Happy Earth Day! It’s appropriate that, on this day of reverence for Unci Maka, we celebrate the imminent return of one of her guardians. After many months in prison for his brave stand against the Dakota Access pipeline, Michael “Rattler” Markus is coming home! I hope you’ll join me in giving thanks to Rattler and to all those on the frontlines to defend sacred lands and water.
Watch: Our water protector matriarch, Phyllis Young, helps welcome Rattler back to freedom, including a brief interview and drum ceremony for him.
Rattler, who served during the NoDAPL protests as an Akicita (defender), positioned between police and water protectors to keep everybody safe, was arrested in February of 2017. He subsequently accepted a plea to a civil disorder charge stemming from his presence on Oct. 27, 2016 — when law enforcement assaulted unarmed water protectors with sound cannons, tasers, bean bags, rubber bullets, and pepper spray.
We have seen these tactics time and again — and we have seen how the colonizers use both the police and new legislation to back up their intrusions into our sacred lands. Following a year in which people all over the world stood together in the streets to promote justice, many lawmakers are now renewing their attacks on our ability to protest.
According to the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, 71 laws currently pending at the federal or state level — in 29 different states! — seek to limit our right to protest. It is critical that we retain our right to protect the Earth from corporations who ramrod noxious extraction infrastructure like pipelines through our homelands and other communities of color.
I’m grateful to those who served time for their bold actions on behalf of Unci Maka — people like Red Fawn, who came home after years of incarceration a few weeks ago, and Rattler, who will be released from federal custody tomorrow.
You have my gratitude as well. Thank you for standing with all of us on the frontlines. The powers that be can keep trying to divide, conquer, and subjugate us, but we’ll stay informed and active until we achieve the justice we seek — for ourselves and for the world we inhabit.
Wopila tanka — thank you, always, for your solidarity with our movement. Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
When LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, learned of what she called “the black snake” — a 1,170-mile-long underground pipeline that would stretch from the shale oil fields of northwest North Dakota to Illinois — she volunteered the use of her land to establish a resistance camp.
That camp became the base for a global protest movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which Ms. Allard said would veer too close to sacred burial grounds, including the grave of one of her sons; could contaminate the region’s water supplies if it ever leaked; and violated longstanding treaties between Native Americans and the federal government.
The movement stood not only for stopping the pipeline but also against excavating fossil fuels in general while embracing tribal sovereignty, environmental justice and the protection of water sources everywhere.
Ms. Allard died on April 10 at her home in Fort Yates, N.D. She was 64. Her family announced the death online; local media outlets said the cause was brain cancer.
She established Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers in March 2016. Neighbors starting bringing food, coffee and wood for a small core group. Indigenous youth spread the word across social media.
Within months, the resistance had turned into a cultural movement, with thousands of people — members of other tribes, environmental and civil rights activists, politicians — joining in, tucking into tents, tepees and trailers in similar camps across the prairie.
The movement also drew what Ms. Allard told Teen Vogue in 2017 were “spiritual leaders from every facet of every Indigenous people — Mongolians, the people out of Africa, India, China, Australia and New Zealand,” as well as South America, Canada and the Midwestern United States, all to be part of one of the largest gatherings of Indigenous peoples in more than a century.
Construction of the pipeline began under President Barack Obama. But with demonstrations growing — and security guards attacking protesters with freezing water from pressure hoses, pepper spray, rubber bullets, dogs and mass arrests — the Obama administration later had a change of heart and blocked construction of part of the pipeline.
The reprieve was only temporary. President Donald J. Trump, who viewed the project as a boon to the economy and a way of weaning the country off foreign oil, ordered the pipeline completed and the protest camps evacuated and razed. Environmental and Indigenous groups responded with legal challenges.
The fate of the $3.7 billion project now lies with the Biden administration and the courts. But while an environmental review continues, the pipeline remains in operation.
As one of the leaders of the resistance, Ms. Allard appeared on television; wrote opinion pieces for newspapers, including The Guardian in England; and traveled the world as a keynote speaker on Indigenous history and culture. She argued for the protection of sacred Indigenous lands everywhere. She worked on campaigns to encourage divestment from the fossil fuel industry, and she became an annual speaker at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Rather, she said, they were fighting for something much bigger: their rights and for the “liberation” of Mother Earth. “We want every last oil and gas pipe removed from her body,” she wrote. “We want healing. We want clean water. We want to determine our own future.”
LaDonna Carole Brave Bull was born on June 8, 1956, in Fort Yates to Valerie Lovejoy Brave Bull and Frank Brave Bull.
She spent much of her girlhood with her grandmothers and grew up all over, from the Dakotas to California to New England and Florida. She enrolled in Standing Rock Community College, transferred to Black Hills State College and eventually graduated from the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks in 1990.
After college, she went to work for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as cultural resource planner. She also served as its historian and genealogist. She later helped the tribe create its office of historic preservation and a tourism office.
She has said she had been struck by the depth of historical trauma when she visited the site of the 1863 massacre at Whitestone Hill, in south-central North Dakota, where the U.S. Army slaughtered hundreds of Sioux. In a 2017 essay in Yes! magazine, she linked that event with the pipeline’s destruction of hundreds of archaeological sites and sacred places.
“The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas,” she wrote. “And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people.”
In 2019 Ms. Allard became an official representative for Indigenous peoples within the United Nations Economic and Social Council. She held positions on numerous boards and taught a class on combining Indigenous knowledge with modern technology.
After two early marriages, she married Miles D. Allard, whom she met at the University of North Dakota, in 1990 and whom a family obituary called the love of her life. Mr. Allard died in 2018.
Her survivors include six sons, William J. Brave Bull, Freedom P. McLaughlin, Eric Grey Cloud, Ian Scotty Halsey, Alex Schien and Shannon Meister; two daughters, Prairie Fawn McLaughlin and Nikola Allard; 21 grandchildren; two great-granddaughters; eight sisters; and eight brothers.
Shortly before Ms. Allard died, Indigenous youth on their way to a rally against the pipeline stopped by her house and placed signs in her yard saying “We love you LaDonna” and “Water is Life,” Kandi White of the Indigenous Environmental Network told Indian Country Today.
“Her son told us that LaDonna heard us chanting and knew we were there,” Ms. White said. “She told us not to be sad for her but to continue the fight.”
Katharine Q. “Kit” Seelye is a Times obituary writer. She was previously the paper’s New England bureau chief, based in Boston. She worked in The Times’s Washington bureau for 12 years, has covered six presidential campaigns and pioneered The Times’s online coverage of politics. @kseelye
Calling it a betrayal of his campaign promise, indigenous leaders and campaigners were outraged with President Biden’s refusal to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline. His refusal came on April 9 when the pipeline was under a court-ordered environmental review.
According to EcoWatch, the hearing took place so the “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could provide an update on whether the Biden administration planned to allow the pipeline known as DAPL to continue operating without a federal permit.” An attorney for the government said that the Army Corps of Engineers had no intention to shut down the pipeline and instead, “is essentially in a continuous process of evaluating.” So the pipeline was granted a 10-day continuance.
The judge will decide the fate of the pipeline by April 19.
“In a meeting with members of Biden’s staff earlier this year, we were told that this new administration wanted to ‘get this right,’” Mike Faith, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said. “Unfortunately, today’s update from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows it has chosen to ignore our pleas and stick to the wrong path.”
The DAPL, which began operation in 2017 and carries oil from North Dakota to Illinois, was allowed permission to proceed under the Trump administration after the Obama administration halted the project and denied it permission to cross through ancestral tribal lands at Lake Oahe.
Tribal leaders, environmentalists and campaigners have opposed the pipeline from the start saying the DAPL “violates treaty rights and endangers land, water, and communities.” Opponents of the pipeline were relying on President Biden to order a shut down.
“For hundreds of years, our people have faced unwelcome and deadly incursions upon our homelands,” Phyllis Young, Standing Rock organizer for the Lakota People’s Law Project and former tribal liaison to the Oceti Sakowin protest camp, said. “Today’s decision is disappointing and demonstrates a lack of understanding by Washington politicians for Indigenous sovereignty. We will do our very best to see this pipeline removed, our water protected, and our sacred lands healed.”
I taught for 27 years before retiring in 2017. I had purchased several of these maps to support my social studies lessons. One day during parent conferences I saw a parent sitting very quietly in front of one of the maps. He had tears in his eyes. I inquired if he was ok. He stated that he had never seen such maps and he was so happy to finally see a map with all of the North American tribes listed by their real names.
