Seven Generations for Standing Rock


To some who watch the struggle at Standing Rock led by its Native guardians there is a fundamental disconnect . . . indeed misunderstanding . . .  about what they are doing and why. To sisters and brothers in harm’s way in North Dakota it’s more than the defense of land that is sacred today . . . or was yesterday . . . but ensuring it remains no less so for each generation to come. Like endless time before, tomorrow knows no bounds. Like resistance today, their children and children’s children, carry that duty tomorrow.

Each Indian Nation has its own sacred covenant with their maker . . . a sacred trust that binds their existence and spirit with those that have come before and those yet to travel . . .  a journey sculpted by that trust. It is a bridge for today that connects all that has been with all that is yet to be; a duty to act here and now to preserve and protect what was and what will be. Without it, for Native people there can be no tomorrow.

Among my People it is called Seven Generations.

To the Kanien’kehá:ka of the Haudenosaunee, Seven Generations is not simply an abstract legend that shades the contours of our lives, but for us an obligation as a People that transcends the narrow confines of here and now. For all our family at Standing Rock, it is a living sacred trust, a marriage to the land that has been our strength for time immemorial and will remain so for generations to come.

Our elders have long understood and passed to us the connection between those that have come and those to travel in their wake.

“In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self-interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law which is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the past and present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation.”

The struggle at Standing Rock finds its power in tradition, but its strength and purpose in the here and now. Native people are much more than mere talisman created to give symbol and comfort to others. We have unique traditions and beliefs, ways that chart our course. Though at times we invite others to walk with us, it is not to lead the way.

Our communities are much more than mere building blocks and store-fronts; they are tribal and national territories where we battle daily to endure . . . to maintain our culture, dignity and universal right to self-determination.

Ours is a struggle that has not been easy . . . often it’s been one wrought with pain and peril. Though, at times, we’ve lost much . . . it has never been our vision or our way. We know who we are. We have not and will not surrender our self-respect and future to those who seek to seal or purchase it.

From coast to coast in ways little every day we struggle to ford the river of time. Survival is much more than convenience . . . it is the knowledge that when the winds of change seek to dampen our spirit and silence our voice, we must refuse and we do.

In dedication to my family at Standing Rock, I lend this voice.

On this day:
The poverty of our minds
bailed to surface by the
brilliance of survivals shine

Our nations
rhythm washed bones
mark tempo with the cross stitch of stars
And fools chant chorus of no holds to bar
This is our homeless and sovereign time
Brothers in arms
no more a crime
Each held to the clones and the drones
that now code our spine

Behold the Spirit of
King and Queen
This new democratic monarchy
Feast upon the beauty
in between
Set eyes ahead for remedy
forget not family,
we are free
to be and see
One human destiny

Where titans doze towards legacy
in victory we will be found
As misplaced sage rings for embrace
A healing song woven round
for the earth they break
in the hunger to take and take
Cry Her shadow, a whisper, a trace
Each moment etched upon her face

This is the magic that writes us down
To gently right our crooked crown
Worldly hustle and ebb
to flow
Torn and tarred
For all to know
Old glory and grace
To give and grow

Seven Generations is a river and we, my friends and family, are in the midst of its current. We the People will continue to insure its waters are defended, clean and pure.

All paintings by Joni Sarah White.

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Joni Sarah White is a Mohawk from Akwesasne who’s paintings and sculptures have appeared throughout the world. A graduate of Dartmouth College and recipient of fellowships from both Hedgebrook and Chautauqua Institution. Additional work of hers can be seen at www.wethepeople.gallery

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