Many thanks to all of you who, over the past months, read our blog about the discoveries of mass graves of Indigenous children at Indian boarding school campuses. Thanks also to you who signed our petition to the president and Congress to form a Truth and Healing Commission. Today, I write to you with some good news and a follow-up action to take!
Stolen babies: Generations of Native children were forced to attend boarding schools like the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, which stripped them of their cultures and identities — and, too often, their lives.
I shared with you a couple months ago about my own familial experiences with boarding schools. I told you about the horrific practices that endangered and took the lives of Native children across Turtle Island. Now, against the backdrop of these mass grave discoveries, we must do all we can to ensure lawmakers take genocide seriously. It’s time to begin an official reckoning with America’s true history and a process that can aid in the healing of our tribal communities.
Please show your solidarity with me, my ancestors, and the generations to come. Your advocacy matters. Together, we can begin to make things better.
Wopila tanka — thank you for standing up for truth and healing! Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
Today — Indigenous Peoples Day (IPD) — marks the highlight of the Indigenous year. I hope you will join us as we gather to celebrate, heal, and re-Indigenize. This long weekend represents a reprieve from trauma, sadness, and grief as we travel with good hearts to see close family and distant relatives, celebrate together, and share our cultures.
As you likely know, many places do not yet celebrate with us. They’re still celebrating Columbus Day, perpetuating the myth that Christopher Columbus discovered so-called America. Columbus arrived on October 12, 1492 on Taino homelands. This first voyage was a reconnaissance mission wherein he later established La Navidad in present-day Haiti — America’s first colony. The following fall, he returned with an invasion force of 17 ships and 1,500 soldiers. He found La Navidad destroyed by Taino People, who had retaliated against rapes and murders carried out by the Spaniards.
European weapons (like cannons and muskets), armor, horses, and dogs soon overwhelmed the Indigenous warriors, who were armed only with clubs and spears. Celebrating Columbus, therefore, condones genocide and colonization. Many think of these issues as only existing in the past. But these systems, set in motion hundreds of years ago by Columbus and other conquistadors, continue. All Taino homelands, from Puerto Rico to the Bahamas, remain colonized today — many by the United States.
To combat the Columbus-as-hero narrative, we’re working to replace Columbus Day with IPD everywhere. Our hope is that more people like you will come together with us, as Indigenous People focus throughout the long weekend on empowerment through solidarity and sharing pathways to action.
Watch Tara Houska’s Ted Talk. As our skilled Anishinaabe relative points out, many of these struggles are deeply rooted in trauma. But today is about sharing successes within our sustained resistance to colonization. We see ourselves in the faces of our relatives while they reflect on Indigenous sovereignty, land and water rights, education, economic development, language preservation and promotion, and religious freedom.
Our celebrations feature Indigenous poets, musicians, artists, singers, leaders, and performers from across Turtle Island, who offer their gifts. Everyone who attends an event can actively participate in round dancing and be uplifted by traditional prayers. The overwhelming feelings of celebration and open-heartedness are palpable. This is the chance for settlers and non-Natives to catch us in our most generous mindset. As we come together across nations to actively decolonize and re-Indigenize our communities and share our gifts, I hope you will join a celebration in your area.
Wado — thank you for your ongoing solidarity with our Indigenous nations. Sarah Rose Harper Social Media Coordinator The Lakota People’s Law Project
A controversial pipeline project in northern Minnesota is complete and oil is scheduled to start flowing this week.
Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline project will carry oil as soon as Friday despite months-long protests against it. The Canadian-based company’s president and CEO, Al Monaco, said in a statement that the pipeline “will soon deliver the low-cost and reliable energy that people depend on every day.”
The project was completed despite stiff opposition from tribes, environmentalists and others who argued that the 1,097-mile pipeline — including the 337-mile segment across Minnesota — would violate treaty rights, worsen climate change and risk spills in waters where Native Americans harvest wild rice.
It will carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands, a heavier crude that consumes more energy and generates more carbon dioxide in the refining process than lighter oil.
In a statement, Camp Migizi promised to remain an open camp and to disrupt and stop pipeline work. More than 900 people have been arrested or ticketed at protests along the route since construction began in December.
“We ask that you remember us, as we will still be here, fighting to protect all that is sacred, even if they build line 3,” read the statement.. “Our community that we have built here will still remain, and we ask that you remember that just like all of the Indigenous communities we have come from we are still here, learning, fighting, and healing.”
