Lincoln Soldati, who is a well-known Seacoast area lawyer, is reporting for InDepthNH.org from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota where several thousand native Americans and others are gathered in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. We will post his columns during the next few weeks and share them with other news outlets across New Hampshire. Soldati previously served as Strafford County Attorney for many years and was also the mayor of Somersworth.
By LINCOLN SOLDATI,
From Standing Rock, Thanksgiving evening, 2016.
An incredible evening after a somewhat disheartening morning.
I went to the white dome for what I thought was going to be a 6 p.m. meeting to discuss direct action. After my morning experience, I had a lot of questions.
It was an action in the city Mandan that was unauthorized and it was disturbing. And I wanted to make sure I knew where and what I was going to in the future.
I was early so I took a seat around the circle. People kept streaming in. A native elder sat near me and began playing a wooden flute. Soon the dome was nearly full. Tables were brought in and food began being brought in as well.
I began to suspect I was not at the meeting I thought I was attending. My suspicions were soon confirmed.
So many people were in the dome that there was not enough room for everyone trying to enter. A young native woman announced that elders were to be given preference and seats should be given up for elders. No one told me to move so I remained seated.
Whites were told to wait outside so that indigenous people could be fed first. Still no one asked me to move or leave. As the room filled, even the younger natives were asked to wait outside to ensure all the elders were seated and fed first.
Not having moved for the hour I’d been sitting and watching all this unfold, I turned to my friend with the wooden flute and asked him what defined an elder. He looked at me and said, “a white mustache.”
I remained seated among the native elders. I shared in their blessings and prayers, listened to their songs.
One elder addressed us about a new way of thinking about Thanksgiving. His words were words of inclusion and love, of moving beyond the past. I felt such humility and honor to there.
When the feast was ready, the younger Lakotas served us at our seats. Only after all the elders were served were others allowed in to the food line. The meal itself was “pre-colonial.” I can’t tell you everything I ate, but it was delicious and very filling.
I felt very privileged to participate in this feast. The reverence for elders was very moving.
I can tell you without hesitation this is one Thanksgiving I will never forget, and will always be thankful for.
Soldati is not a Native American, but his wife Kathleen’s great-grandmother was from the Rosebud Reservation, also a Sioux tribe in South Dakota.