Hihanni Waste! Mitakuyepi!
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe youth run for their lives, their families, their future, and for their environment from North Dakota to Washington, DC. The youth ran 2,000 miles to run for water. Why? Because they oppose the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, that will go through the Missouri and Cannonball River and poses a serious threat for water contamination should the pipe leak. This pipeline will transport approximately 450,000 barrels of crude oil a day, and if this pipeline leaks, it’ll take about 5 minutes for the oil to contaminate our water sources. This pipeline threatens the rivers, which run right through treaty lands, such as Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. It will not only affect these nations, it will pose a threat to farmers, to people who swim and boat on these rivers, and harm the life in those rivers, that provide food for our people. I remember when I was little, and even when I go home to visit now, swimming in the Missouri. It’s where families go to escape the heat, fish, and have picnics along the river. The river is a part of our life.
The youth of Standing Rock have started this campaign and movement to voice their concerns and stick up for their life, their rights, their family, and the water. Mni wiconi, Water is Life! You can’t live without water. If the water is poisoned, it will cause long-term effects for those who swim in it, drink, and use these rivers. So, the youth founded this movement that has shown maturity, positivity, and solidarity to urge the United States Army Corp of Engineers, to reject the Dakota Access Pipeline. However, USACE went ahead and approved the permits. Currently, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a complaint against USACE, filed an injunction on August 4, 2016, which is now pending and may take up to several weeks for review and approval. If it is approved, these permits will be terminated temporarily, giving the SRST, the youth, and all allies, more opportunities to rally, protest, and raise awareness to stop DAPL. Now this brings me to the events that happened in DC over the weekend.
My best friend and sister, Victoria and I wanted to help any way we could. We were very happy when the organizers reached out to us and we happily and excitedly said yes without hesitation. We were both very active in protesting the Keystone XL pipeline back in 2014 with Cowboy Indian Alliance rally/protest and during last year’s efforts of getting President Barack Obama to veto what Congress had voted to approve and the Senate failed to override his veto power. That was a very exciting day! I was interning on the Hill when the votes came in to approve, handing out packets to all offices I could reach, with South Dakota, my family, friends, and the land on my mind and in my heart as I spoke to members of Congress and their staff. It was an amazing celebration in front of the White House last fall!
Knowing that the youth were running for purpose and to bring their messages and stories to DC, we wanted to welcome them in the best way possible. Me being the runner all my life wanted to keep the running theme, so I suggested we do a Run for Water rally from the Hill to the Army Corp of Engineers Headquarters where we would rally there peacefully so that the youth and allies can make it known that they mean business and they will be heard. Victoria set up an incredible meeting for them to voice their message to high level government officials who have a hand in the decision or influence on the approval or denial of the Dakota Access Pipeline. All the details had to be planned, with forms to fill out, phone calls, running around, late night phone calls, on top of our full time jobs and responsibilities. I praise those who put these rallies and protests on….. it is not an easy job. It’s filled with contingency plans and tons of communications between multiple parties. Since everything here needed at least 2 weeks’ notice, we were denied on everything. So we reached out to the United States Supreme Court two days away from the run, and they were happy to let us convene in front of SCOTUS. The night before the run at 7:30pm, the U.S. Capitol CVC called saying they approved the permit and will give us the lot we requested, but by this time, the flyers we made, were published and we weren’t going to change it. The day before, Victoria and I could finally announce the run to everyone outside of the youth as we were waiting on pending information from these government officials. We were denied police escorts, and had to risk continuing the run, there was the potential of Victoria getting a traffic violation, we were willing to risk it, but not wanting our runners and supporters lives to be jeopardized. So as I was hyperventilating the night before, Victoria just tells me to calm down, it’s going to work out the way we planned. She called the DC Police at 5am, still unsure, then again at 7 and was told one cop car would be there at 8:30am. We were relieved.
We get to SCOTUS before anyone else, my other best friend joined and then our singer and drummer who was doing the prayer joined in a few moments later. We were still nervous as to how things would play out but we waited. Indian Time exists in DC too (lol). BUT, everyone showed up! AND, about 10 police escorts showed up! We were shocked and overwhelmed that they had heard about it, were curious, and wanted to ensure our safety. The runners were off the buses, and we all greeted each other and had a celebrity, Shailene Woodley (The Divergent) joined in and was on the road with them immediately after the Democratic National Convention. She’s been a huge supporter and voice for and with the Standing Rock youth, so it was amazing to meet her and hear her passion on the issue. She has used her blessings for the greater good, and was all over her social media campaigning for the Standing Rock youth and the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. She’s not the only celebrity that has joined this movement: Leonardo DiCaprio, Rosario Dawson, Ezra Miller, and Jason Momoa. Their highlights on the issue have attracted more attention, which is what the youth need. As we gathered for prayer and song, we were ready to run to USACE Headquarters.
