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
Charges against Nick Tilsen, Oglala Lakota, President and CEO of NDN Collective, and all other treaty defenders arrested at a Black Hills protest on July 3 will be dropped, announced NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led advocacy organization.
The initial charges came after Tilsen and more than 200 treaty defenders protested former President Donald Trump’s visit to the Black Hills last summer, as he traveled to speak at Mount Rushmore for an Independence Day celebration.
The Lakota have long attempted to have the Black Hill region returned to tribal authority, as specified under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.
The treaty defenders gathered on a highway leading to the monument, using cars and vans to block the road for nearly three hours. In response, law enforcement officers and members of the South Dakota Air and Army National Guard were called in, leading to a skirmish between protestors and law enforcement.
Twenty-one treaty defenders ended up being arrested and charged with misdemeanors, with Tilsen receiving a combination of misdemeanors and felonies — a sentence that could have resulted in up to 17 years in prison. He told the Associated Press that he will participate in a prison diversion program in exchange for all but one charge against him being dropped. The final charge will be dropped once he completes the program.
In the aftermath, thousands of supporters came to the group’s defense through petitions, social media campaigns, and national media coverage of the cases. In December, the United Nations weighed in with a statement in support of the treaty defenders.
“This victory and the dropped charges are a direct result of the Movement showing up and standing up for all the Land Defenders who took a stand in the Ȟesápa (Black Hills) on July 3,” Tilsen said in a statement. “Tens of thousands organized, called, donated to our legal and bail fund and signed the petitions to drop these charges, and we acknowledge their invaluable support.”
Nick Tilsen, Oglala Lakota and CEO of NDN Collective, talks with park rangers on July 3, 2020. (Screenshot)
“I have so much gratitude for the thousands of supporters who prayed, donated, called, emailed, signed petitions and reached out over the past nine months. This is a wake up call for our communities,” said Krystal Two Bulls, Oglala Lakota and Northern Cheyenne, director of the LANDBACK Campaign at NDN Collective. “We will continue to organize forward and fight for all our targeted and incarcerated Relatives!”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1374138541639401474&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Findiancountrytoday.com%2Fnews%2Fcharges-against-treaty-defenders-dropped&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px
Nataani Means, Oglala Lakota, Navajo, and Omaha, will join Tilsen and Two Bills in a discussion about the news on NDN Collective’s livestream show “NDN Live” on Tuesday at 6 p.m. MST.
“This is a day of victory for our Movement and our People,” said Tilsen. “We will utilize it to catalyze our cause forward.”
The Pennington County State’s Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request by The Associated Press to confirm the charges were dropped.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Meghan Fate Sullivan, Koyukon Athabascan, is a writer for Indian Country Today. She grew up in Alaska, and is currently reporting on her home state from Anchorage.
In a wonderful first for America’s first people, Pueblo Laguna superhero Deb Haaland will serve in the presidential Cabinet after the Senate voted by a narrow margin to confirm her nomination today. From the bottom of my full heart, I thank those of you who told President Biden to nominate Haaland as his Secretary of the Interior. Deep thanks as well to all who told your senators to confirm her appointment. Together, we helped Deb Haaland make history!
It can’t be overstated what this means for Native people like me, and for environmentalists the world over. Recently, my vlog, “Cut to the Chase,” focused on Haaland’s confirmation process. I did interviews with Lakota Law chief counsel Daniel Sheehan and Carl Artman, attorney for the Oneida Nation. I invite you to watch some outtakes about what this big step forward means for Lakota Country.
In my recent vlog, I break down this historic day and what it means for us as Native people.
I expect that, as Secretary of the Interior, Deb will protect sacred lands and water, prioritizing and improving the consultation process with tribal nations and asking our consent on matters that deeply affect Indian Country. It is no small matter that, for the first time in America’s long and painful history, the executive branch’s nation-to-nation relationships with tribes will be overseen by one of us.
Deb’s work is only just beginning, and we will do our best to stay close to her. Immediately after she was first elected to Congress two years ago, we interviewed her about her support for robust climate action. It’s no surprise that Deb has faced fierce opposition from oil state senators, and she’s going to have a fine balance to strike moving ahead. But we’re optimistic that we’ll have an unprecedented opportunity to foster a new kind of relationship with Washington.
Please continue to stay with us, and let’s make change now, while we have our best shot. Your voice will help us continue to make history for tribal sovereignty, the health of our sacred lands, and the generations to come.
Wopila tanka — my enduring gratitude for empowering real progress, in the Dakotas and in Washington, too! Chase Iron Eyes Lead Counsel Lakota People’s Law Project
The fierce attack on American democracy didn’t end with Donald Trump’s eviction from the White House. It didn’t end when Biden moved in or after the Georgia runoffs. And it won’t end as long as conservative state legislatures are allowed to make laws limiting the vote for people of color. The good news is, you have the opportunity to fight back.
Right now, Congress is considering the most comprehensive suite of civil rights and voter protection legislation since the 1960s. Please tell your congressional reps to push for House Resolution 1 (H.R. 1) until it becomes law. It’s critical for the wellbeing of future generations that we seize this moment. If we fail to protect voting rights now, we may not get another chance.
Watch: My colleague, Chase Iron Eyes, talked about the importance of voting rights on yesterday’s Cut to the Chase webcast.
Over the next year and a half, you can help us register Native voters throughout South Dakota and partner again with tribal nations — like we did at Standing Rock in 2020 — to turn out the Indigenous vote come election time. We’re also joining a lawsuit with Native American Rights Fund and Demos over South Dakota’s violations of the National Voting Registration Act.
There’s so much we can do together in the months to come. But, right now, I hope you’ll flood your reps with messages in support of H.R. 1. Because even with all the incredible progress we have recently made — Deb Haaland, everybody! — the potential rollbacks in voting rights for minority communities mean we are still in a very scary moment. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize and move things in the right direction.
Wopila tanka — thank you for protecting the vote for Native people and all Americans. Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
With Deb Haaland Leading the Interior Department, Perhaps the United States Has Begun to Grow up Ecologically
It’s definitely time for an enormous shift in the consciousness of those who see themselves as exceptional and believe they’re in charge of the planet.byRobert C. Koehler
Is it possible that the country is truly rebuilding itself . . . from the soul up?
Deb Haaland has been confirmed as head of the Department of the Interior. A Native American congresswoman and, as she describes herself, 35th-generation New Mexican, has been given the reins of the department that has essentially been at war, not simply with her people but with the planet itself and, therefore, all of us, pretty much since its inception. That is to say, the department’s values are those the European colonialists brought with them to the new continent: steal the land from those who live there, then proceed to exploit it.
Over the past few days, instead of confirming Native New Mexico congresswoman Deb Haaland as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, some senators are focused on obstruction. A full Senate hearing is now scheduled for Monday, but two oil-bought senators, Steve Daines (R-MT) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), have placed a “hold” on her confirmation. Ultimately, we believe Deb’s chances of victory are strong, but nothing is guaranteed. We’re grateful that your support has helped Lakota Law become one of her most vocal champions, and we definitely can’t slow down now. The finish line is in sight.
You’ve already helped us be very effective on Deb’s behalf. Lakota Law’s efforts were recognized by the New York Times as playing an important role in motivating President Biden to nominate her to begin with, and we haven’t let up. Supporters like you have sent nearly 13,000 letters telling senators to confirm her for the job she was born to do.
It’s critical that we punch hard until this fight is won. Deb’s confirmation will be one of the biggest leaps forward for Indian Country in the history of this nation. With more debate now scheduled for early next week, we must ensure that critical swing votes remain in our column.
I have spoken multiple times personally with Deb Haaland, and I have heard her knowledgeable perspective on climate issues and other topics of utmost importance to Native populations. She deeply understands the twin priorities of protecting both tribal sovereignty and the health of our planet by transitioning to a clean energy economy. She will be a friend to us if she gets the job. Let’s be the best friends we can to her and make sure that happens.
Wopila tanka — thank you for standing with Deb for Native and environmental justice! Chase Iron Eyes Lead Counsel The Lakota People’s Law Project
Mother Tongue Film Festival Women Directors Panel Friday, March 5, 2 PM (ET) Watch online Women are often entrusted with cultural and language transmission, and Mother Tongue highlights this responsibility by bringing together women directors on a roundtable each year. Join us for a conversation with Becs Arahanga (Hinekura), Valeriya Golovina (Our Love), Sophia Pinheiro (Being Imperfect), and Patricia Ferreira (Being Imperfect), moderated by Smithsonian digital curator Amalia Córdova and curator and filmmaker Cass Gardiner.
