Photo Gallery: Intro to Seed Saving Workshop

On May 21, Raíces Cultural Center’s EcoCulture program held an Introduction to Seed Saving workshop as part of our Sustainable Living Workshop Series. Participants in the workshop learned about the importance of saving seed and building bio-diverse local and regional seed libraries and seed banks. Workshop presenter Rachel Dawn Davis, of Green Dawn Solutions, also went over some of the basics of seed saving with workshop participants, including a hands-on bean seed saving activity, where participants shelled, sorted, and saved four different varieties of bean seeds. Participants were able to choose varieties of seeds to grow, save, and share in their own home gardens. Raíces Cultural Center would like to thank Rachel for sharing her knowledge and experiences on the topic of seed saving.

The Sustainable Living Workshop Series is co-sponsored by Sustainable Highland Park and funded by Highland Park’s Park Partners Grant Program as well as by individual donations. For a full workshop schedule visit the Sustainable Living Workshop Series Info Page.

Want to be a seed saver? Join the Raíces EcoCulture Seed Library and save seeds with us! Learn more and register here and we will be in touch with details on becoming a member and borrowing seed to get started!


May 21, 2017
Eugene Young Environmental Education Center
Highland Park, NJ

Raíces EcoCulture Garden Crew Spring Update

by Nicole Wines

The Raíces Garden Crew is growing. Members of our recently formed Community Action Team as well as students from the Highland Park High School Environmental Club have been volunteering to transplant herbs and perennials, start seedlings, work on the Raíces Seed Library, and even create new gardens at their own homes.

We are hoping to collaborate with the High School’s Green Team to keep the school gardens in town taken care of throughout the summer, as well as find new places to plant in our community. It has been inspiring and exciting to see the enthusiasm of our crew as they get their hands into the soil and work to green our community, promote pollinators, and raise food production awareness, one seed and one plant at a time.

Looking for plants for your garden? Support Raíces EcoCulture’s efforts and make an order in our annual plant sale. Want to get involved with our garden crew or the Raíces Seed Library? Email us at raices [at] raicesculturalcenter [dot] org. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Photo Gallery: Raíces Garden Crew, Spring 2017

Raíces Seedling Sale Fundraiser 2017


Raíces Eco-Culture is holding its annual seedling sale so our community members and neighbors can grow their own food while supporting Raíces Eco-Culture programs. This year we focused on tomatoes and herbs, both culinary and medicinal. All seedlings are organically grown and have not been sprayed or treated with any chemicals. Some varieties are heirloom, all are open pollinated.

Check out the plant list below and send your orders by email to (please include plant name and desired quantity for each type of plant you want). Tomato, strawberry, catnip and mint plants are ready and available for pickup. Other herbs and our golden celery will be available after June 1. We will send a confirmation email and arrange pickup details with you upon receiving your order.

Seedlings for sale in the fundraiser will be first come first serve.  We will do our best to keep the plant variety list up-to-date, but if something is unavailable when you send your order, we will let you know.

Donation breakdown

Tomatoes & Celery
$1 per plant, all varieties

Strawberry Plants

Strawberry Plants

Strawberries & all herbs except basil
 & mint
Single plant – $2
3 plants – $5
7 plants – $10

Basil & mint
Single plant – $1
6 plants – $5

Variegated Hosta Plants

$5/each or 3/$10


Tomato Seedlings

  • Beefsteak Yellow (Large, yellow slicing tomatoes)
  • Black Cherry (Heirloom purple cherry tomatoes)

    Tomato SeedlingBlack Cherry (Heirloom, sweet, dark purple cherry tomatoes)

  • Brandywine (Large, red/pink heirloom)
  • Cherokee Purple (Heirloom, large purple tomatoes, good flavor)
  • Cosmonaut Volkov (red slicing tomato)
  • Green Zebra (Green striped tomato, citrusy flavor)
  • Golden Ponderosa (large yellow tomato)
  • Manyel (medium sized yellow slicing tomato)
  • Omar’s Lebanese tomato (large, red heirloom tomato)
  • Peacevine Cherry (Red cherry tomato)
  • Pruden’s Purple (Heirloom, large reddish, purple tomato)
  • San Marzano (Heirloom, red paste tomato)
  • Striped Cavem (Red with yellow and orange stripes, great for sauce & cooking)
  • Sweetie Cherry (Red cherry tomato)
  • Upstate Oxheart (Large red, heart shaped tomato, good for slicing & cooking, can grow up to 10′!)
  • White Cherry (Pale yellow cherry tomato)
  • Yellow Pear (small yellow pear shaped tomatoes)

