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It is time for humans to act as a unified force of nature, to live life as a prayer of gratitude and service for the Earth and for future generations. It is time for a Global Wopida.
The Native American Dakota people have a special ceremony used for times of difficulty. It is called Wopida, or Wopila in the Lakota dialect. Wopida is a sacred sharing of gratitude, a connecting with all beings including the Great Spirit through giving thanks. It is is an expression of wisdom, strength, and compassion. Our native allies have survived centuries of genocide yet they still carry this sacred teaching that helps us navigate turbulent times. This is the core teaching of Wopida:
This spiritual understanding of Wopida requires each of us to live with honor, compassion, love, respect and harmony with all life. This spiritual understanding recognizes that the Hurt of One is the Hurt of All and the Honor of One is the Honor of All and that we are intimately related as an integral part of all Life. We are all relatives! – Hereditary Chief, Phil Lane Jr.
The Wopida ceremony recognizes all of us are connected and honours that in gratitude.
Standing Rock, a Symbol of Our Times
In April of this year a small group of Sioux, the “Chante tin’sa kinanzi Po”, started a peaceful and prayerful resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Slowly people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds flocked to stand in support with the natives to protect their land and water. These Water Protectors have a message for the world to protect the sacred, Mni Wiconi, “water is Life”.
In early November the Pray with Standing Rock Campaign started as a way to amplify the message and the prayers of the people. Using globally synchronized online events and live webcasts from Standing Rock, the online community became actively engaged. Indigenous youth and independent news led the social media blitz that galvanized millions across the planet.
On November 21, the peaceful protestors faced tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons in sub-freezing weather yet they still remained peaceful in their stand. The first globally synchronized prayer and webcast happened on November 26 with 40,000 plus people participating in over 60 countries around the world. The second one happened on December 2 and was an interfaith prayer with clergy from around the world including Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Dr. Cornel West, Tulsi Gabbard and others.
Shortly after the Interfaith Prayer, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that an easement would not be granted for the pipeline. The Water Protectors celebrated what appeared to be a great victory, but Energy Transfer Partners announced that it would continue working on the pipeline regardless of government orders. Was this a miracle produced from collective prayer, or a political distraction? Water Protectors are remaining vigilant and prayerful regardless of the outcome. This is the essence of Wopida, to be grateful at all times.
This is why Chief Phil Lane, Ihanktowan Dakota, has called for a Global Wopida ceremony, in support of Standing Rock, to occur 10 December, which is United Nations Human Rights Day. The webcasts from both previous events had over 40,000 people listening and almost 300,000 have listened to the recording online. United Religions Initiative Director, Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian, Jr., Jon Ramer of the Charter for Compassion, Hawaiian Teacher, Pua Case, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, and others will be offering words of wisdom and gratitude in the presentation on Saturday December 10.
This heartfelt understanding of the infinite unifying and healing power of Wopida, is to give thanks and gratitude at all times and in all places. This is the State of Consciousness that we always need to be, whatever unfolds at Standing Rock and beyond. – Hereditary Chief, Phil Lane Jr.
Why is Being Grateful During Hard Times so Important?
In the same way that Tibetans have endured immense suffering to become global teachers of compassion, Native Americans exemplify the strength of the human spirit to endure generations of oppression. What is the secret to being able to celebrate life, to live in gratitude, and continue to be generous after you have had almost everything taken away from you? Wopida is a powerful expression of human dignity, nobility, and resilience. It starts with being thankful, when times are good, and when times are not good.
When we say “thank you”, and live in gratitude, it opens our heart to accept what is. This state of consciousness is completely merged with the divine, it is no longer struggling for outcomes, for control. It is humble, modest, and authentic without pretension. This is why it is such a powerful state of being. When we choose to be grateful for hard experiences it also inspires our creative mind to seek narratives that are empowering, that seek meaning, rather than falling into victim mentality.
All of us can probably think of painful experiences that later revealed themselves as a blessing in disguise, character building, a source of great learning, or a turning point in our lives. After the common emotional phases of denial, anger, sorrow, usually comes acceptance.
There Is No Separation
Wopida is the understanding that we are blessed regardless of life’s circumstances.