ACCESSIBILITY Live real-time captioning and American Sign Language interpretation will be provided for this program while it is live.
The Mother Tongue Film Festival is presented by Recovering Voices, a collaboration among the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian, and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
Additional Smithsonian partners include the Asian Pacific American Center and the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art.
This program received support from Bicentenario Perú 2021, Columbia School of the Arts, Documentary Educational Resources, Embassy of Canada to the United States, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington, Taiwan Academy, Taiwan Ministry of Culture, the Embassy of New Zealand, the Hawai‘i International Film Festival, The WEM Foundation & Betty and Whitney MacMillan, and more.
Youth In Action: Native Women Making Change March 18 Watch on Demand What roles do Indigenous women uphold in society today that serve both their communities and our society at large?
Traditionally, Native women have held significant influence in the social, spiritual, and political lives of Indigenous societies. Though their roles and responsibilities have changed since colonization, they continue to be some of the most influential leaders in tribal governance. Today we also see Native women serving in state legislatures, the U.S. Congress, and in global leadership roles that work to increase representation and amplify Indigenous voices and causes.
Watch on demand a conversation with Aidan Graybill (Wyandot) and Christina Haswood (Diné), two young Native women who are currently working at local and state levels to make change.
Virtual Educator Professional Development Teach-In: Traditional Foods Sustain Our Bodies and Spirits Webinar Saturday, March 20, 1–3 PM (ET) Register Traditional foods and the knowledge related to growing, harvesting, storing, and preparing them has been practiced for millennia by Indigenous peoples. Interact with Native food and sustainability experts to learn about traditional foodways revitalization and how Indigenous foods can sustain our bodies and spirits.
This teach-in is recommended for all K–12 teachers in the subjects of environmental science, history, social studies, and STEAM. Register here.
Earlier this week Schumer, a New York Democrat, filed a motion of cloture on Haaland’s nomination.
“Despite Republican obstruction, Representative Haaland will be confirmed by the Senate to be Secretary Haaland,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor.
More on clotures
Schumer filed cloture on Haaland’s nomination after Republican Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming put holds on Haaland’s nomination. The hold means that Haaland’s nomination would force a debate of up to 30 hours.
Daines defended his decision to put a hold on the nomination, tweeting that Haaland “opposes pipelines & fossil fuels, ignores science when it comes to wildlife management & wants to ban trapping on public lands.”
Seven men arrested during a sex-trafficking sting in northern Minnesota have been charged with solicitation, including two workers for an Enbridge pipeline contractor.
The arrests brought renewed calls for fighting sex trafficking along the Canadian company’s Line 3 project, which stretches through northern Minnesota on its route from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin.
“Those arrests aren’t surprising but it’s very sad when what you’ve been warning about for years actually comes to light,” said Sheila Lamb of the Minnesota Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Task Force.
The two pipeline workers – one from Texas and one from Missouri – were employed at the time of their arrests by Precision Pipeline, an Enbridge contractor based in Wisconsin.
In a statement sent to Indian Country Today, Precision wrote, “The two workers were terminated immediately when the company learned they had violated our zero tolerance for illegal behavior.”
Enbridge also confirmed that two workers were among those arrested.
“Enbridge has zero tolerance for illegal and exploitive behavior,” the company said in a statement emailed to Indian Country Today. “Such behaviors from anyone associated with this project will not be tolerated and are immediate grounds for dismissal.”
The water protector educational event in Palisade, MN featured a puppet show. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember)
The sting was conducted Feb. 17-19 in Itasca County by a Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force led by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehensions in coordination with the Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking Task Force, known as TRUST, and the Itasca County Sheriff’s Office.
Pipeline opponents have long warned that the Line 3 project would increase incidents of sex trafficking, citing reports that show correlations between extractive industries such as mining and pipeline construction and sex trafficking.
“We testified in 2016 during the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission hearings that the Line 3 project would absolutely increase sex trafficking,” Lamb told Indian Country Today.
