In this early winter of our discontent, it is a joy to have a genuinely inspiring and heartwarming news story. Or is it a news story? The assembled nation of Protectors of the Earth – as they nobly title themselves – at Standing Rock, North Dakota, are not getting anything like the media attention their project merits. They want to stop an oil pipeline that will go through indigenous territory, through burial grounds and sacred sites, and they seem grimly determined to achieve this goal. Perhaps the great story of our times will prove, historically, to be the awakening of First Nations peoples after a few centuries of brutally imposed slumber and passive acquiescence. The Standing Rock conflict – which has already witnessed violent aggression from US authorities – has attracted support from around the world. Indigenous peoples from Australia, New Zealand, Mongolia, Africa, South America, and Canada have travelled there in an unprecedented show of solidarity, not just for their brothers and sisters, but for the preservation of this planet from corporate greed and despoliation. Thanks to the wonderfully charming and insightful CBC Radio show, Unreserved, hosted by Rosanna Deerchild, I was able to hear some of the voices from Standing Rock, and listen to Neil Young performing his song written for the movement. He alone of luminaries so far has had the decency to go there. What I heard was extremely moving. After generations of the vilest persecution, the only rightful inhabitants of this continent have managed to preserve so much of their exquisite culture and its deep bond with the Earth. No one I listened to separated love and care for the planet from spiritual beliefs. The Earth is our Great Mother and we must protect her at all costs – or else we have nothing. I thought that, for so many years, we white folk have been telling them what to do, what to think, what to be – and now, at the end, it is they who are teaching us how to live. This great struggle hardly appears in the media, yet it will be remembered as a turning point in North American history. The people there need our constant attention and many kinds of help, for the coming year will not be easy. Apparently, those who wish to assist the Protectors, with food and provisions for a long winter, can simply send them to: First Nations, Standing Rock, North Dakota. If I still had my eyesight, I’d be down there, but I shall send my love and prayers every day to all of those modern heroes.

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