Since April of this year, Native peoples from hundreds of tribes nation-wide have gathered in North Dakota to protect the land and waterways threatened by the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) . As an acupuncturist, I see the protest of the DAPL as a practice of holistic healing. The slogan of the protest is “Water is Life,” uplifting the importance of protecting the waterways threatened by the pipeline construction, and all the life that is being put in danger as a result. Without clean water, we can’t live.
Water in Chinese medicine corresponds with source energy, and the Kidney organ system. The Kidney system is all about our will, our longevity, our primordial essence, our reproductive power. In Chinese medicine, we consider all the diverse conditions within a person’s body and life experiences that play a role in the disharmony that manifests as pain or disease. The context of what’s happening and the history of the condition are interconnected with what is happening in the moment. This is true in the body, and on the planet.
Just as putting a tiny needle in the foot can relieve the pain of a headache, even those of us that are far away from the struggles in North Dakota can play a role in the cultural healing that’s happening there. The culture of capitalist greed that prioritizes a pipeline of fracked oil over the safety and sovereignty of Indigenous people and their commitment to preservation of the environment is the same capitalist culture that has commodified acupuncture, making it a luxury item accessible only to the elite. In these ways, our individual healing, even as non-indigenous settlers, is linked to the environmental justice fight happening in North Dakota, and to indigenous self-determination, in general.
Community Acupuncture, and the social business model of OAP is a radical shift toward resource sharing and sharing our healing experiences. Here, the OAP community can look to the commitment and bravery of the warriors at Standing Rock as an example. We are connected, and when we are able to be really present, there’s a collective experience that we share. Our healing is linked, and we can feel that when we come together and share the experience.
How beautiful to come together to heal, and how beautiful to come together to support the healing that has manifested as the fight for justice against the corporate greed of the oil industry. In North Dakota, people are putting their bodies on the line in this fight to ensure clean water for our future. The Protectors are setting a precedent about what we need to prioritize, as a culture, in order to sustain the health of our country. From a Chinese medicine perspective, this is about nourishing our kidneys, our collective longevity- the water element, the source, the will to create a safe environment for all life to continue to thrive.
This December, OAP will be holding a donation drive for the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. This contribution by the OAP community is important to me because of the connections between what we’re doing here at OAP and what the Native peoples are fighting for in North Dakota. The OAP community benefits from the resistance to the DAPL, and I believe that in turn, we are responsible to the Water Protectors in the North as well.
In an effort to respect and uplift Indigenous voices on this issue, here’s some resources written and compiled by folks directly involved in the struggle: