That fall while a student at Black Hills State College in South Dakota, an officer in the Lakota Ominiciye Club on campus, I was an outsider. Those years were full of protests around the country, against racism and against the war in Vietnam and the American Indian Movement was getting set to be a real movement.
At a campus basketball game one of our club members, Marty Waukazoo who the previous year had been named the first American Indian in South Dakota to be selected All American had not been put into the game. We believed he could have added points our team needed, I stood up, fist in the air and the other tribal classmates stood with me. I had long since forgotten that moment, only to be reminded by Faith Spotted Eagle, one of those classmates when seeing her years later at the Rosebud Reservation.
The reservations in South Dakota are much like they were when I attended college in the state. Isolated with plenty of poverty but perhaps because they are isolated culture and beliefs in old ways are alive. My son and I went up to the Moccasins on the Ground Training organized by Faith Spotted Eagle. We knew when pipelines neared the reservations in South Dakota there would definitely be moccasins on the ground in a big way.
The Dakota Access Pipeline received their permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to take oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The tribe and allies have led rallies in Bismarck, North Dakota at the capitol and have a growing prayer camp along the banks of the Missouri River where construction of the pipeline threatens their water and sacred cultural sites.
Weeks ago 30 tribal youth ran a 2,000 mile relay against the pipeline to deliver nearly 200,000 petitions to the Army Corps of Engineers. Think about that.
A month ago the Standing Rock Sioux took the Army Corps of Engineers to court using Nation Wide Permit 12 and the Clean Water Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and importantly using the Treaty of Fort Laramie signed in 1851.
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia will make a decision September 9.
In the meantime, the Standing Rock Sioux are gathering peaceful activists ready to stand with them, moccasins on the ground, ready to be arrested, ready to protect the water. Thousands are there and more will come. It is the first time since Crazy Horse's time that all of the Sioux nations have been together taking a stand. Bus loads, vans and horses are coming. Ninety tribes with many from Oklahoma.
Those who are not there are making announcements of support, like the Cherokee Nation. Tribes in Oklahoma? Our tangled history with oil made it impossible for them to stand against the Keystone XL in mass in this state*. But standing anytime gives me hope, a great hope for the future and how we make the change from fossil fuels to clean energy that is sustainable and safe for the environment.
This will come. The end of these pipelines is coming and one of them may end on that lonely place in the Dakotas as people who stand for water will not be standing alone. Pipelines leak, it is just a matter of time. And as we all know even one drop of oil in water is hazardous.
Just a few days ago, with pride two images from the Standing Rock Reservation: arms in the air young and old standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The other image 3 young children, the sun setting a teepee nearby, each with an arm in the air.
None of the tribal people doing direct actions at the Standing Rock Reservation or anywhere in the protest site are armed with anything more than hope for the protection of the water, their ability to stand and their arm to uplift together as a sign of hope.
David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe quoted Chief Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Lakota, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”
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*The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit based in Denver, Colorado - decided not to grant the Sierra Club and Clean Energy Future Oklahoma a temporary injunction on the construction of the southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline.