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Home News + Politics Standing Rock Diary: ‘I am honored to be a healer warrior’

Standing Rock Diary: ‘I am honored to be a healer warrior’

From 2002-2007, I was a primary care physician for US veterans in my training at UCSF. I was able to meet many young men returning from war who were clearly damaged by the things that they had experienced, and our conversations affected my own development as a social thinker.


Standing Rock
Do No Harm Coalition members Rupa Marya, MD (Division of Hospital Medicine), Anita Hargrave and Simon Ma alongside Bay Area tribal people, Anthony Sul, Luta Candelaria (Rumsen Ohlone) and April McGill (Yuki, Wappo, Little Lake Pomo). Photo by Sana Saleem

What struck me was watching these young men wake up to the fact that their service was service for oil, for corporate interest and that they were trained to kill, to damage, and to stand in harm’s way for oil and corporate interest.

These oil wars have come home–in North Dakota and Iowa right now–where ordinary people are pushing back against the fossil fuel industry and the state violence that is used to push that industry down our throats. If we want democracy, we must have the courage to demand it. It will not be given to us. It does not exist right now.

The woke veterans know this.

I abhor violence and I hold myself to Gandhi’s principles of direct nonviolent civil disobedience to advance the case for justice. And I recognize what is happening in North Dakota is war–with one side being overly stocked with weaponry and using it and the other side being totally unarmed and powerful with prayer, righteousness and ancestry as well as the vision for the future we need, where we honor water instead of polluting it.

I can imagine for these veterans who are traveling to Standing Rock to be there when the Army Corps of Engineers attempts to evict 15,000 people from the camp that taking this stand for democracy, for the freedom of people’s right to say NO to corporate domination, I can imagine that this is a massive healing moment for this group of people, especially those who woke up around oil wars and see the connection between what is happening in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria with what is happening in North Dakota.

I am heading out there on December 3rd to stand with the people and to assist medically.

I am reading the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu text my father read every day of his life, which details a historic war and the dialogue around the necessity to rise to fight, because it is our duty. I am a nonviolent warrior. I come from a very long line of warriors. My ancestry traces directly from the Hindu figure, Krishna. I feel my own awakening in this work, on such a deep level, such an ownership of my own ancestral ties beyond patriarchal violence, deep into the heart of South Asia.

I am honored to use all of my faculties to stand with the Lakota Dakota people who are opposing the pipeline going through their source of drinking water. I am honored to work to stand against 500 years of environmental racism. I am honored to be a healer-warrior. This is what I came here for.

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Rupa Marya is the front-woman and composer for global roots group Rupa & the April Fishes. She is also currently an economic refugee of San Francisco, a physician committed to ending health inequities, a mother and a farmer's wife. She is on faculty as professor of medicine at UCSF where she works in hospital medicine and volunteers at the free student-run Clinica Martin Baro. She has recently helped with the foundation of a coalition of healthcare providers who are calling out racism and police violence as public health issues, the Do No Harm Coalition.


  1. Listen to the video of John Bolenbaugh, NAVY Veteran turned WHISTLEBLOWER against Enbridge oil pipeline during the spill near Kalamazoo river. PLEASE if you care about the future you have to hear him out, share it to as many people as possible https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TThkWlQsbcM&spfreload=5

    John has no financial and monetary gain in this, if you see his personal vids on youtube, him going against Enbridge was at great cost to him and his family. He is not against oil itself but explains that the current business models of pipelines are not safe because the model of the oil companies is that it is profitable for them to just allow it to leak instead of the costs of shutting down the pipe to do actual maintenance on it (insurance pays them to clean up the spill and they own the clean up companies who dont do a full clean). He explains it better than me and clearer in this video. we need responsible FUEL production, but this is not happening cause EPA & govt looks the away

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