Topic: Indigenous

Gisborne to light first international fire for Standing Rock

By Talisa Kupenga
  • North Island: East Coast

A Whatatutu family who visited standing rock to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline has been given the go-ahead by the native people there to light a fire of solidarity. Despite a complete fire ban in the Gisborne region Marcus Lloyd and his family welcome anyone to attend the lighting and prayer ceremony in the New Year. 

Work has begun at the Lloyd family Pā in preparation to light The Continuous Fires of Standing Rock.

Organiser Marcus Lloyd says, “There are seven council fires that were lit at the beginning of the action. The main council fire at Oceti Sakowin, which is where the main group of campers are was put out at the end of November and a new one was re-lit. So in alignment with that new fire, we’re lighting here as well. The fires themselves are not actually big, they’re not bonfires they’re just small fires that are kept perpetually burning with a keeper of the fire and they’re there more for the significance and the ceremonial aspect.”

Marcus’s father will be the keeper of the fire. He says Whatatutu lands and legends are linked to the ancestor Whirikoka and his pet seal kekeno, whose blubber melted into the earth and became oil.

“That’s the story that has been handed down to us, the reason why oil is in the mountains and in our land, it comes from Kekeno. That is why the oil companies are coming here to look around and drill into the land,” says Mr Owen Lloyd, Ngā Ariki Kaiputahi Kaitiaki.

When the fire is lit it will be the first support fire in the world to be lit outside of Standing Rock.

“The pipeline hasn’t finished, they’re still trying to continue it and move it forward and so until the actual pipeline is completely dead they’ll continue to light the fire and keep it burning,” says Marcus.

While the rural fire service says the fire is symbolic of a great cause, the complete fire ban is active. Marcus has been in touch with the fire service.

“The wind and sun are waiting for us to turn to them to utilise their resources. That’s where our focus should be; renewable energy,” says Owen.

The fire will be lit the night of January 2 to coincide with the end of New Year ’s Day in Standing Rock. 

Those interested in attending are invited to come to the address below.

Te Ahi Kaa o Toka Tu Sacred Council Fire Lighting Ceremony will welcome the public from January 1 -3.

31 Te Hau Road, Whatatutu, Gisborne, Aotearoa, New Zealand.