Vi Waln: Water protection walk urges forgiveness amid #NoDAPL crackdown

The Water Protection Forgiveness Walk took place November 6, 2016, in Mandan, North Dakota. Photo by Corey Sundog Mascio

Forgiveness is Powerful
By Vi Waln
Lakota Country Times Columnist

Our Indigenous women are amazing. Earlier this month, an event was organized by Lyla June Johnston and Cheryl Angel in Mandan, North Dakota. This event was held to bring awareness to how crucial forgiveness is for the human race.

Most of you are aware of the events which have been happening near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, as the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) continues in North Dakota. Unfortunately, despite all intent to remain in prayer for the protection of the Missouri River from a crude oil pipeline, some direct actions did involve violence.

Many human beings have been brutalized by the police officers. These are officers who’ve abandoned their jobs in their own states and counties to join the military force. Taxpayers from several states, including South Dakota, are the financial sponsors for their police officers to join Morton County’s army. Many people who’ve been arrested have publicly shared their experience of what it’s like to be mistreated in North Dakota county jails.

All the people involved in these actions, whether in person or by watching social media live streams and video, have been adversely affected. This includes the police officers who are inflicting brutality. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a real condition that many of us suffer from. Last week I wrote a little about how PTSD is passed down to our unborn generations through our DNA.

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We may not realize it, but this subconscious PTSD carries over into our present lives. This is what is meant when people talk about historical trauma. It’s difficult to move forward when we carry PTSD in our bodies. It takes great effort to transform the trauma we carry in our DNA into forgiveness.

It may seem easier to engage in anger and violence as a way to release the pent-up trauma we carry. We might get so angry that we do things we later regret. Oftentimes, we don’t even know where the anger comes from. This is one example of historical trauma. Today, many of our people are incarcerated because their anger took over and propelled them to commit a violent crime.

Still, we aren’t being productive human beings when we attribute the dysfunction in our lives to historical events. Our failure to work on transforming inner trauma creates a lifetime of unhappiness. We have to understand that we alone are responsible for our individual inner peace.

It takes tremendous courage to transform the DNA memories we were born with. Yet, when you work at becoming a better human being, you will definitely find happiness. Emptying ourselves of all the negative emotion and deeply buried historical trauma requires a hard look at what we carry inside.

Today, there are many Lakota people who claim they cannot forgive what was done to our ancestors. There are also many Lakota people who actively hold on to toxic energy over events they or their family suffered in this life. Many of us pass these unhealthy grudges to our Takoja, who actively carry them long after we pass away.

We have to forgive. Those of us who pray in traditional Lakota ceremony know that our prayers are greatly diminished when we choose to remain unforgiving. The level of our personal thought and inner emotion does affect the sacred energy we create in Lakota ceremony. So, because we pray with the Cannunpa and other sacred medicines, we have to forgive people who may have done great wrong to us or our family members. Forgiveness is the only way we are going to heal.

It really doesn’t matter if the person you are working to forgive is apologetic about what wrongs they might have committed. The ability to forgive is a gift you bestow upon yourself. You free yourself to higher levels of spirituality when you are able to forgive those who have done you harm. Forgiveness is not about the other person. The ability to truly forgive is all about self. Consequently, the hardest person to forgive is usually yourself.

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The following paragraphs are excerpts from an address by Dave Archambault II, President of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who spoke to the people gathered in prayer for the November 6, 2016, Forgiveness Walk in Mandan, North Dakota:
“It’s been difficult because we react to law enforcement aggression. They’ve been doing these things for hundreds of years now. It’s time to start to change how we react and what we do.”

“If you were harmed by law enforcement, you have to take care of yourself and the only way you can take care of yourself is through prayer. To forgive doesn’t mean to forget, we will always remember the wrongs that were done to us. To forgive means to live in a good way, in a better way.”

“I know what we are doing is the right thing. We are protecting our water. We are protecting our land for our future generations and for mankind. This whole movement has been about peace and prayer,” Archambault stated.

“We can control how we behave.”

Forgiveness is powerful.

(Vi Waln is an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and is a nationally published journalist.)

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