Regarding DAPL/COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the nation, we’re aware that it could have an outsized impact on Indian Country. Relief programs may not provide needed tests and medical supplies for us — or anyone — on an appropriate scale. Please know we are monitoring this, and as my colleague Chase Iron Eyes mentioned a few days ago, we’ll keep you updated on developments. May we all stay safe and healthy.

In the meantime, I write with some wonderful news. Just yesterday, Standing Rock won a big victory in the ongoing legal battle against the Dakota Access pipeline when a federal judge granted the tribe’s request to strike down DAPL’s federal permits!

Lakota Law

Thank you for all you have done to aid our struggle! Today I ask that you take a few moments to watch our video about the win in court and send a note of solidarity to Standing Rock. I will deliver your messages to the tribal chairman and tribal council. This is a big moment!

The judge ruled that Trump’s Army Corps of Engineers must complete a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) — the much more comprehensive review we’ve all been demanding since the beginning of this movement (and that President Obama required, only to be reversed by Trump). The Corps fell short in three specific ways, according to the judge.

First, the Corps failed to respond adequately to claims by the tribe’s experts that DAPL’s leak detection system is wholly inadequate. Second, the company’s dreadful history of oil spills wasn’t properly addressed. Finally, the oil company failed to account for the adverse repercussions a “worst case discharge” might have on our treaty rights — our ability to hunt, fish, and perform traditional religious ceremonies near Lake Oahe, which the pipeline crosses under.

I was asked by the tribal chairman to represent Standing Rock’s interests at the hearing in Washington, D.C., but I couldn’t go because of Coronavirus travel restrictions. I’m gratified that, despite our troubles, we have been victorious, at least for now.

The logic of the judge’s ruling suggests the pipeline should not remain operational without a federal permit. The ruling actually references both the Titanic and Chernobyl concerning the possibility of human error, and I’m hopeful shutting down the flow will be the judge’s next step. He has now requested legal briefs on that issue.

Please stay tuned, as we hope to share more good news soon. In the meantime, stay safe and please listen to the medical professionals with knowledge about the requirements of this pandemic. We’re all in this together.

Wopila tanka — as always, we’re so grateful to you for standing with Standing Rock and Mother Earth.

Phyllis Young
Standing Rock Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

 

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.

Creativity even in troubled times…

First and foremost, I hope that you are staying safe and healthy. At this critical moment for our shared society, it’s more important than ever that we look out for one another — even as we are asked to keep our distance. Right now, the Lakota People’s Law Project has staff stationed at Standing Rock, Pine Ridge, and Cheyenne River. We are talking to tribal leaders about ways we can support them in essential work, even while they create emergency plans to respond to the spread of COVID-19. We will keep you updated.

Meanwhile, I write to share with you today about an inspirational partnership that has yielded three wonderful outcomes at Pine Ridge: four college scholarships for Native American girls, the planting of at least 7,000 trees on the reservation, and a new way to support Native artisans.

Lakota Law
Henry Red Cloud, pictured here, has planted over 110,000 trees with the help of a volunteer team. Picture courtesy of inourhands.love.

For some time now, the Lakota People’s Law Project has enjoyed dedicated support from the good people at Nomadics Tipi Makers. Like LPLP, Jeb and Nicole, who run the company, are always looking for ways to best support Native communities. As time has passed, we have deepened our connection with them and shared ideas.

As part of that, we’ve helped network them with others in the community. One such connection is with Henry Red Cloud — who, like our own Phyllis Young, is a MIT Solve Laureate. He is a visionary environmental leader at Pine Ridge who installs solar around the reservation and plants trees to restore sacred sites and provide increased access to fresh fruit for our people. With his company, Red Cloud Renewable, Henry has facilitated a (literally) fruitful partnership by agreeing to work with Nomadics to plant one tree for every tipi pole the company sells — with all expenses for the project covered by Nomadics.

Jeb and Nicole’s commitment to providing sustained support to Native people also includes the establishment of a $20,000 per year scholarship fund — $5,000 each for four young Native American women to attend Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The first round of scholarship money is already headed to young women at Pine Ridge.

Finally, Jeb and Nicole have also found a great way to provide resources to Native artists at Pine Ridge by collaborating with them to paint tipi covers with personal, authentic artwork. Nomadics will send tipi covers to the artists and will pay forward to the reservation 100 percent of the artwork price as charged to individual customers.

These measures to bring support and health to Pine Ridge take on extra meaning at a time like the present. As we all hunker down for what looks to be a challenging road ahead, know that your support of the Lakota People’s Law Project has helped facilitate some extremely positive connections that will matter greatly, both right now for local artists and into the future for our young people and our reservation as a whole.

Wopila — Thank you, as always, and please stay safe and well!

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

MMIW Healing Center: A Place for Remembrance

https://www.lakotalaw.org/resources/mmiw-healing-center

I recently wrote to you about my Tribe’s emergency declaration over Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children (MMIW/C) and its relation to the Keystone XL pipeline’s (KXL) incoming man camps. Today, I want to highlight another effort in my home state to bring about awareness and healing around these ongoing acts of genocide against the heart of our people.

Last month, my sister Mabel Ann and I attended an MMIW action in Rapid City. There, we met Lily Mendoza, co-founder of the Red Ribbon Skirt Society (RRSS), a grassroots collective dedicated to confronting the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, children, two-spirit, and transgender people. In 2019, they opened the MMIW Center for Healing, Prayer, and Remembrance — a small, permanent space to honor and grieve the people our community has lost. We invite you to watch and share our video, in which we interview Lily.

Lakota Law
Medicine Wheel riders and RRSS members honor their lost sisters.

The notion for the center came from an art installation curated just over a year ago. Around Valentine’s Day last year, RRSS hung 70 red dresses on cottonwood trees to symbolize our stolen sisters and relatives. What they discovered was the need for a space our community didn’t have, a space for people to go and reconnect.

Lily, who like me is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, told us: “People were going there, amongst the dresses, and they were going there to pray and to remember those that they lost or those that are still missing. We’ve felt we need to do this then, to have a space for community to come.”

As you may know, Indigenous women, children, two-spirit, and transgender folks are more likely to be targeted by human traffickers and/or be the victim of a violent crime. And, all too often, when our relatives go missing, they also go missing in the news. But centers like the one in Rapid City can help us keep their memories alive.

Members of the collective also participated in the MMIW Medicine Wheel Ride last year — a massive motorcycle journey bringing together people from the four corners to mourn our lost relatives.

As I work with my fellow grandmothers in the Was’agiya Najin and others to organize our anti-KXL ground strategy at Cheyenne River, I ask you to continue to stand in solidarity with all my sisters. Stay with us for more information about our crisis, and help spread the word about this incredible group of women and their transformative space by watching and sharing the video.

Wopila tanka — my deep gratitude for your care and attention,

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Tribal Liaison
The Lakota People’s Law Project

North Dakota Expansion Approved ~:(

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you with some unfortunate news: on Wednesday, the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the expansion of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) in a 3-0 vote. If the pipeline’s operators get the same approval in Iowa and Illinois, DAPL’s capacity will double to carry over a million barrels of oil per day.

Lakota Law
The North Dakota Public Service Commission has allowed an expansion doubling the oil flow through the Dakota Access pipeline. In our video from the original hearing, you can watch oil industry engineers dissembling about the impacts.

Once again, my people and homelands are intentionally ignored in the interest of increasing profits for the fossil fuel industry. As Standing Rock citizens, my relatives and I will be forced to bear the threat DAPL poses to our water and land. And every human being will now face the danger of increased oil production as our climate warms.

We were at the hearing on DAPL expansion in Linton, North Dakota last November. We helped the tribe muster opposition. And we watched as gas and oil employees and their attorneys lied about the risks. You can watch our video showing those lies here. We know the truth: more oil = more risk.

North Dakota’s PSC claimed in its announcement yesterday that expansion was in the best interest of the state’s citizens, but this of course ignores the valid concerns raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe about the increased threat of surging. And when the Tribe requested more information from Dakota Access about the risks that doubling oil flow could hold for tribal water supplies, the PSC denied the request, citing bureaucratic procedure.

All pipelines leak. In the 15 years before DAPL began operations, 60 leaks spilled more than 42,000 barrels of toxic crude oil in North Dakota alone. This was the reason we stood in prayerful resistance to stop DAPL. It is why we faced rubber bullets, attack dogs, and water cannons. We are facing down a threat to our water, and now that threat is heightened.

