Photos and Excerpts: Nathan Phillips ''Return to Standing Rock''
Excerpts: Return to Standing Rock
This is how we used to gather every day at camp, said Nathan Phillips, a member of the Omaha Nation and a founder of the Native Youth Alliance, the grassroots indigenous awareness organization that put out the call for the walk. And later: This is how we gathered on the last day of camp.
At the start of the walk, Phillips had just turned 64 years old. DAPL stepped on my birthday cake, he said. Phillips is tall and rangy, with shaggy, thinning hair and glasses. At camp, he was known as Uncle Nate, or simply Uncle. Phillips and his daughter, Alethea, then 17, arrived in November 2016, still grieving the recent death of his wife, Shoshana, Aletheas mother, who had died after years of living with multiple myeloma. Two weeks after they arrived at camp, Alethea informed him they werent leaving. Her father didnt argue. Phillips has a loose, jaunty demeanor and a rhythmic, lilting speech. When he outlined the events of the next several days, he gave the location of a Saturday night powwow as that place they call the Radisson hotel. When he described the recurring dream that gave him the idea for the prayer walk, he fell into a cadence. I saw images of a springtime, a summertime, a blessed time, he told the group. The water talked to me. And a walk was always part of this dream.
Its just a prayer walk, Phillips said, as the group circled up around the fire. I dont mean to say just, but thats what it is. Well carry prayers where that pipeline crossed our sacred grounds. We want to heal the land; maybe we want to heal ourselves, too.
He raised a wooden staff adorned with nine eagle feathers in the air as he addressed his security team, volunteers who had stepped back into familiar roles guarding gates at camp. They were outfitted in head-to-toe camouflage, masked by bandanas printed with the word Resist, and bearing walkie-talkies. I have a relative here who said hed lead the way and scout ahead for us, Phillips continued, his voice breaking. You know, Im from Vietnam times. Im what they call a recon ranger. That was my role. So I thank you for taking that point position for me.
Nathan Phillips, center, prays with other protesters near the main opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball, N.D. Feb. 22, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Is that scoundrel Jill Stein used the protest against the DAP to attack Hillary and many on our left jumped aboard her con. But as soon as Election Day was over, she left and never said another word about what was happening there, even as law enforcement brutalized the remaining protesters. I just hope that everyone on our side realize that we have common ground and don't let primary fights and con artists like Stein distract them from the core fight that we have ahead of us.