Forgive Me My Ancestor(s) by Elizabeth Cunningham

Elizabeth Cunningham

When I was a child in the 1950s we often played cowboys and Indians. There is a photograph of my brother and me in no doubt inauthentic costume complete with feathered headdress. In kindergarten I named myself Morning Star. (I just googled and see that I must have gotten the name from the 50s television series Brave Eagle, the first with an indigenous main character. Morning Star is the female lead.)

When I was a teenager, my aunt came across a privately printed book The Gentleman on the Plains about second sons of English aristocracy hunting buffalo in western Iowa. My great grandfather accompanied them as their clergyman. I wish I could find that book now to see how this enterprise was presented. In my adolescent mind these “gentlemen” looked like the local foxhunters in full regalia. On opening morning of foxhunt season an Episcopal clergyman (like my father) was on hand in ecclesiastical dress to bless the hunt and then invited to a boozy breakfast. Continue reading “Forgive Me My Ancestor(s) by Elizabeth Cunningham”

Standing Rock: What Does Easter Look Like? by Elizabeth Cunningham

As I write, Bakken crude oil is moving through the Dakota Access Pipeline under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe Reservoir, crossing treaty lands and waters that the Sioux Nation never ceded to the United States Government.

This, after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline since it was proposed in 2014, with hundreds of other tribes making formal declarations in support of the tribe’s opposition. This, despite ongoing lawsuits. This, after a prayer camp begun by a small group of indigenous youth in April, 2016 grew to several camps with a total population at one point of close to 20,000. This, after 4,000 United States military veterans came to stand with the water protectors in December, 2016. This, after the United States Army Corps of Engineers under the Obama administration denied the easement to cross the river and legally bound themselves to conducting an environmental impact study that the Trump administration aborted. This, after countless unarmed water protectors faced attack dogs, mace, rubber bullets, water hoses turned on them in sub-freezing weather, and noise cannons.  This, after the arrest of over seven hundred people (some charged with felonies and still awaiting trial) many of whom were strip-searched and held in kennels in an unheated parking garage. This, after hundreds of people camped all winter, surviving blizzards and bitter cold. This, after people remained standing in prayer until they were forcibly removed from the prayer camps on February 22nd, 2017. Continue reading “Standing Rock: What Does Easter Look Like? by Elizabeth Cunningham”

An Open Letter to President Obama about the Dakota Access Pipeline by Elizabeth Cunningham

Elizabeth_Author Photo 2I wrote this letter to President Obama on November 18, the morning after I returned from a few days at Standing Rock. I am not an activist by temperament. I went to Standing Rock to support a friend who felt strongly called to go, as well as, to support the cause. I did not participate in direct action, because I did not fully grasp till I was there the preparations I would need to make in terms of clearing my calendar for jail time and a return to North Dakota for a trial. Gratitude and respect for those who are taking this risk and dedicating their lives to this cause.

One thing this letter below does not address is how to donate to the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. Given the overwhelming donations of food and clothing that are still pouring in, financial donation is more practical now. Here’s a link to the donation page:  You can also donate to the legal fund: People are being arrested on a daily basis.  

I am still sorting through the experience of this journey and its connection to what lies ahead for this country. Unlike many people who have suffered privation and injustice for years and centuries, I have lived in a relatively comfortable, privileged bubble in the Northeast, surrounded by natural beauty and by friends, family, and community of like mind. After this presidential election, I don’t think it is possible or conscionable to live such an insular life, though I do intend to savor and celebrate all moments of joy. The President Elect is clearly bent on environmental depredation. We all have a great deal to learn from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Continue reading “An Open Letter to President Obama about the Dakota Access Pipeline by Elizabeth Cunningham”

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