By Barb Nahwegahbow
TORONTO—The 19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, headlined a fundraising event for Standing Rock in Toronto on November 28th. A capacity crowd filled the auditorium of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education on Bloor Street to hear the spiritual leader of Standing Rock. They rose to their feet and applauded when Chief Looking Horse entered the room accompanied by his daughter and her young friend.
The guest of honour was introduced by Ontario Regional Chief (ORC) Isadore Day who said it was a great honour to meet him. ORC Day said Chief Looking Horse was asked at the age of 12 to be the keeper of the sacred bundle. He was the youngest in history to assume this responsibility which often overwhelmed him, said ORC Day. Chief Looking Horse has worked for religious freedom, cultural survival and revival, and protection of sacred sites. He has travelled all over the world with his message of peace and prayer.
“It was the young people that started the Oceti Sakowin camp,” Chief Looking Horse reminded the audience. “They said, enough is enough! …Sad to say that before I left there, we have the National Guard, we have the police. And some of the young people said, ‘we came there to protect the water, but we want to ask the lawyers if we can make a will’.”
The young people that are protecting the water are peaceful and in prayer, said Chief Looking Horse, yet the newspapers are saying they are hostile; they’re savages.
“The Elders have told them, no guns, no violence, you stand there in peace and prayer. And so far we are standing like that today. Mni Wiconi. Water is life.”
There are 15,000 people in the camp, said Chief Looking Horse, “we have more flags than the United Nations. We have over 300 flags.” It’s the people who are uniting, he said, and the camp recognizes all ages, all nations.
“In our sacred teachings, the law says to respect the water. We don’t have to put that in black and white…knowing that the trees have a spirit. Knowing that the water has a spirit…and that is why the Native American people pray with that water.”
“We’re asking all people to come and be a voice, be a prayer for that water because as we go different places, we know that they too have the same problem as us,” said Chief Looking Horse.
In an interview following his talk, Chief Looking Horse said Standing Rock has inspired people all over the world.
“It’s because of the realization that we are faced with a human problem – how are we going to survive in the world today. It’s everywhere. The water is depleting, we got earth changes, climate changes. The elders have been talking about this time, that water’s going to be priceless,” said Chief Looking Horse. “We have come to that time.”
Alderville First Nation citizen Suzanne Smoke had less than two weeks to organize the event. It couldn’t have been done without social media and more importantly, all of the community members who stepped forward to offer their services, Smoke told the audience.
It was a full evening with performances by World Champion Hoop Dancer Lisa Odjig from Wikwemikong First Nation, and Manitou Mukwa Singers from Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation. Elder Jackie Lavallee who did the opening prayer later led the women in offering a song for the water. Phillip Cote was the Eagle Staff Carrier and conducted a pipe ceremony at the end of the evening. Eagle Heart Singers and All Nations Jrs. provided opening songs and the honour songs for Chief Looking Horse and his family. Catering was by Nish Dish and owner Johl Ringuette donated all the proceeds from sales to Standing Rock. Several artists donated pieces to the silent and live auctions.
The event raised $15,675 which included a cheque for $10,000 presented to Chief Looking Horse by Lisa Edgar on behalf of Scugog Island First Nation.
“Standing Rock has been in the forefront of our minds,” said Edgar later. “They are protecting the water, and Chief Kelly LaRocca and our Council and community members wanted to help them.”