Other vegetables

  • Celery-Golden Self Blanching (limited availability, order early)
  • Pepper – King of the North (red/green bell, limited availability)

Basil – Available starting June 1, pre-order to reserve

  • Italian Basil
  • Lemon Basil
  • Rosie Basil (purple leaf)
  • Thai Basil
  • Windowbox Mini Basil- limited availability

Herbs – Available starting June 1, pre-order to reserve

  • Anise
  • Catnip
  • Chervil


  • Echinacea
  • Greek Oregano
  • Italian Oregano – limited availability
  • Lemon Balm
  • Hyssop – limited availability
  • Marjoram – limited availability
  • Mint
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rue
  • Sage
  • Shungiku (edible chrysanthemum – limited availability)
  • Summer Savory
  • Thyme (order now for late summer planting)


Don’t see what you want to grow? We are also selling seeds in our online SeedsNow shop. Check it out and place your seed order here. 20% of all seed sales get donated to Raíces EcoCulture.

Photo Gallery: Intro to Beekeeping & Apiculture Workshop

This past Tuesday Raíces Cultural Center’s EcoCulture program held the first program in its new Sustainable Living Workshop Series. Raíces Board of Directors member Javier Robles gave an introductory overview of honeybees and beekeeping. Javier, who is also an attorney and a professor at Rutgers University, spoke to workshop participants about the basics of beekeeping and answered questions about bees and apiculture. Javier will lead a field trip to his beehives at Cook College this June. Please see the program calendar at or sign up for our mailing list in the sidebar to receive program information. Check out the photo gallery from this workshop:


Intro to Beekeeping and Apiculture with Javier Robles


Part 1 of the Sustainable Living Workshop Series will continue through the end of June. See full schedule here.

Part 2 of the series will be held in late summer and early fall, schedule TBA.

This pilot program is funded by the Highland Park, New Jersey Park Partners grant program and donations from our friends, family and community supporters during our Spring EcoCulture Fundraising Drive. All workshops in this series are co-sponsored by Sustainable Highland Park.

Raíces EcoCulture Community Action Team Meeting Notes – April 30, 2017

Raíces EcoCulture Community Action Team
Meeting Notes

Attendees: Nicole Wines, Linda P., Liz T., Chris T., Kira H., Rocio H., Paul A., Paul S., Mark L., Ana P., Adrian P., Karlos B., Susan E., Lowell E., Amanda H.

Everyone introduced themselves and spoke briefly about why they were attending and what other environmental groups and projects they are a part of.

Purpose of group – To identify initiatives and projects that can be taken on a local level to effect change in environment, ecology and sustainability, make a plan for the projects and take action to put them in place.

II. BRAINSTORM SESSION – These were some of the ideas and areas that we identified that could be worked on.

Gardening – School gardens, garden tours, year-found food production (extremely critical issue for us in NJ), crop sharing/exchange, education, canning groups. This is a huge issue and one of the most critical that we spoke about. On a larger, local food production scale this is a large undertaking, but we can all start small, right at home by planting some of our own food this season, whether in a garden or in a container. Adrian pointed out that the school gardens he has helped to plant end up being removed or uncared for through the summer.
ACTION ITEMS: Mark might be able to work with Adrian and other students who are interested in taking care of the school gardens during the summer and will follow up to find out if the High School and Middle School gardens are shared or separate. Nicole can follow up with Irene Chan Marx of the schools’ green team. Anyone who wants to plant is invited to participate in the Raíces Seed Library to grow and save seed with us.

