Fire Light Encampment and its legacy are rooted in honoring, loving, and protecting the nurturing bounty still present and thriving along Mississippi’s headwaters at the time of this ceremonial resistance. It was and is the prayer of every defendant that Mississippi’s pristine Water and ecological integrity be allowed persistence, though deep healing is necessary to once again witness the magic these Indigenous participants and their invited guests were so privileged to experience. A sacred Land & Riverscape of Anishinaabe peoples since time immemorial, this wetland meadow was filled with an abundance of life—glittering damselflies, dragonflies, leopard frogs, water snakes, all variety of fish fry, fireflies, sparrows, cranes, and more.
Many of these species are incredibly sensitive to disturbance and have disappeared (for the time being) since Fire Light Encampment was removed and Enbridge decimated this sensitive area. Indigenous participants communed with this sacred place as a lifelong, and beyond, relative under threat. Non-Native invitees learned to witness the depths of relationship possible while soaking in the sheer beauty and generosity of this ecosystem, and the relational depths possible in belonging to place.
Countless Elders and wisdomkeepers from across Turtle Island were as generous in their offerings as Mississippi herself. In addition to making difficult decisions about how to engage and support their invited guests to cultivate understanding and solidarity, they were ever-present with stories, teachings, historical accuracy, drumming, songs, and inquiries. There were many invitations extended for those interested in deepening engagement, awareness, and responsibility.
Round dances, medicine stories, histories of treaty agreements and genocide. Presence of Wampum Treaty Belt, flags of Leech Lake and White Earth.
Ishkode, central among it all—Fire itself—and precious fire keeper. Water gatherers. Grandmothers who got down on the ground to serve up Manoomin, berries, and precious stewed meats as offering to mark the return of fasters. Fasters who spent entire days in solitary prayer. Spiritual leaders who sent these prayer fasters out to hold space with empowerment.
Before Fire Light Encampment arose, there were many who prayed in years gone by: Mondays for Mississippi; those visionaries and organizers who conceived the sparks that became Fire Light; a vulnerable and courageous invitation made in trust that those who showed up would be genuine in solidarity.
There were numerous environmental organizations following through with every educational, organizational, and policy action possible to prevent the ultimate destruction that has come to pass. There were even rare employees of the State who made an honest effort to question the project, consult Indigenous communities, and honor Treaty obligations – even if the result was nothing more than a public record of dissent.
Entering Fire Light Encampment, there were artists who brought out flags, signs, banners, and patches. Those who wove the collective energy with songs, stories, drumming, and teachings. There were donations of camping gear, dollars, and thousands of granola bars. There was coffee, and meals brought by people from other camps who sacrificed sleep to make sure these essentials were provided. Countless visitors from the local community and other treaty camps gathered to lend spirit and shared experience. The ecosystem of camps. All who came, and all who longed to be there.
There were those who built artsy toilet stalls, those who delivered and donated buckets, and those who tended these buckets each day. Others who showed up with solar panels, charging stations, and cellular boosts. There was a bridge delivered. The legal-minded folks, the medical/first-aid people & the drone operators. Checklists and spreadsheets and their devisors. Security volunteers and understudy fire-tenders.
Folks who traveled thousands of miles to support such a dignified effort. Youth runners. The movement. Diversity of tactics. Those journalists doing their best to tell the true story of this stand.
There were strawberries and opened hearts, Nibi song and sparrow song, the sparkling abundance of life. Nights lit with lightning and fireflies. Sandy the Loon, who sacrificed their freedom. Love of community. And beneath it all, Mississippi’s nourishing waters.