Native Women’s Strength on Eve of US Senate vote on KXL Pipeline

Faith Spotted Eagle

Faith Spotted Eagle

Guest Commentary

On the eve of the proposed vote of the US Senate to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, which is an invasive act against the Oceti Sakowin of the Lakota/Nakota/Dakota Nation, I am strangely at peace with a sense of resolve for the courageous future of our Indigenous people. It is a strange familiar place to stand. Yes, our women and our families have stood here many times before but THEY have never succeeded in destroying us.

This feeling that stems from historical trauma and memory is in my blood and that requires me to fight the greatest fight for my children and grandchildren to survive.  That human right drives us to fight these politically corrupt votes and government actions that occur in patriarchal systems that keep occurring in a government that will one day implode on itself. We cannot save them from doing that but we can do all we can to protect the earth as the LAND IS OUR MOTHER AND THE RIVERS ARE OUR BLOOD. (Mary Bravebird).

These same corrupt political systems created the Pick Sloan legislation that wiped out our thriving Native river communities for the sake of Missouri River Dams.  Some communities have never recovered their infrastructures but the women are still standing; ready to nurture, lead and fight for land, water and grandchildren.

The same corrupt political, self-serving systems created the Indian boarding schools which literally killed and maimed thousands of our sacred Native children.  Generations later we still bear the scars, but they did not destroy us. The women and our families are still standing!

The same corrupt political systems created the government plan to outlaw Native languages and as recently as the late 1990s tried to make “English only” in school settings.  This has failed.  I speak my language to my baby grandson 24-7 and our Dakota/Nakota language will be a part of his spirit.  The women of my family are still standing in Dakota.

Politically motivated, land hungry motivated counties, cities and the State of South Dakota used all means to drag the Ihanktonwan Nation all the way to the Supreme Court, not once but twice, to try to disestablish our reservation in the 1990s and into 2000.  They may have diminished our boundary in the skirmish but in the second trip, the Supreme Court refused to hear the disestablishment case and we are still standing.  Following this historic boundary victory, the western Charles Mix County boundary sign that was erected marking the 1858 Treaty boundary has been viciously cut down twice in the cowardice of the dark of night but tonight I checked and guess what……we are still standing!!!!!

Dishonest politically motivated corrupt agents coerced numerous treaties among Native Nations, but even in the most devastating treaties, our people engaged in these treaties in prayer and with the greatest civility, promising to honor their word. The United States government never had the nation character to stand on those treaties, they only knew how to trample them.  Although the women of our Native nations never signed any of those coerced treaties, we are standing strong on our Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868. In January 25, 2013 on the Ihanktonwan homelands, for the first time in history, Native women signed the historic International Treaty to Protect the Sacred against KXL and Tarsands.  We will stand hard on that with all of our families and the other sovereigns and I come from a family that has longevity.

On September 4, 1863, my great grandmother survived the politically motivated campaign to exile Dakota out of Minnesota. She was a survivor and political prisoner of the Whitestone Massacre in southeastern North Dakota.  General Sully of the US Army attacked an unarmed camp of Dakota women, children and elders who were preparing buffalo for the coming winter while the men were out hunting buffalo. There is no greater act of cowardice than to kill women and children.  The militarism that targeted women and children in the 1800’s was a horrific act that was followed by the more horrific act of President Lincoln signing the death warrant for the hanging of 38 + 2 Dakota one hundred fifty two years ago.  All the women in my family stand proudly in the place of Kunsi (grandmother) Tunkan Inajin Win who survived that massacre.

In light of all of the above and numerous other holocaust activity, I was of course tempted to jump on a plane to Washington to challenge Senator Mary Landrieu, the legislator who is promoting the KXL along with other politically motivated players,  to Indian leg wrestling Dakota women style on the capitol steps but my women’s wisdom prevailed.

That women’s wisdom tells me that just like prayers were laid down in our sacred “canupa” (pipes)when we signed treaties; just like when we made prayers to protect land that is still unceded by any treaty……the women have been praying for the health of Mother Earth and those prayers are moving. In the deepest part of our hearts we know that after Senator Landrieu’s highly publicized skirmish….we will be standing stronger than ever.  To the US Congress we say, “ you have tried for over 200 years to knock us down and it has not happened.  We are resilient and we will win this fight for Mother Earth and we will do it in the Art of Peace, Prayer and continued Unity of our Sovereign Nations” and this time around we have more allies than you know.  If nothing else, self-serving politicians like Harper in Canada and Landrieu have caused the sleeping giant of Indigenous Nations on Turtle Island to unify in a force unseen in recent times.  As I retire tonight, I share this Cree Prophecy with those confused individuals on Capitol Hill, Transcanada, KXL and Big Oil:  “When all the trees have been cut down and all the animals have been hunted; when all the waters are polluted; when all the air is unsafe to breath; only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”

The women of Turtle Island are ready for Senators like Landrieu, Carper, Bennett, Booker, Rockefeller and King and we will not let KXL through our territory, we assure you. And as for Thune and Noem, we are ashamed that these legislators live in the Treaty Territory that we shared with their ancestors.  Our grandmothers need to remind Kristi Noem that you can’t advocate for Violence against Women on one hand and in the other hand support man camps that will bring in 1800 men into Treaty Territory.  This is the same Treaty Territory where one out of three Native women will be assaulted in our lifetimes by someone outside their culture.  We speak from experience and this week we have important things to do like pray for and take care of our families, grieve with our relatives who have lost a child and make sure the grandchildren learn our ways and our languages.  Respect the Earth.







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