More than 5,000 Indigenous People and allies marched from the US Army Corps of Engineer’s National Headquarters to Lafayette Park at the White House, with a powerful reclamation message at Trump International Hotel mid-way.
Native Nations Rise… a reformation of what used to be the American Indian Movement to fight for American Indian rights long ago, to what is now the rising Indigenous Rights Movement for those on Turtle Island and across the world. Standing Rock awakened many people to what was going on in Indian Country. For us, nothing has changed, the injustices happening to our people and communities is nothing new, but seemed it in the eyes of non-indigenous people. We have Tribal nations uniting and allies increasing to further increase the awareness of the fight for Indigenous rights, to protect and preserve those rights, to protect all living things, and to ensure we have a voice.
March 7th, the tipi encampment was up and running. To open up the camp, it started with a water ceremony. We had opening remarks from Dallas Goldtooth, a welcoming/blessing from Sebi Medina-Tayac of the Piscataway Indian Nation, followed by a water blessing from Ani of Navajo Nation. Much preparation took place for this collaborative effort to happen. The main point of the camp and march was to unite the people, be a reminder to the Administration that we are still here, to remind the Administration of its Treaty laws, and to be a presence in a city that is the epicenter of policy decisions. Those 5 days, were incredibly beautiful. For me, I was beyond happy to see familiar faces and meet new ones. I was happy to have what felt like a little piece of home, and what I felt at Standing Rock during my stay there, here in Washington, DC. This was a historic and symbolic moment that was more than just Standing Rock and #NoDAPL. This was about uniting the people, to continue to rise up and fight harder in their own communities and against future pipelines.
Every morning at camp, there was a water blessing ceremony. As tipis were being set up, many came to help lend a hand. Organizers from all over collaborated to ensure this encampment and march meant something. Workshops, Panels, and Artisan groups were on the schedules to ensure that we were hearing from the local DC community, as well as more across the Nation and other parts of the world. This was an opportunity to for the people to be engaged, make more friends, and for voices to be heard. We heard from our elders, the youth, and the women. Wednesday was International Women’s Day, so there were planned events to occur to unify the women and figure out an agenda of what we need.
Our Past Lives Within Us, But We Continue To Thrive:
For far too long, Indigenous peoples, the first peoples have been on the short end of the stick, receiving the bare minimum. When insulted and mocked that we are only the stereotypes non-Indigenous people think, little do they really know why those stereotypes exist in the first place, where there is some truth, sadly not by choice. Many of us have been relocated from our original homelands, forced out west, forced to become civilized and to forget who we really are as a people. “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” is a real saying. Our ancestors were taken from their homes, forced into boarding schools where they were forced to not speak their language, cut their hair and choose a Christian name. Consequences would follow if not done. Many of our ancestors tell stories of being beaten, raped, and molested by those in these boarding schools that were supposed to “help us.” Massacres occurred to wipe us out. There are elders to this day that can speak to what they witnessed from those massacres as they have a relative that has told their story. This has all resulted in generational trauma. Many were forced to lands that were not farm-able, placed in food deserts, and put in a fail/fail situation, as a tactic, to get rid of the Indian. We are not supposed to be here. We have survived all these attempts to annihilate our culture and genetic thumbprint. Despite the odds, we have survived. There are many resilient Indigenous communities from across the world that have faced or are facing the similar battles we have here in the United States. But now, we say no more. We will not be silent. We deserve better. And Standing Rock gave that courage to many and ignited that fire in many to unite.
Strong Voices Emerging:
What came out of Standing Rock was an awareness and momentum. If we truly want change, it’s time for the people to stand up, be a voice, continue organizing, and not be complicit. Often I hear, “well nothing’s changed, so why bother.” I get it. I really do. It’s hard not to be positive about many injustices happening to Indian Country continually. I say, HELL NO! Let’s rise to the occasion. Let’s act. We have many that we can lean on and learn from. That’s what is happening. We have the native youth to thank for that. They erected the first tipi and camp to fight the Dakota Access Pipeline. They ran over 2,000 miles from Cannonball, North Dakota to Washington, DC to generate awareness of the opposition to this pipeline. The people, who have inspired me the most, have been the youth. This is the seventh generation that has been talked about for a long time, taking the lead in a prayerful and peaceful way. It’s also our responsibility to encourage them and help them. Strong, resilient, and powerful voices are emerging. I’m so happy, grateful, and excited to see this movement continue.
