“We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke.”
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Forgiveness Ceremony Unites Veterans And Natives At Standing Rock Casino

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

06/12/2016 8:55 AM AEDT | Updated 07/12/2016 1:37 AM AEDT

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.

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.

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
    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
    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
    Veteran Tatiana McLee wipes tears from her eyes as she films Lakota elders speak during the forgiveness ceremony.
  • 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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    Wesley Clark Jr., middle, and other veterans kneel in front of Leonard Crow Dog during the forgiveness ceremony.
  • Josh Morgan for The Huffington Post
    Veterans from all branches of military service participate in the forgiveness ceremony.
  • 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.

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