Recently, I caught up with the leading environmental activist, grandmother, and mother, Casey Camp-Horinek, from the Ponca Tribe in Oklahoma. In our conversation, we talked mother-to-mother about the Standing Rock protest, climate change, and the goals of indigenous “protectors.” Casey’s words went straight to my heart.
Mom’s Clean Air Force: You recently returned from the Dakota pipeline encampment. What was that like?
Casey Camp-Horinek: Yes, we were there for the protection of the water, for the Missouri River. My sons and nephews have been there since early August. My son, Mekasi Horinek, was just named the leader of the encampment by the Standing Rock Sioux.
Congratulations. What an honor.
Thank you. As a mother, I’m proud and concerned all in one breath. When my son first arrived at the encampment in early August, there were approximately 35 people at Standing Rock. Mekasi began helping to organize, and from there it has snowballed. Today, there are over fifty tribes and thousands of people from all over the U.S. As you know, there have been arrests and attacks against the protectors, and that has only drawn more people to the encampment.
Could you tell me about your role as a mother in protecting our environment and the need to support the efforts of the Dakota protectors?
Being a mother is a huge part of my support of the sacred movement to care for the earth and the water. Before our forced removal, our Ponca people originally lived along the Missouri River. We were forcibly removed to Oklahoma two generations ago. My grandfather was eight years old during that forced removal, so we have a very strong connection to the sacred water in the area of Standing Rock. We believe the great creator has called on us to care of the earth. So we feel compelled to be present at Standing Rock, on Missouri River — to show solidarity with the people and the land there.
There’s something historical happening right now at Standing Rock, and it’s being felt throughout indigenous Americas, and with the allies of the earth — all living beings. Our children are sensing, feeling and acting on this.
In our indigenous world, we understand that, “Water is life.” This is true for all beings, not just humans such as the farmers, ranchers, and those humans who rely on the Missouri for drinking water — but also those without voices: the deer, elk, rabbits, squirrels, fish and all the systems of life that depend on water. We must protect such sacred water, as the Creator calls on us to do.
How many people are at Standing Rock now?
5,000 were there last week. There are over 200 Red Nations flags that are flying there now, including the Ponca flag. The numbers are growing all the time. I know every day, every moment, is filled with prayer there. The Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf pipe for generations, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, came and blessed that entire area. There are ceremonies to get directions and guidance, to connect with all living beings so that we can continue to make this stand.
As a mother and grandmother, do you feel there’s a special relationship between human mothers and Mother Earth?
I was speaking to a group yesterday that had to create a superfund site over in the northeastern part of Oklahoma, where Tar Creek is, in Picher Oklahoma, and the Paw Paw Nation, and those surrounding nations, that were part of Trail of Tears.
I was talking to them about the simple things of being a great grandmother, grandmother, and mother. It begins when the child is only single cell within the sacred water of a mother’s womb. That cell begins to grow and divide according to what that mother, the human mother, ingests. What she ingests are gifts from the other sacred Mother, the Mother Earth — grains, animals, fish vegetables, and these give life to our children. All that sustains our babies comes from the greater Mother, the Mother Earth. (Tweet this) And we drink the blood, the milk from her breast, called water.
All life comes from our Mother Earth, and then we are born unto this earth, and we go, “Aah,” and we breath that sacred breath that comes from our relatives, the trees and the plant nations — where they give us this thing called oxygen and we breathe out this thing called carbon dioxide. That is that sacred trading of energies that we are given so that each of us can have life. There is an intricate, intricate dance of life that happens between the Mother Earth, and the mother, and the spirit and the body. All this is an ongoing dance until we transition into the next world.
Your words are beautiful!
As a mama, you feel this in the deepest portion of your truth.
I do. I had cancer before I became pregnant with my daughter, and so I felt it was an incredible privilege to become a mother. And I also felt deeply aware of the great responsibility I have to take care of my child and the earth.
That’s how our Mother the Earth feels about us. She never quits nurturing us, or caring about us. And even though we may not respect her as humans in that way, she never quits loving us and caring for us, and giving us what we need. It’s only correct that we do the same for her.
So for the mothers and fathers out there, are you calling on us to join with the indigenous people in this act of protection of the sacred waters at Standing Rock and in caring for our Mother Earth?
Life is not a spectator sport. We should ask ourselves: What do we wish to leave behind when it’s time for us to make transition into the next world? Have we lived with honor with all of our relatives — including animals, plants, fish, water, and air?
Here’s how you can help.
Make phone calls:
- Call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at 701-328-2200 and share your concerns
- Call the White House at 202-456-1111 and tell President Obama to rescind the Army Corps of Engineers’ permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Photo via Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network