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A warm welcome by Mike Klonsky's SmallTalk Blog.

Joining in on dancing around the campfire

After some 15 hours in their rented vans, a tired, but fired-up group of Chicago students rolled into Standing Rock about 6 p.m. Kudos to LSNA adult leaders Nancy and Juliet for doing the bulk of the driving.

First stop was the Lower Brule Sioux camp where they were welcomed by camp elders, Travis and Louis. Within an hour, while there was still enough sunlight, students had assembled their tents and camping gear. Not bad for a bunch of city kids.

Putting up the tents.

Then we marched up the hill to the main camp to join in to the evening rituals -- traditional campfire, singing, dancing, drumming.

One by one, students took the community mic, introduced themselves and talked about why they had come.

Some talked about their identity quest after learning about their DNA links to indigenous and African ancestry. Others about their struggles back in their own community against gentrification and displacement.

They were greeted with loud applause and then a long line of tribal members and visitors welcomed each one personally with handshakes and hugs. It was a scene I will always carry with me.

After joining in on the dancing,  we hiked back down the hill where Lower Brule folks had built us a fire and cooked up some chili and hot coffee to help take the chill out of the evening air. More talk. More stories exchanged.

A great beginning.