Forgiveness Ceremony Unites Veterans And Natives At Standing Rock Casino

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Above Photo: JOSH MORGAN FOR THE HUFFINGTON POST. Wesley Clark Jr., middle, and other veterans kneel in front of Leonard Crow Dog during a forgiveness ceremony at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday.

“We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke.”

On Monday, Native Americans conducted a forgiveness ceremony with U.S. veterans at the Standing Rock casino, giving the veterans an opportunity to atone for military actions conducted against Natives throughout history.

In celebration of Standing Rock protesters’ victory Sunday in halting construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, Leonard Crow Dog formally forgave Wes Clark Jr., the son of retired U.S. Army general and former supreme commander at NATO, Wesley Clark Sr.

Salon published Clark’s apology to the Natives, which read as follows:

Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. When we took still more land and then we took your children and then we tried to make your language and we tried to eliminate your language that God gave you, and the Creator gave you. We didn’t respect you, we polluted your Earth, we’ve hurt you in so many ways but we’ve come to say that we are sorry. We are at your service and we beg for your forgiveness.

This was a historically symbolic gesture forgiving centuries of oppression against Natives and honoring their partnership in defending the land from the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Chief Leonard Crow Dog offered forgiveness and urged for world peace, responding that “we do not own the land, the land owns us.”

Natives Faith Spotted Eagle and Ivan Looking Horse also spoke at the ceremony.



Photographer Josh Morgan was on the scene at the casino and collected the following series of intimate photographs:

Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

  • Maria D. Michael, a Lakota elder from San Fransisco, embraces veteran Tatiana McLee during an emotional forgiveness ceremony at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday.
Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

  • Leonard Crow Dog, a Lakota elder and highly-regarded activist, left, places his hand over Wesley Clark Jr.’s head during a forgiveness ceremony for veterans at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday.
Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

  • Veteran Tatiana McLee wipes tears from her eyes as she films Lakota elders speak during the forgiveness ceremony.
Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

  • More than 500 people participate in a forgiveness ceremony for veterans at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday.
Stephanie Keith / Reuters

Stephanie Keith / Reuters

  • Veterans receive a blessing of sage during a healing ceremony hosted by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe as “water protectors” continue to demonstrate against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, in Fort Yates, North Dakota.
Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

  • Wesley Clark Jr. hugs a man participating in a forgiveness ceremony for veterans at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday.
Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

  • Virginia McIntyre, a U.S. Air Force veteran from Buffalo, N.Y., wipes tears from her eyes during an emotional forgiveness ceremony for veterans at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday.
Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

  • Wesley Clark Jr. and other veterans kneel in front of Leonard Crow Dog during a forgiveness ceremony at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday.
Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post 

  • U.S. Air Force veteran Virginia McIntyre, left, shakes hands with chief Arvol Looking Horse during a forgiveness ceremony for veterans at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday.
Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

  • U.S. Army Veterans Tih Kobolson, left, and Aloysious Bell, walk around with a ceremonial smudge stick and feathers during a forgiveness ceremony at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday.
Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

  • U.S. Army veterans Aloysious Bell, left, and Tie Kobolson, hold ceremonial feathers and a smudge stick during a forgiveness ceremony for veterans at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday.
Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

  • Wesley Clark Jr., middle, and other veterans kneel in front of Leonard Crow Dog during the forgiveness ceremony.
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Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post 

  • Veterans from all branches of military service participate in the forgiveness ceremony.
Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post

  • Doug Good Feather, a U.S. Army veteran, claps as Ivan Looking Horse gives a speech during a forgiveness ceremony for veterans.

Check out more on Standing Rock and the victory over the DAPL here.

 

  • tibetan cowboy

    I didn’t see Obama, or Trump, or Ashton Carter, or any of Obama’s cabinet or any of the 100s of U.S. congress person liars and cowards. Only good people were there, I’d guess, from the photos.

  • HazumuOsaragi

    Question: How many veterans were there at the ceremony to add numbers and weight to Wes Clark’s ceremonial ‘we’re sorry’? I count 13 people kneeling (and assume the 14th person with the badge is a journalist taking pictures.) It was a wonderful gesture. But I’m afraid history will report this a exactly that – a gesture, nothing more. Where’s the massive number of like-minded bodies to make it a meaningful, lasting, and restorative act?