I didn’t have a lot of time for photography this gathering, but I did manage to take a few. Here are the first to make the cut.
[All photos were taken by me with full permission of everyone facing the camera. I also made sure to get permission to post. The pics from the Luv’n Ovens oven making day on Vic Camp’s land will come out once I get a all the permissions in.]
Small, but reverent, main circle was certainly the place to be this year. We often had Lakota blessings before the meal, and afterwards, creation stories, workshops and other offerings from our Lakota family.
The land at this gathering was remarkably beautiful, both in the day and in the night. The weather was super mild, and both the days and the nights were comfortable.
Throughout the gathering we had various First nations folks camping with us (mostly Lakota). Grandmothers Helen Red Feather and Arlette Loudhawk stayed with us almost the entire gathering. Arlette led us in prayer at main circle and told creation stories afterwards. Helen made some of the best fry bread I’ve had at the gathering (and boy, did I need it that day!).
One of the biggest concerns of our Lakota family was cultural appropriation, and though we’ve never been so bad as they feared, they was reason for real concern. Most non-native folks don’t understand why it’s an issue and believe spirituality is up for grabs, no matter where it comes from or how it’s obtained. As a result a lot of conversations needed to happen, particularly around non-native use of sweat lodges, pipe ceremonies, and attire. A number of tipis were put up in main circle, but only after a fair amount of negotiations. It was agreed that they’d be used primarily for hosting first nations folks and for first nations workshops. When that wasn’t happening they were used for childcare and singing/drumming circles.
This picture is from the fourth, before the children’s parade.
There were three main areas of the gathering: the upper shelf with Fat Kids, Instant Soup, Wanna Burn, Luv’n Ovens, Tea Temple and Eastwind; the lower road with the Projects, Hobo Alley, Shut Up and Eat It, CALM, Kiddie Village, and Magic Bowl; main meadow with Shining Light up above it. This year back gate played a major role, with main supply, indigenous camp, and handicamp all packed into one meadow.
In addition to creation stories, we had a number of workshops after dinner, some of which including information sessions on Leonard Peltier, conversations on how to further a Rainbow-Lakota alliance, stopping the Keystone Pipeline, and much more. Chase Ironeyes, a treaty council member, led some of these and he was joined by some of the young tocala warriors.
This year’s 4th celebration was one of the most reverent I’ve ever seen. The silence was held by just about everybody throughout the gathering. The circle maintained the silence through two full rounds of the children circling the “peace pole,” and the Ohm came at just the right time.
In the end we came away with far stronger bonds with our first nations family (specifically Lakota) and many seeds planted for future actions and gatherings. Perhaps the following photo says it all–one of the Pine Ridge granddaughters who spent nearly the entire gathering with us: