Return the Land

Lakota Law

As you may know, I’ve been involved in the landback movement for quite some time. Several years ago, I began helping lead the effort to return the Black Hills to the Lakota People. Protecting our water and returning our most sacred lands to Native stewardship — and defending them from degradation at the hands of mining and pipelines — is of paramount importance to me. I hope the same holds true for anyone who cares about the future of Unci Maka, our Grandmother Earth.

This movement extends far beyond the boundaries of Lakota Country. Recently, a friend of mine shared an important opportunity to return land to Native care in what we now call California. Because it’s critical that we act in solidarity with one another whenever possible, today I share this effort with you. I’ll describe things below, and I also hope you’ll visit the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission (OVIWC) website to learn more.

Click the pic to watch OVIWC’s video about Three Creeks.

Located just east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Central California, Payahuunadü — known in English as Owen’s Valley and translated as “land of the flowing water” — is part of the traditional homelands of the Nüümü (Paiute) and Newe (Shoshone) Native nations. They have now joined forces under OVIWC, a three-tribe consortium with an opportunity to acquire Three Creeks, a lush and beautiful five-acre property within Payahuunadü

The tribes intend to utilize this oasis as a haven for cultural resurgence involving food sovereignty initiatives, ceremonial healing, revitalization of kinship, and art and education to address traumas caused by displacement. Those goals also go hand in hand with a desire to preserve and protect this sacred space amid aggressive attempts by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) to control the area’s water. 

Over the past five years, 50 percent of Los Angeles’s water supply has come from Payahuunadü. The DWP has been taking and exporting its water since 1913 and owns 95 percent of the valley floor — while tribes share ownership of one third of one percent. This injustice must be addressed, and with an additional foothold in the area, the Nüümü and Newe Peoples will be better equipped to defend their homelands as a whole. 

My dad, Chase, is also on his way to Nüümü and Newe lands in present-day Nevada to meet this week with the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and other Native leaders involved in the battle to protect PeeHee Mu’Huh (Thacker Pass) from lithium mining. You’ll hear more about that soon! Our family thanks you for joining us in showing solidarity with all Indigenous nations seeking to defend and return sacred lands.

Wopila tanka — thank you for your solidarity!
Tokata Iron Eyes
Organizer and Spokesperson
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Free Leonard Peltier

Lakota Law

Today marks a shameful anniversary. It’s now been 47 years since our Lakota and Ojibwe relative, Leonard Peltier, was arrested after taking part in the 1975 American Indian Movement (AIM) standoff at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Wrongly convicted on false testimony for killing FBI agents, Leonard is now 78 years old and suffering with various health ailments in a federal penitentiary in Florida.

The good news is, the world has never forgotten Leonard, who during his lengthy incarceration has run for both President and Vice President of the United States. Today, “Rise Up for Peltier” events are happening in cities across the globe — including Paris, Rome, and Berlin. As part of this day of solidarity, our friends at the Red Nation Movement are also asking people to assist Leonard through their social media channels by sharing content and raising awareness.

Turtle Mountain’s Leonard Peltier, imprisoned in Florida, 1993. (Photo credit: Kevin McKiernan)

As Carol Gokee, co-director of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, wrote to you via our Lakota Law platform a year ago, the list of people who have supported clemency for Leonard is long and impressive. It includes Nobel Peace Prize winners Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and Rigoberta Menchú; former Chief Judge of Tennessee’s U.S. District Court, Kevin Sharp; Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ); and James Reynolds, the chief prosecutor who originally put Leonard behind bars. 

As we approach the anniversary of AIM’s Wounded Knee stand later this month, we’ll have much more to share with you. Lakota Law organizers Madonna Thunder Hawk and DeCora Hawk are on the ground helping to prepare a big event, and you’ll hear more from them this week. In addition, our video team is working on setting up live video feeds and our communications staff is working on an action you’ll be able to take to demand clemency for Leonard. 

You can find more info and other ways to assist right here. Please stay tuned and stand ready. We must do everything we can to right a grievous wrong. After nearly a half-century, It’s long past time to free Leonard Peltier.

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