Composting – This is separate from gardening even though it’s related because it is also a waste reduction issue. This is something everyone can do, and many group members already do it, through some expressed concern about whether or not they do it “correctly”. Community compost collection and/or drop off would be ideal. This was of huge interest to most attending meeting, and we decided on creating a composting cooperative as one of our main action items/projects to move forward on.
ACTION ITEM: Next meeting we will begin to create a plan for forming a composting cooperative. In the meantime, members should research worker-owned cooperatives and find examples/models of other community based, cooperatively owned composting solutions in other cities and towns.

Localized bartering group – It was pointed out that there is currently the infrastructure available for a local time bank, but at this point it is not being used. If the group decides to revive and use this time bank in the future, it is already in place for us to use.

Environmental Education in schools – Ana volunteered to act as liaison between group and school board for the remainder of the school year if needed. During school board elections, pressure needs to be put on candidates who are running in order to work for platform items that address sustainability.

Plastic bag reduction – Mark is already working with the Trash Free Waters Partnership of NY/NJ leading the bottles working group. This group might have resources. Sustainable Highland Park is currently awaiting a decision on a grant application for a plastic bag reduction initiative in Highland Park. Our team could join or augment this effort if the project is put into place. Additional research about other cities, states and even countries who have banned plastic in some form (bags, single-use utensils, styrofoam take out containers, etc) needs to be done, including researching ordinances from similarly sized towns.

Political action and pressure – Everyone can write letters, make calls, speak to elected officials, show up for rallies and demonstrations, etc, including the youth members of the group. This is an action step that all group members can take consistently, and without much time or effort being put in, on top of the action items and initiatives we will undertake. This will not be the main focus or activity of the group, just something we can all do on our own time and help each other to figure out how to do for those who aren’t sure. Group members who participated in the meeting represent Highland Park, New Brunswick, Somerset/Franklin and North Plainfield (Middlesex and Somerset Counties).
ACTION ITEM: Someone in the group can create a quick resource list/guide for members that lists the elected officials we should all be putting pressure on and contacting, and the issues we can contact them about. Any volunteers?

Arts – Addressing Ecology and Environment through the arts. Art can reach and educate people who would not otherwise seek information, education and action on environmental issues.

Mill Brook in Highland Park – Surrounded by so much impervious cover that when it rains the water that drains to the brook makes it run so fast that it is devoid of life. Susan suggested a neighborhood campaign to educate surrounding residents about the importance of running their stormwater downspouts to absorb into the ground versus draining it to the street, and/or creating rain barrel systems. Most surrounding residents currently run their downspouts out to the street. It was mentioned that at about four other local groups have been involved in ecological work on Mill Brook and that we may be able to combine forces.
ACTION ITEM: Identify all groups working on Mill Brook recovery and action steps they are taking. Identify gaps/additional work that can be done on this. Create action plan.

Storm Water Management in future planning – Permeable surfaces instead of impervious cover, especially for off-street parking.

Bicycle Parking

Pipelines & Fossil Fuel Resistance

Resource list creation – Examples: Current local and active environmental groups, political action resource list with info on who to contact about what issues, topical educational resource lists.
ACTION ITEM: Liz & Kira will head this up together and will ultimately create a wiki.

We went around the table to declare which items from the brainstorming session we were each most interested in pursuing. Here is the list from the members who were remaining at this point in the meeting. If you were not here for this part, but you want to add yourself to this, please email us and let us know your thoughts.

-Linda – Cooperatives, pipeline issue
-Kira – Resource lists, compost
-Rocio – Arts
-Paul S. – Mill Brook
-Chris – Mill Brook, stormwater management, composting
-Liz – Composting
-Paul A. – Fill in the gaps anywhere, outreach
-Mark – Mill Brook, gardening, composting
-Adrian – Gardening
-Ana – Educational initiatives, liaison between group and HP Board of Ed., composting
-Amanda – Cooperatives, resource list

After reviewing this list, the group decided to work on two main projects, the Mill Brook Initiative and creating a Composting Cooperative. In addition, Kira, Liz and Amanda will work to create resource lists and eventually create a wiki, and Rocio will work with Nicole and Raíces on an EcoArts Initiative. Most of the time at the next meeting will be taken in planning and creating an action plan for the two main projects. In the meantime, we can still dialogue, research, read, plan and start taking steps!

In order to be effective in planning and working between meetings, Raíces will create a google group. Please let Nicole know whether you would like to receive individual messages or digest messages. If you know anyone else who wants to be added, please let Nicole know.