We will, however, press on. With Keystone XL on the horizon, we’re readying for another battle for our water, and this time we intend to win. We’re also planning major initiatives on voting in Indian Country during this critical election cycle, and we’re breaking ground on a major festival and teach-in later this year at Standing Rock that will bring musicians, activists, and scientists together to confront the climate crisis.

We hope you stay with us in the fight against the madness of continued dependence on fossil fuels. Time is short. To protect all life on earth we need to act immediately.

Sincerely,

Phyllis Young
Standing Rock Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Thank the Women of Cheyenne River

Thank the Women of Cheyenne River for resisting KXL
Mon, Feb 17, 2020 11:30 am
Madonna Thunder Hawk, Lakota Law (info@lakotalaw.org)

As the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) invades our homelands at the Cheyenne River Reservation, we women are preparing for the struggle.

In December, my daughter, Marcy, helped to organize a talk about human trafficking and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children (MMIWC) happening on our reservation. At this important Women Gathering, community members and representatives of many concerned organizations initiated the Nazo Campaign — providing whistles to alert relatives to unfolding crime and violence on Cheyenne River — and a resolution asking our Tribal Council to declare a state of emergency. They then presented to the council, where our tribal nation made that declaration.

Lakota Law

Today I ask that you watch our video and send a note of thanks and solidarity to the women of Cheyenne River for standing up to protect the safety and security of our people.

Our matriarchy must and will lead this fight. We even have two generations of grandmothers working together here! The Was’agiya Najin — “Grandmothers Standing Strong” — includes both older grandmothers (OGs) like me and younger grandmothers (YGs) like Marcy.

In addition to Was’agiya Najin, our Women Gatherings also include representation from Warrior Women Project, Women of All Red Nations, Simply Smiles, Indigenous Environmental Network, the Lakota People’s Law Project, veterans, water protectors, and more. These are powerful, alliance-building meetups, and now the tribe has heeded our warning.

That’s critical, because Big Oil is building two KXL man camps — temporary housing for pipeline workers — on either side of Cheyenne River. These dens of machismo inevitably bring with them increases in sex and drug trafficking, worsening our MMIWC epidemic locally.

Here’s how bad it is: by 2014, our state’s federal courts had handed out more life sentences for commercial sex trafficking than all other states’ combined. Because 40 percent of South Dakota’s victims are Native women, we pay the highest price.

As a girl, I was shipped off to boarding school. I experienced what it is like to have my culture stripped from me, so as a young woman I became a leader in the American Indian Movement and created the “We Will Remember” Survival School. There, I taught Marcy and other children about treaty rights, to prioritize Native sovereignty, and to preserve our traditions.

Now, together, we are helping to pass on lessons of leadership and direct action to the next generations. That starts with making sure they don’t fall prey to man camps, and it means demanding action from our tribe. As Indigenous women, we have always been on the front lines, and we know how to stay ready. Will you stand with us?

Wopila tanka — my deepest gratitude for your solidarity,

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Tribal Liaison
The Lakota People’s Law Project

 

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.

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It’s All About the Water

https://www.lakotalaw.org/resources/hot-water-preview?ceid=2659296&utm_source=ea&utm_medium=email&utm_content=textlink&emci=3910ff14-db37-ea11-a1cc-2818784d084f&emdi=0ee92e56-bc38-ea11-a1cc-2818784d084f

 

Thu, Jan 16, 2020 6:00 pm
Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota Law (info@lakotalaw.org)To:you Details

In 2016 and ‘17, you stood with Standing Rock because you knew the importance of the Lakota maxim: Mni Wiconi — water is life. Decades back, a liberal Congress understood that, too, which is why a conduit that carries fresh water from the Missouri River to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is named the Mni Wiconi Rural Water Supply System.

As described here by the Guardian, the Oglala Lakota Nation gets about half of our water through the Mni Wiconi. The other half comes from private wells and the deeper Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers. If the Keystone XL oil pipeline (KXL) is completed, it will traverse the Mni Wiconi in two locations, cross tributaries that flow into the Missouri River, and endanger both our aquifers. There literally isn’t a drop of our water supply that isn’t threatened by KXL.

If that isn’t scary enough, uranium mining — licensed by the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations in the 1950s and ‘60s and tied to nuclear weapons manufacturing — has, at times, contaminated water near Pine Ridge. Extraction looms over us in multiple ways, threatening our water and threatening our health.