Maps are important and a critical part of learning about our history. If you do not purchase one for yourself, consider purchasing some for your local school! Also, check out the large selection of books!
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Breaking news: This morning, in a federal district court proceeding in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers balked at stopping the oil flow through the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). The Corps officially refrained from taking a position by saying they need more time, which will allow the pipeline to continue operating illegally, without a valid permit.
For the past two months, we’ve been working overtime — with you and many allied organizations, in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe — to pressure President Biden to use his executive authority and shut down the flow of oil through DAPL. Though he failed to take his first opportunity to do so, we must keep the pressure on him as the legal battle continues.
Today’s decision temporarily kicks the decision back to Judge James Boasberg, who says he intends to make a ruling by April 19 on the matter. We now have at least another 10 days to let the White House know we don’t accept DAPL’s continued operation. So please don’t slow down. Please continue sharing our call to action. Tell Biden: #NODAPL.
Whether Judge Boasberg will pass an injunction against the pipeline is anyone’s guess. There is reason to be at least moderately hopeful: he has already ruled in Standing Rock’s favor once. Last year, after vitiating DAPL’s permit because many of the tribe’s legitimate concerns were never met by the Army Corps or the pipeline’s operators, Boasberg ordered it emptied within 30 days. But he was temporarily overruled by a higher court, which asked him to consider a more stringent test.
Now, we expect Boasberg will make his final decision on April 19 — unless Biden decides to act first. We can’t take anything for granted with the courts, so let’s keep pushing hard for the political solution. Know that your support is critical to aiding us as we remain vigilant here in Lakota Country. Please continue to spread our petition to President Biden far and wide. It’s now or never!
Wopila tanka — thank you for fighting to end DAPL’s threat to our sacred lands and water! Chase Iron Eyes Co-Director & Lead Counsel The Lakota People’s Law Project
My name is Red Fawn Janis. I was born on the Oglala Nation and raised in Denver by my mother — a pipe carrier — and my grandmother. It was a spiritual home. But in 2016, everything changed. After losing both of these powerful women, my guiding lights, I went to Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). As you may know, I was subsequently arrested and imprisoned for four and a half years. But today, I am finally home again. And despite the hardships, I would do it all over again.
Because there’s nothing more important than standing up for Unci Maka, our Grandmother Earth. She produces food, shelter, and life. And, at Standing Rock, she produced healing for so many of us. So I ask you today to stand with her, with me, with all our ancestors and relatives. If you have not yet done so, please tell President Biden: end DAPL now. I ask you, humbly, to help stop this pipeline and restore my homelands.
Watch my new video: I give one of my first interviews since my release from prison. I’m headed home!
Going to Standing Rock was a life-changing journey for me and for so many other people. Something deep within us called us there. I remember sitting with Standing Rock members and hippie kids and Black people — so many young ones — all of us together, in the first days, before construction began. We had no idea what was about to happen.
I showed up with about $300 and a couple changes of clothes, planning to be there for a few weeks at most. But I wound up staying, and even If I took a short trip home, I felt called back immediately. We formed not just a movement, but a real community. But, of course, not everyone can be trusted.
I will share more details with you soon, but what you should know for now is that I met a man who seemed genuine, who helped the elders, who was within a trusted circle. So I couldn’t believe what was happening when it turned out a gun had been planted on me. I’d been set up by the feds. And, after a confrontation with police, I was taken as a political prisoner.
Fortunately, I understand that things happen the way the Creator wants them to. This pivotal time in my life has led to growth and healing, and it’s positioned me to share my perspective with you. For that, I’m grateful. I really believe that I’ve been given my life back. It was the betrayal that blessed me.
Now, I look forward to telling my story in full and finding ways we can work together to protect our Grandmother, her waters, her creatures — all of our sacred relatives. Much will depend upon listening to our elders and supporting our youth. So many of those who came to Standing Rock have found new avenues in life, but others continue to struggle. I ask that you stand with them. Let’s start by defeating DAPL, but let us not stop there. There’s so much we can accomplish by praying together, by listening to one another, by taking united action. In this way, we will properly respect both those who came before us and the generations to come.
Wopila tanka — thank you, always, for standing in solidarity with me and all water protectors! Red Fawn Janis In partnership with the Lakota People’s Law Project