In my humble opinion, there are no coincidences…a Greater Power is at work-and this was manifested on the morning of our tour presentation in the small western Nebraska town of Chadron (which was, incidentally, 1 of the most well-attended and well-received in the entire Rocky Mtn. leg of the roadshow-thanks, Bruce!). We had been in town for a couple days-and were thankful for a break in the brutal heat of the previous days, as well as in our schedule. Quite fatigued, we were debating whether or not to stop in the Daily Grind coffee house before-or after-starting our errands for that day & preparing to head east to Lincoln. We opted, rather whimsically, to go for fair-trade, shade-grown caffeine 1st-& happened to encounter 3 Native wimmin there who were headed to the Pine Ridge Rez just to our north for an annual ceremony given the next day by Leonard Peltier’s family in his honour-to take place on the Jumping Bull property outside of the poverty-stricken community of Oglala, where the tragic shootout occurred 27 years ago on that date (June 26). Conversation between us all just seemed to spring up instantaneously, and 1 of these wimmin recognized 1 of us from repeated mutual attendances at the Indigenous Environmental Network’s Protecting Mother Earth Conferences between 1997 and 2004. They invited us up to the Rez to participate in the ceremony-and we postponed our trek to Lincoln in order to do so. We made the right decision-and this fact is further borne out by the recognition that-had we postponed our daily visit to the Daily Grind by just a few minutes-we would have missed completely this interaction and the invitation that arose from it, leaving Chadron without ever knowing this event was taking place.
The next morning we packed up and drove north from Chadron to Oglala, where we met w/ other participants (many of them locals from the Rez, others from many other places-including as far away as Australia) at the “Our Lady of the Sioux” Catholic Church (anybody else get the twisted irony in that?) outside of Oglala. We then drove to the cemetery where many Native victims of the infamous BIA/FBI/GOON “Reign of Terror” of the mid-1970s are buried, and-after a prayer/ceremony in their honour-we all walked prayerfully to the Jumping Bull property about a mile away, where an incredibly powerful and poignant ceremony transpired that which included a recorded statement from Peltier from inside the Ft. Leavenworth concentration camp in Kansas. It was a beautiful day, and-thank God especially for the children, Elders, and pregnant wimmin-we were spared the ruthless heat of the previous week.
After the ceremony we drove back to the church compound outside of Oglala for an evening of food, music (Traditional, folk, blues/rock, & hip-hop), & spoken-word statements. Much to our pleasant surprise, RTNA was invited to speak on stage between bands-and 1 of us gave a 5-minute talk about RTNA’s efforts and aspirations (particularly along the lines of environmental justice/anti-racism, Indigenous solidarity, and cross-cultural alliance-building). After this, we were responded to what was almost a standing ovation-with hand-shakes, hugs, and tears-and invited back for next year’s ceremony. We gave away much literature and traded contact information, and were sent away with food, clothing, and many, many prayers and blessings. As we left, we were told: “Come back next year! The People will remember you!” We were also told by Leonard Peltier’s family that they would tell him about us. When we left that night to log some miles toward Lincoln before sleeping on the side of the road along with half the mosquitoes in the Great Plains-we were changed people….
There is hope.