It probably won’t surprise you that Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t test our water for uranium. That’s why the Oglala Sioux Tribe has conducted tests at more than a dozen locations on and surrounding Pine Ridge. We helped secure the experts and resources for the field testing and now await results from the University of South Dakota.

“Hot Water,” a powerful documentary available on Amazon, talks about the tragic effects of contamination on our people. The filmmakers have generously allowed us to share a special excerpt with you here.

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Oglala Lakota President Julian Bear Runner and I were both unlawfully arrested in 2017 for trying to stop the Dakota Access pipeline from traversing our Oceti Sakowin Oyate — with all charges now dismissed. In 2020, we pledge to keep fighting to safeguard water by attending to contamination issues and by doing all we can to stop KXL in its tracks.

I wish a happy New Year to you and yours, and I ask that you stay active with me in this battle. By holding our coalition together, we water protectors can and will continue to make a tremendous difference.

Wopila — Our gratitude for your attention,

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.

 

 

Standing Rock Nation 2020

I hope your holiday season has been filled with love, family, and all the comforts of home. As mentioned a couple times over the past few weeks, we’re grateful to bring these human necessities to children in our new foster home on Standing Rock Nation very soon. As we enter 2020, we’re equipping their new house so they can enjoy it for years to come.

Lakota Law

This is about far more than mere shelter. As Madonna Thunder Hawk says in our video, we Lakota don’t call it foster care; we call it kinship care because keeping Lakota kids with Native guardians means the preservation of families, culture, and tradition. Only with all of these elements together do our children have the best possible foundation for their future.

As 2019 draws to a close, we wanted to offer you a final chance to help us build that critical foundation this calendar year. We have purchased and started renovating the home, but additional funding will help us fully equip it with insurance, computer workstations, beds and linens, dressers, and kitchenware. Your contribution will also help cover utility and move-in costs and a reliable vehicle to transport the children. Your support now can make a difference that lasts a lifetime!

Located on the South Dakota side of Standing Rock, the home is almost ready. We’ve recruited our first tribal foster parent, and we expect to have children in the home early in the New Year.

Standing Rock’s tribal leaders support this effort, and in time we hope to aid them and other tribal nations in creating additional foster homes for more kids in need. There are far too many. According to the ACLU, American Indians comprise less than nine percent of South Dakota’s population, but 52 percent of the children in its foster care system are Native. Our children are 11 times more likely to be placed in foster care than a white child.

That’s why your support is so important. Together, we can put some of Standing Rock’s most vulnerable kids on solid footing for the coming year.

Wopila tanka — I can’t thank you enough for supporting our next generation!

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

RE: North Dakota Public Service Commission

Mon, Nov 25, 2019 12:46 pm
Phyllis Young, Lakota Law (info@lakotalaw.org)

Thanks again to all of you who sent letters to the North Dakota Public Service Commission over the past weeks. First, nearly 20,000 of you put the pressure on to hold a public hearing about doubling Dakota Access pipeline oil. On Wednesday, November 13, before a packed house, the Commission held that hearing. Having received another 15,000 letters from you backing Standing Rock’s call to deny the expansion, and after 15 hours of public testimony, the Commission is now deliberating.

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Of course, the pipeline’s operators came prepared with a team of five bigshot attorneys and two engineers, all of whom did their best to obfuscate the implications of doubling oil flow through the pipeline. These Big Oil advocates spent hours talking around the obvious fact that driving twice the amount of oil through DAPL will increase the potential fallout from a spill. Please watch and share our new video, which clearly shows these obstructionist efforts to hide the truth.

After our team combined with tribal leaders and Sacred Stone Camp to organize the grassroots, more than 150 water protectors attended the hearing. Many Standing Rock tribal leaders — including Chairman Mike Faith and several council members — were in the room as well, and most stayed until everything had wrapped at 12:30 a.m.

The tribe put forward three expert witnesses who punched logical holes in Dakota Access’s effort to make expanding DAPL seem safe. Now, it’s up to the Commission to see through the nonsense and make the right decision.

Please stay tuned over the coming weeks. Our sources tell us that the PSC will take its time before making its call. If they understand their duty, they will do effective research and form a proper analysis. We will, of course, keep our ears to the ground and stay in touch with you about the decision and next steps in the fights against DAPL and Keystone XL.

Wopila tanka — thank you for helping us battle Big Oil!