Strong Hearts To The Front:
Strong hearts have been climbing, marching, running, and walking to the front. This Native Nation’s Rise March on Washington had just that. We had the youth at the front. We had our women to the front. The women put up the last tipi pole that was erected right in front of the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, on the way to the White House. A strong message was stated to Trump and the Administration of reclamation, at that hotel, with that tipi. We are reclaiming what once was ours. We are reminding them that we are still here. We are reminding them of the promises signed and made, that they have continually have broken.
Despite differences in opinions over what has happened in Standing Rock, all parties involved, what was important that I took away from last week, was that we all came to DC to be a strong, loud, collective voice. Amidst the cheers and voices from Tribal leaders, youth, and performers, there were voices of opposition towards Standing Rock. However, a youth of Standing Rock spoke with humility and courage, to remind the people that respect needs to be at the forefront of this movement. No tolerance for disrespecting others, especially Native’s. If we continue to have divide within our own, we will never win, we will be holding each other back. How can we fix that? I don’t have the answer to that. I do see communication, involvement of everyone, and honesty being what I would want. Decisions have been made the last few months, which I see people not agreeing with, and that’s okay. We also don’t know the reasoning’s to those decisions made, which, maybe we should. Like I said, I don’t have all the answers. But I do see the people coming together, to fight for indigenous and human rights. I do know, that disrespect, from non-natives and indigenous people being directed at the women, in the rally, who were trying to diffuse the situation. I was one of them and standing right in the middle. I saw a man flip out on an elder woman and yell at her. Despite differences in opinions, I do not condone that behavior. This movement has had prayer and peace at the forefront of this fight. In our culture, you’re taught to respect women and to listen to our elders. I saw none of that coming from the opposing voices.
We have a wonderful opportunity to strengthen this movement and sustain it. This awareness has moved from being an Indigenous Rights issue to a human rights issue. We all deserve the best, we all deserve to have access to clean, uncontaminated water. We all should have a say whether a pipeline goes through Tribal land or city boundaries.
I truly believe that Indigenous people are deeply rooted to our surroundings and have our roots deeply into the ground. Whether we know it or feel it, I believe it’s there. With adapting to society and going about our lives, we may have lost that connection, but Standing Rock ignited again for many. Many Indigenous people are reclaiming their identity, many who stayed in Standing Rock until the very last day; felt that they were on a new path. Some have taken the initiative to learn their language. Some have stopped with their alcohol and substance abuse habits the moment they came to camp. Standing Rock, the camp life, and the people, saved the lives of many, opened the eyes of many, and changed the paths of many. It has for me. Some have left camp with new organizations formed, Indigenous Media platforms created, and groups mobilizing to unite the people and fight other injustices happening in other communities. I am very blessed for what I was able to experience, be part of, and given me the courage to take a more direct leadership role to generate awareness and unite us.
The people are uniting. The people are rising. It is beautiful to witness. Many asked what will us uniting in DC accomplish, the pipeline is built? My answer was, the fight isn’t over. This isn’t just about this one pipeline. We will win, when we have recognition of who we are, and our rights acknowledged and respected. When our voices are heard in the policy decisions or permits approvals, where projects or laws are not implemented, or vice versa, we will have been recognized. When we have a seat at the table, not to just be a check in the box, with real meaningful dialogue, we can win.
As I mentioned before, we are deeply connected to our surroundings and Unci Maka, Grandmother Earth. When she is crying out for help, we are the first ones to hear her. We are protectors of all things, because all things have life and that is worth protecting. Your fight is our fight, and people are now looking to Indigenous people for guidance, especially when it comes to fighting for our natural resources.
We are still here. We are resilient. I am still here. I have much to learn, but I have many I am inspired by to help me be a voice and take a stand. I am proud of all our protectors. I am proud of those who are putting the people first over profit and corporate corruption.
I am proud to be a Lakota woman. I am proud to be Indigenous.