Worker Owned Cooperatives. Here are three links that were shared by Raíces Director Francisco G. Gómez as an introduction to worker-owned cooperatives. Please browse  through these sites and articles before the next meeting and conduct additional research on your own about the formation of cooperatives and about community composting endeavors. This will be a huge undertaking, so if we come prepared with knowledge, information and examples, it will make the beginning of our work go more smoothly. There are many questions and issues to examine in brainstorming and creating an action plan. I will send another email over the new google group by some time next week to address some of these and get you thinking before the next meeting. Here are the three links to read:

Join the Raíces Eco-Culture Facebook group if you are on FB. This can be used as a message board for our working groups, as well as a place to share resources and ideas and ask questions.

River cleanups – Group member Mark Lesko holds clean ups along the river several times each week. Here is a link to his HP Environmental & Ecology Facebook group where he posts announcements about these cleanups as well as additional events and resources. All are encouraged to join this group and join Mark on his clean-ups. If you are not on FB but want to join the cleanups, we will be posting those announced with anticipation on our new google group:

Raíces EcoCulture Sustainable Living Workshop Series – All are invited. This free series begins next week with an introductory beekeeping workshop at the Environmental Education Center, 20 River Rd., Highland Park. Full schedule for Part One of the series is available in link below. Please share these events with people you know who may be interested in attending as it helps with education in the community. If you have any ideas for future workshops or want to hold one yourself, please let Nicole know, Part Two of the series will begin in late August and is still being scheduled.

Link to full schedule:

Raíces Seed Library – For any gardener in the group who wants to join the Raíces Seed Library and start saving seeds with us, check out the info on the link below. This year, we have 217 varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers available for “borrowing”

Sustainable Highland Park – Meetings are open to the public and recently underwent a change in leadership. We would like more public/community participation and we can probably get support and collaboration from SHP. Next meeting is May 24, 7:30-9pm at the Environmental Education Center, 20 River Rd., Highland Park. Website is coming out soon, I will share the link as soon as it’s ready.

OTHER – What other environmental groups is everyone on our team a part of? What groups are working on issues we mentioned and will be working? Which might we be able to link up with to share work and resources?


Date/Time/Location – Sunday, May 21 / 7-9 PM / Pino’s Gift Basket and Wine Shoppe, 13 N. 4th Ave, Highland Park, NJ

Introductions (5 minutes)
Review Last Meeting’s Action Items (5 minutes)
Resource Lists (10 minutes)
EcoArts Update (10 minutes)
Mill Brook Initiative (30 minutes)
Composting Cooperative (35 minutes)
Grant Writing (10 minutes)
Review New Action Items (5 minutes)
Electric Vehicle Initiative (5 minutes)
New Business (5 minutes)

Photo Gallery: Raíces Seed Library Orientation Meetings 2017

by Nicole Wines

The 2017 gardening season is off to a great start. Thanks to a new collaboration with the Sustainable Highland Park Committee, the Raíces EcoCulture Seed Library has a new homebase at the Eugene Young Environmental Education Center in Highland Park, NJ. We had our first meetings for the season on March 16 and 18. I left both meetings energized and inspired by the motivation and desire to plant, grow, and save seeds together.

Participants were given a brief introduction to what a seed library is and a quick overview on some of the basics of seed saving. Some of the participants have saved seeds in the past and for others it is their first time. No matter the level of experience, it is guaranteed to be a learning process and community endeavor for all.

After taking some questions and dialoguing a bit about gardening, seeds, seed companies and why it is so important to save seeds, everyone got to work on some hands-on seed saving tasks, including making our own D.I.Y. recycled seed envelopes (click link for instructional video and link to envelope template) and saving cilantro, or coriander, seeds.