When we strive to make our lives, every thought, word and action, a living Wopida, we are given a great spiritual gift. For whenever our soul and the inmost chambers of our heart are filled with thanksgiving and gratitude it also naturally becomes filled with compassion, love, understanding, forgiveness, joy, happiness and oneness. When our lives are centered in this State of Consciousness, there is no room left for the experience of fear, hate, prejudice, revenge, jealousy, loneliness and disunity. There is no room for anything that separates ourselves and our oneness with our Beloved Creator, our Human Family and all Life, seen and unseen. – Hereditary Chief, Phil Lane Jr.
History, like Nature, Unfolds in Rhythms
Whether it is fate, karma, or irony that is playing out in North Dakota, we are seeing a clear pattern playing out today. In 1863 an estimated 300 – 400 Sioux were massacred while peacefully gathered for an inter-tribal buffalo hunt at Whitestone Hill. The survivors from Whitestone Hill made their way west to the narrow part of the Cannonball River near the confluence with the Missouri River where they crossed for safety. They rebuilt their communities and held sacred ceremony for the past 150 years on this very same land where the Dakota Access Pipeline is currently slated to cross the river. We stand at that very crossroads once again.
At the start of the actions at Standing Rock, a council fire was lit, as is tradition for native ceremonies. Oceti Sakowan means the seven council fires, and is the proper name for the people commonly known as the Sioux. This sacred fire in the center is where all the prayers are offered, and stories are told by the warmth of the evening glow.
Sharing a common fire is one thing that has always united the Sioux people. Keeping of the peta waken (sacred fire) was an important activity. On marches, coals from the previous council fire were carefully preserved and used to rekindle the council fire at the new campsite. –Oceti Sakowin Camp
Coming Together to Heal Mother Earth
There are many stories and prophecies of the 7th Generation, of Rainbow People, and of an 8th Council Fire, that all speak of a great unity of people coming together across cultures and faiths to bring healing to Mother Earth. Though the stories vary, there is a growing sentiment that we are now living in a time of prophecy.
From the sacred fire at Standing Rock torches have been lit and youth runners are bringing this fire in all directions. The growing unity and solidarity with Standing Rock has brought strength to people everywhere who are standing up to protect the sacred. The spreading of this great “spiritual fire” is very symbolic and powerful for the people. Is this the fulfilment of the 8th Fire Prophecy as told by Grandfather William Commanda?
They would retrace their steps to find the wisdom that was left by the side of the trail long ago. Their steps would take them to the elders, who they would ask to guide them on their journey. If the New People remain strong in their quest, the sacred drum will again sound its voice. There will be an awakening of the people, and the sacred fire will again be lit. At this time, the light-skinned race will be given a choice between two roads. One road is the road of greed and technology without wisdom or respect for life. This road represents a rush to destruction. The other road is spirituality, a slower path that includes respect for all living things. If we choose the spiritual path, we can light yet another fire, an Eight Fire, and begin an extended period of Peace and healthy growth. – Grandfather William Commanda, Algonquin Elder and Spiritual Leader, from the Prophecy of the Seven Fires of the Anishnabe
A Powerful Opportunity Moving Forward
December 10 is designated Human Rights Day which commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights include, among others, the right to peacefully assemble, to have clean drinking water, the right to consultation, to peace, and to not be brutalized by police or state agencies. The history between colonists, the US government, and indigenous people, especially the Sioux, has been wrought with human rights violations. Now is a potent time to bring attention to this, to heal it, and set a better course moving forward. This is why elders like Chief Phil Lane and others are calling for a Global Wopida.
We must reaffirm our common humanity. Wherever we are, we can make a real difference. In the street, in school, at work, in public transport; in the voting booth, on social media.
It starts with each of us. Step forward and defend the rights of a refugee or migrant, a person with disabilities, an LGBT person, a woman, a child, indigenous peoples, a minority group, or anyone else at risk of discrimination or violence. – United Nations Human Rights Day
Call For a Global Wopida
Global Wopida is a call to live in gratitude as we face great changes on our planet. For updates on this movement and upcoming events, please visit Pray with Standing Rock. This moment represents a shift in consciousness when each of us are given a choice about the kind of future we’d like to create. There are many Standing Rocks around the world, where people are struggling to protect their sacred places, whether they be forests, mountains, oceans, or rivers. The battle is not over, there is much work to be done. It is time for humans to act as a unified force of nature, to live life as a prayer of gratitude and service for the Earth and for future generations. It is time for a Global Wopida. Join us on December 10 at 10am CST for a webcast and synchronized expression of gratitude. Let the healing begin!
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Founder and director of Culture Collective, creative activist, musician, and producer.