The run/walk began, went down Constitution Avenue to 7th St NW and then to G St where USACE HQ was. As we were making our way there, the horns were honking, the support was coming, and the singing and chants were getting louder. “Mni Wiconi, Water is Life, We Run for Our Brothers, We Run for Our Sisters…. Can’t Drink Oil, Keep it in the Soil” were some of the things being yelled together as a group. The youth led the way and we ended up right in front of USACE Headquarters. They grabbed the attention of those walking by, USACE employees in suits, and had many peeking in through the windows taking videos and photos. We all stayed there until the youth had their closed meeting with government officials. The day was a success, and as we drove home, to get back to our work and rest, we were overwhelmed with emotions. Not only from the stress of planning, but we were so proud of the youth. They took matters into their own hands and standing up for what they believe in. I didn’t see them as youth; they presented themselves in such a humble manner and were mature throughout the whole thing, despite being physically exhausted from their running from North Dakota to DC. Every piece to the puzzle aligned and you could feel the solidarity, the support, the care, the passion, and the love. Day 1 was a success.
No Dakota Access Pipeline Rally: Day 2
Saturday was a hot day in the low 90’s but a perfect partly cloudy day for a rally outside of the White House at Lafayette Square (a place where many protests occur). When you’re living in DC, and as a Native, you often are caught in the work flow but these gatherings, are perfect re-connecting with family and friends, especially to support each other on issues that we care about. It was great to see so many Natives and supporters. As we walked up, we heard the youth talking to the crowd, then chanting, walking in a circle, and grabbing the attention of onlookers and tourists. It was great to see people come up, ask what was going on, and even joining in on the walking, round-dance, and chanting. The crowd was bigger and the message was louder, for the President to see and hear. Sadly, he was in Martha’s Vineyard, but the statement remained, as the youth pleaded for him to keep his promise on protecting the youth and the future generations. A promise he made when he visited Cannonball, North Dakota in 2014. That day was incredible to watch. Watching the youth speak their message was inspiring. You could see they were tired, but they kept going, they got louder, and they didn’t stop. You could feel the energy they were giving off. And you couldn’t help but smile, smile at what they were doing. It made me think that our future will be in good hands. We were witnessing our future leaders. They were and are making a difference. The next best thing, as it was feeling like it was getting hotter, the wind picked up, and you could see the clouds rolling in. Then, it started to rain. And it couldn’t have been more perfect, as the youth and crowd were yelling, “Mni Wiconi, Water is Life!” We were being blessed.
The afternoon continued, the crowd remained, more signs came, and the singing continued. What was another powerful moment was when we were all singing together. I looked around, and everyone was singing. I felt so close to everyone, as we were all there for the same reason, to protect our water, our land, our future.
I am still blown away by the events of the weekend. Meeting the youth, was inspiring. And to top it off, they went to NYC and held another rally in Union Square to end their campaign across the country. Their fight isn’t over. The pressure grows on the government to reject these permits. We must continue to stand with our youth, support them, their efforts, and continue to be a voice. If any of the youth are reading this, Victoria and I are so proud of you! Keep it up, never stop, and we are here to help you in any way possible!
For more information, please visit www.rezpectourwater.com, to sign the campaign, please visit https://www.change.org/p/jo-ellen-darcy-stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline and to donate to the Sacred Stone Encampment, who are the human shields in blocking the construction of this pipeline, please visit, https://www.gofundme.com/sacredstonecamp.
To all my followers on the Native in DC Facebook page and my friends and family on my personal Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, thank you all so much for your support, the likes, the shares, and the messages. All of you are too kind, but I, and we, appreciate your support!
Mitakuye Oyasin! Love you all!
#MniWiconi #WaterIsLife #PeopleOverPipelines #RezpectOurWater #PipelineFighters #YouthEmpowerment #Resiliency #NoDAPL #NoDakotaAccessPipeline #HonorTheEarth