Jewish Activist Honored in Native Ceremony

Jean-Louis Bourgeois at a Native American naming ceremony in his honor in Cold Spring, New York, in late May. (Image courtesy of the author via Tablet)

In late May at Foundry Dock Park in Cold Spring, New York, Phyllis Young, an elder and prominent member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, led a Native American naming ceremony for Jean-Louis Bourgeois, 76, of New York.

During the winter, the Jewish activist joined protesters in North Dakota fighting the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline which the Standing Rock Sioux tribe said would run through their land, going through sacred burial sites and contaminating its water supply. Bourgeois, the son of the late sculptor Louise Bourgeois, uses his inheritance for social justice causes like Standing Rock, to which he donated $1 million during the protest.

Bourgeois sat in the center of the prayer circle surrounded by dozens of friends and family members during the ceremony. In reporting for Tablet on the ceremony, Christy Smith-Sloman writes:

In Native American culture a naming ceremony is a sacred event. Choosing a tribal name is a complex process influenced by an individual’s actions, personal characteristics and milestones. Jenny Ghost Bear of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe began the ceremony by singing a prayer song, summoning the spirits of the tribe’s grandfathers, grandmothers, and ancestors to the park.

“I chose the name Dream Keeper for Jean Louis because he kept our dream alive,” explained Young. “When he came to us we had struggled for generations on a wing and a prayer and we survived incredible odds. But this time there were so many people who came from all over the world that we had to provide food and shelter for and we didn’t have the resources to do that. He helped us in the most basic way possible by providing food and shelter. He kept our dream alive so that we could continue our struggle. He became a dream keeper.”

Read the full story at Tablet to find out what took place during the naming ceremony for Bourgeois.

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