By: Faith Spotted Eagle
First of all, wopida or thanks for allowing us to share our voices with you and for taking the time to be with us for the Mass Meeting on Wednesday night. I was not able to get on the call but wanted to share my thoughts with all of you.
Long before Keystone XL, in the 1970s, there was a breakthrough in the Black Hills of South Dakota where communities came together, crossed our fear lines, and created the Cowboy and Indian Alliance to stop uranium mining and other rapings of Mother Earth. This history gave us a framework to reach back towards, and helped us to revive our alliance with the coming of the Keystone XL pipeline, a black snake slithering into our treaty lands and unceded territories, and the properties of our ska oyate (white allies) relatives. Our alliance has grown into the NOKXL Promise to Protect Alliance, which targets unified efforts at stopping tarsands and Keystone XL. We now have a common plan, and land and water does not divide us, but rather unifies us for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.
We’ve been fighting the tarsands expansion for years, and we’re winning. In 2013, We created the 1st signing of the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred against KXL and Tarsands on the Ihanktonwan/Yankton Sioux Homelands with the Ponca and the Pawnee, who are also affected. Since then the Oglala, the Lower Brule and the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate have joined us, along with 10 First Nations from Canada. This past month we had another beautiful second signing of the treaty with the help of many allies at the Wiconi Un Tipi Spiritual Camp at Kul Wicasa or Lower Brule — on the same day that Nebraska commissioners granted an alternative route for Keystone XL through the state.
We have continued to heal ourselves by building this amazing unlikely alliance of Native and non-Native allies who recognize that inhumanity is an illness that is weaponized by companies who have no care for future generations by promoting unharnessed careless development. These destructive pipelines represent the worst of environmental racism by totally abusing our land water and lifeways blessed on us by Ina Maka or Mother Earth. Our allies now recognize a common pain of theft of land and water security with the condemning of their properties, although many are still fearful of giving voice to their opposition to capitalist predation, which we receive little benefit from.
Our hearts are literally on the frontline and we are uniting to protect our camps from the extraction and pollution of companies like TransCanada, and the statistics of hundreds of murdered and missing women, as well as rape victims in the Bakken range and other tarsands areas that swell with “man camps” for construction workers. The rape of one is like the rape of thousands, there is no difference. Those who have been injured were our babies at one time, and we will never stop standing up for them.
As natives we have to be fully cognizant of what capacity we stand in — whether it is as a citizen of the USA, or a treaty, or inherent rights defender of Turtle Island. All of the above is built on structural injustice and we must understand how to dismantle those systems. We can’t even reach the Constitution or the Supremacy Clause which recognizes treaties as the supreme law of the land, because they are layered with hierarchies that are patrolled by gate keepers who have the illness of inhumanity.
We are teaching our allies how important our treaties are. The treaty covenant and relationship defines the spirit in which nations relate to each other, with respect and acknowledgement and unilateral strength, nation to nation, and we will never give that up, ever. Federal consultation methods have tried to usurp that standing to promote their immediate needs. At Yankton we have developed our own Woope or consultation standards, based on consent. We are raised to be that way and will never change no matter who is the leader of the western nations.
Often we are seen as angry and difficult people who require laws, enacted recently to further control our supposed unlawful behavior. It is not working, our behavior is within the laws and respect of nature, and it is making us stronger. We are, if anything, peace warriors. Colonialism tries to make us abnormal by saying we are violent. Those who refuse to understand do so intentionally.
One of our esteemed elders, Matthew King or Noble Red Man, effectively explained it for us.
“White man gets everything wrong. He says we’re warlike when we’re peaceful. See, he calls this headdress a war bonnet. Sure, we used it in war, but most of the time it was for ceremony, not war. Each feather stands for a good deed. See, I have thirty-six in mine. It’s not about war, it’s about who we are. When we sing songs the White Man calls them war songs. But they’re not war songs, they’re prayers to God. We have drums, so White Man calls them war drums. But they’re not for war, they’re for talking to God. There’s no such thing as a war drum. White man sees how our warriors paint their faces, so he calls it war paint. But it’s not for war, it’s to make it so God can see our faces clearly if we have to die.” That is courage through humility.
With that respect in mind, we ask those who may come to South Dakota to support against KXL to do so in a way of peace and understanding. Allies must understand their role as visitors to a land that is protected by ceremony of place and protection of sacred sites, burials and ceremony sites that are thousands of years old. Standing Rock was a great ceremony of building understanding that we shared with the world, so do not take it over and center personal needs. It is our identity.
In summary, in order to stand in a place of leadership and humility, one has to first understand their role, or we will get in the way. Secondly, we have to be accountable to someone, because that is strength and discipline. We are firstly accountable to ourselves, family, and those who give us direction and support from an organization, tribe or community. We are entering an age of water wars, as has been told by our elders before us.
We are excited and blessed that we can be a part of your concern, caring and prayers. We send you the same.
Tunkan Inajin Win, Standing Stone, Faith Spotted Eagle