Treaty Law If you scroll back to the early posts of this blog, you will find some of the histories of Standing Rock that I researched. It is always important to study the past, to fully understand the present.

Lakota Law

Greetings, and I hope your year is off to a great start! We’ve got a good video for you to watch today. It’s the twelfth chapter of our Dakota Water Wars video series, produced, as always, by us in partnership with the Standing Rock Nation and Great Plains Water Alliance. In this episode, we detail some new threats to the Mni Sose — the Missouri River — and highlight the importance of respecting both our water and treaty rights.

Watch: Lakota Law Standing Rock Organizer Phyllis Young shares her studied perspective on treaty law and passion to protect our water rights and environment.

Here’s the bottom line: the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie granted the Lakota people stewardship of the Mni Sose. When the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) appeared in our homelands, it threatened both our sole source of fresh water and our way of life. Now, to make things worse, other entities have made plans to take water from the Missouri and pipe it to places far away, like Colorado, and nearby, like Rapid City and the Black Hills. 

That last part is particularly troublesome. Mining interests in the Black Hills will use even more water than a municipality, and those mines threaten to despoil an area filled with many of our most sacred sites. Plus, sending our water away for use by extractive industries is the exact opposite of what we should be doing in the midst of a climate emergency. Right now, we have to mitigate carbon emissions, halt the warming of our planet, and responsibly allocate our water. 

As you know, Indigenous cultures traditionally live in harmony with our surroundings, with care for all our relatives (not just the human ones). As we said during the heyday of our NoDAPL stand, and as we continue to say today: mni wiconi — water is life! When the 1868 treaty granted us the ability to protect the Mni Sose, the state of South Dakota didn’t even exist yet. So we won’t back down on this. We’re not going to let the state, or any other man-made entity, threaten or take our water without a fight.

Wopila tanka — thank you for standing with us!
Chase Iron Eyes
Co-Director and Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Where is Justice in 2023?

With all of the talk about diversity, inclusion, and equity – I really don´t listen to the talk. I look at the actions. From where I am standing it does not appear that those words really mean anything in 2023 U.S.A. Those are just slogans, cliches: words to shout out to make one feel part of the pseudo-virtuous.

Now here is a 14-year-old girl in South Dakota who gets run over in a hit-and-run. Mark your calendar for February 17th. Demand justice. In the meantime, take time and examine the U.S. justice system. You will not like what you will find.

Lakota Law

Han, Mitakuyepi. Today I write to you with some sad news — but it’s something we absolutely need to talk about. On October 14, 2022 in Rapid City, South Dakota, Nevaeh Rose Brave Heart, a fourteen-year-old Lakota youth, was tragically killed in a hit-and-run incident. Jordan Hare, a 27-year-old white man, has now been arrested in connection with the crime. 

According to the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office, Hare fled the scene, leaving Nevaeh to die in the street of her injuries before medical help could arrive. He then allegedly washed his vehicle and painted his rims to hide the evidence. Now, he faces a maximum penalty of two years and/or a $4,000 fine for felony hit and run resulting in injury or death, and he’s free on $10,000 bail as the case proceeds.  

Click the pic to watch: In October, Nevaeh Brave Heart’s community gathered for a candlelight vigil and to call for justice.

If those penalties don’t sound commensurate with the crime to you, you’re not alone. Nevaeh Brave Heart’s death, which occurred just as her life was beginning, is emblematic of the kind of tragedy we see far too often in the Deep North, as we sometimes call it here. Too often, our health, wellbeing, and existence are not valued, protected, or respected. That has a cumulative effect on our Native communities and families. Meanwhile, someone like Jordan Hare is able to walk free on a measly $10,000 bail? If Nevaeh wasn’t Native, might Hare be in a lot more trouble — such as an additional manslaughter charge, a higher bail amount, or both?

There have been far too many instances of blatant racism — taking many forms — in and around Rapid City for us to ignore the lack of justice for Nevaeh. You may recall that, just last year, a hotel in town instituted a policy prohibiting Native guests, prompting us to ask you to write to the Department of Justice and demand an investigation. The pattern is so bad that, among the BIPOC community here, Rapid City has earned itself the name “Racist City.”

So, what’s next? Hare is scheduled to appear in court for a status hearing on Friday, Feb. 17 at 3 p.m. I’m happy to say that because of public interest in the case — our community wants justice for Nevaeh! — the judge has moved this hearing to a larger courtroom. I’ll be there, and I’ll keep you informed. We must watch closely and be ready to act if Hare — who has pled not guilty — isn’t held accountable. In the meantime, please join me in honoring Nevaeh’s memory by saying her name and praying for her family. 

Wopila tanka — thank you for your friendship with our community.
DeCora Hawk
Field Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Chief Big Foot Memorial Ride

Lakota Law

A very Happy New Year from me and my family to you and yours! In December, I wrote to you and asked you to help spread the word about passing the Remove the Stain Act. By rescinding 20 Medals of Honor awarded to soldiers who murdered nearly 300 Lakota women, men, and children at the Wounded Knee Massacre in December of 1890, we can more deeply recognize our ancestors. In this way, we honor the sacrifices they made so that we can be here today.

In that same email, I referenced the annual Chief Big Foot Memorial Ride, in which many of my relatives take to horseback to retrace the path our ancestors traveled before that horrific day. Today, I encourage you to watch our new video, in which I talk more about the annual tradition of this ride, the history behind it, and its deep meaning to our people. 

My relatives honor our ancestors at the Chief Big Foot Memorial Ride.

Undertaking this journey and reminding ourselves of the reality of what our ancestors went through on that hard winter’s trail helps to ground and more fully connect us. It takes many days and resources to replicate on horseback the original journey from Standing Rock through my home nation of Cheyenne River to Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation. How hard it must have been for those families who did it on foot in 1890 — and directly on the heels of the murder of Sitting Bull. 

Eagle Hunter, my brother-in-law, put it eloquently and succinctly: “Wasigla.” This is something that you don’t forget. We Lakota are a visual people, and the modern-day visual of following the trail to Wounded Knee is powerfully symbolic for us. We who are Indigenous to this land engage in ceremonial memorials because it’s part of who we are. We don’t usually write it down, we just do what’s in our ancestral memory. But today, I write to share this memory with you.

Wopila tanka — thank you for riding with us in spirit!
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project