Some of the key points and ideas that came up at the meeting were:

  • Seed is life.
  • Plant for the pollinators – Pollinators are in trouble, especially the bees, and our seed saving efforts can help provide clean sources of food for the entire growing season by interplanting flowers and allowing herbs and vegetables to go to flower.
  • Native plants – One participant mentioned an interest in learning more about native plants. We hope to create a category within the seed library for seeds of native plants.
  • It isn’t just about saving seeds, but also about creating community. There were connections made between participants and interest expressed in building collaborations with local schools and students. In addition, members, both new and old, were invited to help in the planning process for the Raíces EcoCulture Seed Library and help make it a collective and cooperative effort as we move forward.
  • Raíces EcoCulture Seed Library member Rachel Dawn Davis will create and present a family and child friendly seed saving workshop this May as part of the Raíces EcoCulture Sustainable Living Workshop Series. Check out our program calendar or sign up for our mailing list in the sidebar to get updates directly to your inbox.


Couldn’t make it to the meetings? You can still become a member of the Raíces EcoCulture Seed Library. We will be scheduling a seed saving work party within the next couple of weeks to all work together on getting the seed library ready for the 2017 growing season, as well as a seed saving workshop for children and families in May. Check our program calendar for updates and details or join our mailing list in the sidebar on the right to get updates directly to your inbox. In the meantime, here are some more photos from tonight’s meeting.

3/16/2017 & 3/18/2017, HIGHLAND PARK, NJ


Lower Raritan River Cleanup last Saturday

garbage collected at clean-up

by Francisco G.Gomez

We headed out for Johnson Park last Saturday for a river clean-up of the Raritan. There were about a dozen people gathered as we were given our trash bags and long reach garbage grabbers to tackle the debris.

I often take my daily walks along the river, especially during the Spring and Summer. There’s always been something special about the water, as polluted as it is, wildlife and the people that are out doing what I do to get my daily dose of Nature.

Having walked the river ever since I was a kid, and let me say many moons have passed since then; I have witnessed the gradual environmental destruction of this once great

water way.

As a child growing up in Perth Amboy, I would hangout on Mechanic St. with my friends. We would walk to the waterfront and dive off of a dock at the end of Buckingham Ave., adjacent to the Chevron Oil Refinery. At the end of the dock there was moored an old World War 2 mine sweeper that we would explore when we weren’t swimming in the entrance to the Arthur Kill and across the Raritan bay to Staten Island. That was the early 1960’s and the water was still good enough to swim. At some point in 1961 we noticed oil spots on our skin when we came out of the water, and we reeked of petroleum. Needless to say, we stopped swimming in the bay and that wonderful part of our childhood came to an unwanted end. It would be many years later, when I became involved in the environmental movement, that I fully understood the negative impact of what corporate greed and indifference to Mother Nature had done and is still doing.

Raritan River Clean-up Crew

As our crew scoped out the coast line for garbage, a sudden sadness and anger overwhelmed me at the same time. It brought to mind a commercial clip made back in the early 1970’s of a First Nation’s man who rows down a river in a canoe, and as he gets into the greater water way he begins to see the incredible amount of garbage thrown into the river by humans. He also sees all the petrochemical companies spewing toxic waste from their chimney stacks and the pipelines from their factories that drain into the bay.  When he gets out of his canoe by a highway, one of the cars passing by tosses a bag of fast food that lands at his feet. As he turns towards the camera you see a tear roll down his cheek. The actor’s name is Iron Eyes Cody, but what he was seeing was no act!

As we continued our sweep of the coastline I understood fully what our disregard and disrespect for Nature has produced. Just attempting to clean-up the vast amount of debris in one minuscule patch of river line was daunting and seemed totally futile; I believe this is what made me so angry. I know that I’m not without blame, for I have also contributed to this catastrophe in one way or another, directly or through the forced machinations of the corporate Matrix.

property of Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership

Enter the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership. This is the organization who coordinated the river clean-up and does the remarkable work of attempting to protect the Raritan River. These guys do everything from stewardship, civic science and environmental monitoring, habitat and ecological health, Eco-art and, of course, lots of clean-ups.

Two hours later we had collected a number of bags filled with trash, a bicycle, one or two huge plastic tubes and a very heavy corroded metal lid. The truth is we barely made a dent in our clean-up.

Volunteering to be part of these clean-ups can be quite disheartening and almost pointless because of the amount of new trash that is dispensed onto the landscape and into the river each day. However, one should not be deterred from joining in to do this most important work. There is some recompense in watching a jogger or cyclist pass by, smile and thank us for collecting what seems to be a very small amount of garbage. There is satisfaction in cleaning up other people’s carbon footprints, even if you may not believe so.