The men were arrested during the three-day sting after talking with undercover agents on what law enforcement officials described as “sex advertisement websites.” The men were arrested when they arrived at an arranged meeting place for sex, according to officials.
Six men were charged with solicitation of a person believed to be a minor. Another was charged with solicitation to engage in prostitution and with carrying a pistol without a permit, officials said.
They were booked into the Itasca or Pennington county jails.
The Duluth News Tribune reviewed the criminal complaints and identified two men as workers for Precision Pipeline: Matthew Ty Hall, 32, of Mount Pleasant, Texas, and Michael Kelly West, 53, of Rolla, Missouri
Hall was charged with solicitation of a person believed to be a minor. West was charged with solicitation to engage in prostitution and with carrying a pistol without a permit, according to law enforcement officials.
According to the Duluth News Tribune, West said in a statement given at the Itasca County Jail that he worked for Precision Pipeline and had arranged to buy sex because he was 1,000 miles from home.
The complaint said that West told officers he learned about the website from rumors at work and began texting an undercover officer posing as an underage girl named “Jasmine.” When he said he did not want to have sex with a minor, the undercover officer arranged for a fictitious older sister to meet him for sex for $100, the newspaper reported.
He was arrested when he arrived for the meet-up. Officers found a loaded handgun in his vehicle for which he did not have a permit, the paper reported.
Hall also responded to an advertisement, and expressed concerns that Jasmine was reportedly 16 years old, the Duluth News Tribune reported, citing the complaint. He told the undercover officer that he was worried the advertisement was part of a sting, but agreed to meet up anyway.
He was arrested after driving several times by the meeting house.
Awareness training falls short, critics say
When Lamb and other advocates again raised concerns about sex trafficking and Line 3 earlier this year, Enbridge spokespersons rejected their concerns.
“Enbridge absolutely rejects the allegation that human trafficking will increase in Minnesota as a result of the Line 3 replacement project; Enbridge will not tolerate this exploitation by anyone associated with our company or its projects,” the company wrote in a statement to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
While seeking permits for the pipeline route, Enbridge developed and implemented a Human Trafficking Prevention Plan in cooperation with several tribal and state entities. In addition to requiring that all workers receive human trafficking awareness training prior to beginning work on the project, the plan also included development of an awareness campaign called Your Call Minnesota (yourcallmn.org).”
Jason Goward, of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe and a former employee of Precision working on Line 3, told Indian Country Today that his sex-trafficking awareness training consisted mainly of watching a 20-minute film, “Our State. Their Lives. Your Call,” and a short presentation presented by Truckers Against Trafficking, a nonprofit organization that provides sex trafficking awareness training for the trucking, bus and energy industries.
“Our State. Their Lives. Your Call,” was created through a collaboration with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force and Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking (TRUST).
Lamb said that Minnesota’s proactive work on sex-trafficking work and legislation, such as the creation of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Task Force, contributed to the success of sting.
Lamb lauded the work of law enforcement in the sting, but she questioned Enbridge’s commitment to combatting sex trafficking.
“These trainings are great but you’re not going to change the perpetrator’s behavior by having them watch a video,” she said.
“Enbridge needs to overcome their disconnect and denial over sex trafficking.”
President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday the American Rescue Plan — a $1.9 trillion comprehensive initiative that will help families that have been hurt by the economic impact of the coronavirus.
The signing came hours before Biden delivers his first prime-time address since taking office. He’s aiming to steer the nation toward a hungered-for sentiment — hope — as he marks one year since the onset of the pandemic that has killed more than 529,000 Americans.
“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Biden said as he signed the bill in the Oval Office.
The new law also represents the most significant investment in Indian Country ever, at least $31 billion directed at tribal governments and to help Indigenous families.
The administration plans to implement the legislation “swiftly” to get help to where it’s needed most. A memo to senior White House staff by Jen O’Malley Dillon, the deputy chief of staff, said the president will speak to the nation Thursday night about the 10 key aspects of the spending plan.
“We’re going to make sure the American people know tangibly what the Rescue Plan means for them. We’ll highlight how the President’s plan is going to deliver $5,600 in direct payments for a typical family of four making under $150,000. We’ll talk about how additional money for vaccinations means that the defeat of this virus is within our reach, and how we can halve child poverty with the expanded Child Tax Credit,” she wrote.