Author: Larry Wahweotten
Larry is a Liberty Foundations coach/trainer who teaches horses at Liberty, without ropes or force, creating deep relationships with the people who love them. He is available for lessons at TayWah Ranch, near Augusta, KS. Larry is one of the Horse People of his Prairie Band, Potawatomi Nation.
Larry Wahweotten is a Liberty Foundations Certified Trainer and a member of the prestigious international organization, the Independent Liberty Trainers Network. Why did he journey far from his own tribe, the Prairie Band, Potawotami Nation in Kansas, to North Dakota?
There is an amazing event taking place at Standing Rock Reservation like nothing the world has ever known. It started with the beginning of an oil pipeline planned to take oil from North Dakota to Iowa, where it would join with another to take oil to the gulf coast and export. It is planned to go near the Standing Rock Rez and under the Missouri River, which is the source of drinking water for the tribe and millions of others downstream. During the previous work, the company destroyed burial grounds and ancient artifacts from the Native American Nation. The Tribes are committed to non-violence and are unarmed. In contrast, security guards have attacked them with pepper spray and attack dogs, and the governor of North Dakota has activated the National Guard with orders to shoot as needed. President Obama has ordered the construction to stop in the area until a final decision about the pipeline can be made. And so we wait. And pray.
Because of this, Native Americans from all over the United States (including Hawaii and Alaska) and Canada began gathering at Standing Rock as Protectors of Water, protesting against the pipeline which violates treaties and threatens their way of life. They have since been joined by indigenous people from Mexico and South America. From small beginnings, there is now an encampment of greater than 5,000 people. The protest is non-violent and prayerful, with singing prayers and drums to be heard through the days and nights. People of all races have joined them by being there, taking supplies, publicizing what is happening and donating money to help buy needed items. Kitchens are set up, schools are in session, and the gathering has become one of the top 10 'cities' in North Dakota in population!
Here is Larry's story, highlighting the happenings that had much meaning to him.
I arrived at Standing Rock in the night, seeing lights of an amazing city of tipis and tents spread over the northern plains. I stopped at the gate, expecting to be asked my tribe, credentials, etc. Incredibly, that didn't happen. The man at the gate welcomed me, telling me to pitch my tent wherever I wanted.
That surprised me more than a bit, because since childhood I had lived with the tribes being divided, prejudiced against each other, dating perhaps to the old times when certain tribes were enemies. When I was taken from my family and sent to Indian School, as was the practice, the children would go behind the schoolhouse and fight to prove which tribe was the toughest. Even in the present day, members of one tribe look down their noses at another when they meet.
Those times are becoming a thing of the past, starting with Standing Rock. Elders of all Tribes are involved in continuing conferences with unity as a goal. The chiefs met and formally made peace, uniting all the tribes, and it is practiced now.
I pitched my tent in the dark and lay down to rest from my long journey. As I drowsed, the sound of drumming and Native songs drifted through the night around me and held me with the arms of peace. I heard the sound of horse hooves near my tent, and as it passed my door the sound of giggles from a young rider lifted my heart.
The next days were filled with a sense of unity. I was told to eat in any of the field kitchens set up, and I felt welcoming camaraderie everywhere I went. I sought out Horse People from different tribes, found them and had deep discussions about our shared backgrounds. Everywhere there were horses, with elders advising younger generations about being with horses, always with respect.
I left Standing Rock 3 days later, forever changed, forever inspired about my life as a Native American. I renewed my resolve to teach Native American youth about horses and their heritage with them.