Phyllis Young
Standing Rock Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

 

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.

 

 

Oil Spill

https://www.lakotalaw.org/our-actions/no-dapl-expansion

Take Action! Say NO to DAPL expansion

Breaking news: Yesterday, the Keystone pipeline spilled again. This highlights the need to thank those of you who recently wrote to the North Dakota Public Service Commission requesting a public hearing on the potential doubling of oil carried by the Dakota Access pipeline. I am very happy to say that, along with the Standing Rock Tribe’s official intervention, your voice helped compel the Commission to schedule that hearing. It’s coming up next week — on Wednesday, November 13th at 9 a.m. at Emmons County Courthouse in Linton, right across the river from Standing Rock.

Now, particularly in light of yet another pipeline spill, I ask you to join four Great Sioux Nation tribal chairmen and our allies around the world in telling the Commission to VOTE NO on this dangerous DAPL expansion. Even if you can’t make it to North Dakota, you can still be heard! Use this form to send an email to the PSC, show your solidarity, and make sure the commission knows it must not further imperil our sacred lands and water. Please stand again with Standing Rock — wherever you are.

Lakota Law
Clockwise from top left: Charles Walker, Standing Rock Tribal Council; Phyllis Young, Lakota Law organizer; Harold Frazier, Cheyenne River Tribal Chairman; Ladonna Allard, Sacred Stone Camp founder.

Even without the needed further study of environmental impact, we already know several reasons the PSC should deny this expansion. One, DAPL’s leak detection system is sub-par; doubling the current oil flow could allow as much as 11,000 barrels to despoil our water before detection. Two, government regulators say they don’t have data to prove that increasing capacity is safe. And three, DAPL will carry tar sands oil from Canada — some of the dirtiest and most corrosive oil in the world — thereby posing an even greater threat of leakage.

This expansion would be a reckless act of greed. As you’ll see in our video, leaders from the Oglala, Rosebud, and Cheyenne River Nations stand with us against this new danger to our people and Mother Earth. We must not be silenced. We must be strong and united in our message to the PSC: all due diligence should be conducted; the tribes, and allies like you, should be heard; the Earth should be respected.

Wopila tanka and mni wiconi — Thank you. Water is life.

Charles Walker
Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council
Via the Lakota People’s Law Project

Revoke The Doctrine of Discovery

Lakota Law

 

Steve Newcomb

Steve Newcomb discusses the Doctrine of Discovery

As an Indigenous woman, I feel the heavy weight of history. At Standing Rock, the dual traumas of colonization and the exploitation of Grandmother Earth have collided in our battles against oil extraction and pipelines. I cannot thank you enough for your support—and I ask you to stay with us through November’s hearing on DAPL’s expansion and the planned construction of Keystone XL in 2020. Pipeline resistance must and will remain our top priority for the foreseeable future.

As Native activists, our work to reclaim our own history is also critical. That’s why we’re challenging the root legal argument behind the subjugation of so many Indigenous people, both here and around the world. The Doctrine of Discovery, a papal declaration from the 15th century, was used as a basis for Manifest Destiny and continues to haunt my people today. It was cited by a Supreme Court justice as recently as 2005.

In February of 2017 at Standing Rock, the Oceti Sakowin issued a declaration in defiance of the Doctrine’s objectives. And earlier this year, I helped the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe organize and host a Doctrine of Discovery Conference, where we brought in top experts to explore solutions. I encourage you to watch our new video, in which a world-recognized Shawnee and Lenape expert, Steve Newcomb, sits down with us to explore how the Doctrine of Discovery still allows the domination of Indigenous peoples to this day.

We also went straight to the source. In 2016, the support of friends like you helped us organize 35 organizations to submit letters to Pope Francis demanding that he overturn the Doctrine. We also met in Rome with Cardinal Peter Turkson, a progressive from Ghana who oversees social justice ministry for the Church. The Vatican knows the deeply problematic nature of the Doctrine of Discovery and is considering Indigenous communities’ desire to have it revoked.

So, we fight on many fronts. I invite you to stay tuned and reach out to our team with ideas and solutions. Together with you, we are empowered. My hope is that in 2020, we can use our collective strength to stem the tides of imperialism, colonization, environmental racism, and the climate crisis.

Wopila — thank you for your solidarity!

Phyllis Young
Standing Rock Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

 

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859