providing us with strength, making the plants grow and sustaining us all.

Let us gather our minds together with one mind.

We send greetings and thanks to the Waters.

Please join with me in saying:

Mni Wiconi

Water is life


If you wish to support the protesters, please go to rezpectourwater.com.


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