So if you’re so inclined and want to do your part to make the environment a little more ecologically balanced, then come out on one of the workdays and get a little dirty so we can make the Raritan River a little cleaner again – you won’t regret it!

Ways you can help:





by Francisco G. Gómez

Since the Republicans took power a little over a month ago, the issues of illegal immigration have dominated the political landscape in an unprecedented way. Even if you attempt to turn a blind eye  to the constant media reports because you’re so sick of hearing, seeing and perhaps experiencing it first hand in one way or another, it seems futile to do so.

Tibetan Immigrant

Last Friday evening I decided to see a small exhibition at the Douglass Library at Rutgers University on one of the themes dominating the controversial subject of underground immigrant communities. I must say that it was very interesting, and rather disturbing at the same time. The exhibition is a compendium of some beautifully shot, but horrific photographs showing the physical and mental wounds suffered by immigrants in search of a new life.

If you have QR capability on your smartphone, you can snap the code with your camera and listen to these heart breaking stories at your own leisure. Each photograph has a code.

Chinese Immigration

On display you will also find the exclusive story of a Chinese woman, Cynthia Tom,  written in chalk on one of the exhibition walls. It is very cleverly done because you can read it or listen to the story out loud on a speaker.

Immigrant Tags

One of the displays I found extremely curious from an artistic perspective is that of a number of paper shoes strung together; each of the shoes have a tag tied to them telling a story about how and why some immigrant came to the United States. This hits home in that it speaks to the reality that America is comprised of such a diversity of people who have come from all parts of the planet. It makes you understand the injustice of singling out a particular nationality because of bias and racism.


If you have a chance, don’t miss this exhibition. It will be on display until April 7th. It is a multi-disciplinary creative inquiry focused on hidden and undocumented immigrant communities. It will also have artists discussion and film screenings. Group exhibit artists: Pam Cooper, CERRUCHA, Lauren Everett, Sandra C. Fernandez, Cynthia Tom, and Gosche Wϋrfel.

Sponsored by Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series, a program of the Center for Women in the Arts and Humanities in partnership with Rutgers University Libraries.

Location – 8 Chapel Drive, Douglass Campus Library – Rutgers University,  New Brunswick, NJ

Time – Mon – Sun –  9am to 10pm

Raíces EcoCulture Awarded 2017 Park Partners Grant

by Nicole Wines

On Sunday, February 12, Raíces Cultural Center participated in the 4th annual Park Partners Grant Competition. The Raíces EcoCulture program had submitted a proposal in the environmental category to launch a Sustainable Living Workshop Series, a series of eight workshops focused on sustainability and ecology, in collaboration with Sustainable Highland Park and members of the Highland Park High School Environmental Club. Over 300 community members came out that day to vote for their winning choice in each of the 5 categories in the competition. It was truly amazing to see so many residents engaged and active in the grant making process.

On Tuesday, February 14, we received the news that we had won the grant competition in the environmental category. Thanks to the support of our neighbors and community members and those who shared our vision for environmental education programs, Raíces EcoCulture will be able to make this proposed project a reality!

Yesterday, the Borough made its official announcement of all the Park Partners grants awarded for 2017 which you can view here:

Raíces Cultural Center and the Raíces EcoCulture program want to thank the Borough of Highland Park for providing this opportunity to us and all of the community groups who participated. We also wish to thank the residents who came out to vote in support of this and other wonderful community projects. Extra special thank yous go out to the committee members of Sustainable Highland Park, the three co-presidents of the Highland Park High School Environmental Club and all of the Raíces Cultural Center supporters and crew members who helped share and spread the word about the grant competition and voting details. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide this educational program to our community, and look forward to seeing you all at the workshops. Thank you to everyone who helped make this dream a reality!

Program dates will be announced by the last week of March. Please subscribe to the Raíces email list in the sidebar to have the information delivered directly to your inbox or continue to check back on our Raíces Program Calendar for details. We are looking forward to strengthening our relationship with the Highland Park community and the Borough of Highland Park to create and provide additional programs, projects and services in sustainability and green living.


Split Rock Sweet Water Prayer Camp Ceremony

Ramapough Tribal Drummers

by Francisco G. Gómez

Last Sunday, January 22nd we attended a wonderful ceremony at the Split Rock Sweet Water Prayer Camp in Mahwah, N.J.. It turned out to be a real treat because of the unexpected presence of Sophia Wilansky, the young woman who was severely injured after she was shot with a concussion grenade at a protest gathering in Standing Rock, N.D.,  in the early part of November, 2016. The grenade practically took her arm off from the impact. Here is the initial statement that was given by her father of the account:

Tribal Council Member Debbie Defreese, Sophia Wilansky and Chief Dwaine Perry

“At around 4:30 a.m. after the police hit the bridge with water cannons and rubber bullets and pepper spray, they lobbed a number of concussion grenades which are not supposed to be thrown at people directly, or protectors, as they want to be called. A grenade exploded right as it hit Sophia in the left forearm, taking most of the under surface of her left arm with it. Both her radial and ulnar artery were completely destroyed. Her radius was shattered and a large piece of it is missing. Her medial nerve is missing a large section as well. All of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away. The police did not do this by accident—it was an intentional act of throwing it directly at her. Additionally police were shooting people in face and groin intending to do the most possible damage. Sophia will have surgery again tomorrow as bit by bit they try to rebuild a somewhat functioning arm and hand. The first surgery took a vein from her leg, which they have implanted in her arm to take the place of the missing arteries. She will need multiple surgeries to try to gain some functional use of the arm and hand. She will be, every day for the foreseeable future, fearful of losing her arm and hand. There are no words to describe the pain of watching my daughter cry and say she was sorry for the pain she caused me and my wife. I died a thousand deaths today and will continue to do so for quite some time. I am left without the right words to describe the anguish of watching her look at her now alien arm and hand.”

Inside of the enormous ceremonial teepee, elders honored Sophia by praying for her, bestowing gifts and religious talismans, singing, playing indigenous hand drums, and simply wishing her well for her courage and physical sacrifice that tragic day at Standing Rock.

As a Huichol Elder began to tell stories about his life, he threw cedar pellets into the ring of fire in the center of the teepee. He then directed streams of smoke towards Sophia, using a ritual feather fan that was later given to her as a gift. According to indigenous beliefs, smoke is used to elevate prayers to the ancestors in the afterlife. As he presented the gift, he told her not to worry; he said she would receive many blessings during the course of her life in exchange for her courage and determination to help others in need.

Christina Dioguardi Scott

Many tribal songs followed and many stories continued to be told.  There was a woman I noticed immediately, as she walked in and across the teepee. She took a seat next to one of the Ramapough elders. After a few more remembrances, Chief Dwaine Perry turned to her and introduced her. He said that Christina Dioguardi Scott had a very interesting and fascinating story to tell.

Christina had been involved in a serious car accident a few years back and suffered brain trauma that left her with a number of sensory deficiencies that affected her body in a variety of ways. The truth is that she almost died, but in her struggle to survive she was presented with a revelation that would change her life forever. She said something unexplainable drew her to Nature, and it told her that she would find her healing and recovery there. She explained how she happened upon the Split Rock Prayer Camp and how wonderfully she was accepted by the Ramapough Tribe.

It turns out that Christina is a photographer, and she found her health anew. Through the lens of a camera she captured Nature’s wonders at the camp site. She was granted permission to continue her healing and work there. In a moment of extreme emotion she explained how the forest spoke to her and said she would find her way back to physical and mental clarity. All around the teepee hung the most beautiful photographs of the river, rocks, foliage and the larger landscape. Having come upon the camp and it’s people saved her life, she said.

It was truly a very enlightening day, and we were sorry to have to leave earlier than we wanted, but we had a rehearsal to attend. We said our good byes, and on our way home, we spoke about all the marvelous things we had experienced throughout the day.

If you are interested in joining the movement at Split Rock Sweet Water Prayer Camp, then please see the links below. Check out their calendar and see when the next ceremonial gathering will take place. Come out and share with some of the most wonderful and friendly people you will ever meet!

Additional Resources to Kill the “Black Snake”