The main remaining tasks are cleanup and restoration along the route, said Leo Golden, an Enbridge vice president in charge of the project. Some parts have already been restored with crops and native grasses growing on them, he said. But construction mats still need to be removed from wetlands and other cleanup work will continue through next summer.
Golden said officials do not expect to get the final sign-offs from landowners along the route until next summer.
Enbridge said the project was necessary to replace a deteriorating pipeline built in the 1960s, which could carry only half its original volume of oil, and to ensure the reliable delivery of crude to U.S. refineries. Enbridge expects to start running the pipeline at its full capacity of 760,000 barrels per day in mid-October.
Line 3 starts in Alberta, Canada, and clips a corner of North Dakota before crossing Minnesota en route to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The Canadian, North Dakota and Wisconsin segments were finished earlier and the Canadian and Wisconsin legs are already in service.
Water protectors tour an Enbridge Line 3 construction site near Park Rapids, Minnesota, on June 6, 2021. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)
The process of filling the line starts in North Dakota on Friday, Golden said. Enbridge puts the cost at $5.3 billion Canadian dollars for the Canadian section and $4 billion U.S. dollars for the work in the U.S.
Opponents have challenged the pipeline’s permits in court to no avail so far. They’ve also unsuccessfully sought to persuade Biden, who canceled a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline soon after taking office, to intervene.
A challenge is still pending in federal court to a permit granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but that case didn’t block construction. Opponents can still ask the state Supreme Court to review a clean water certification granted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
Also, a novel “rights of nature” lawsuit is pending in the White Earth Ojibwe tribal court. It names Manoomin, or wild rice, as one of the plaintiffs. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has asked a federal appeals court to block the case.
Have you heard of a court case called Brackeen v. Haaland? If you’ve followed our communications for any length of time, you likely recognize one of those names. Indeed, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland — the first Native Cabinet secretary in U.S. history — is already under legal attack. And it probably won’t surprise you that the powerful entities behind this threat include the State of Texas and lawyers representing Big Oil.
But it’s not just Secretary Haaland being targeted. The suit, which seeks to overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act, directly targets Native children and families. And because of the specific legal argument in play, it could also mean the end of tribal mineral rights, gaming revenues, Indian law as we know it, and ultimately our sovereignty as Indigenous nations. It’s not an overstatement to say our entire future could be at stake with a single decision — and that choice will now be made by a conservative-majority Supreme Court.
Right now — even as I drive from South Dakota to Minnesota in support of my Indigenous relatives fighting the Line 3 pipeline — the high court is deciding whether or not to hear this case. We will keep you updated every step of the way. This may well be the most important decision the Supreme Court has ever made in relation to Native justice. Please help us spread the word and stop this unconscionable attack on our Indigenous communities.
Wopila tanka — thank you for helping us stand up to racist colonial law. Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
I have good news for you from the Line 3 front! This past weekend in Minnesota, I joined four members of “the Squad” — U.S. Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush, and Ilhan Omar — to increase pressure on President Joe Biden to #StopLine3. As a Lakota elder and the former Standing Rock tribal liaison to the Oceti Sakowin camp during the NoDAPL struggle, I deeply understand the heartache my Anishinaabe relatives feel as this toxic pipeline invades their sacred lands and waterways — and I’m extremely grateful to these brave elected leaders for their solidarity.
Our Lakota team at the frontline included our co-director, Chase Iron Eyes, and the Squad was joined by Minn. State Sen. Mary Kunesh (a descendant of Standing Rock). As you know, the Indigenous women leading this fight — like Taysha Martineau of Camp Migizi, Tara Houska of Camp Giniw, and Winona Laduke of Honor the Earth — need all the support we can provide at the frontlines. It’s a meaningful step that the congresswomen, all of whom also signed onto a letter asking the president to intercede at Line 3, gave of their time and energy to visit resistance camps and amplify the struggle.
Notably, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who decided to run for Congress while at Standing Rock in 2017, and whom I remember vividly as a friendly young woman in blue jeans) was also scheduled to come to the frontlines, but Hurricane Ida forced her to stay home in New York City. The horrific flooding in her borough further highlights humanity’s need to move climate justice to the very top of our priority list — right now, while we still can.
I’m happy to report that we were able to meet face to face with each of the congresswomen and get to know their staffers. We will remain in touch and ready to team up on key issues going forward. In about a week, my colleague and sister in service, Madonna Thunder Hawk, will lead more Lakota elders on a three-day trip to Line 3 to further support Taysha at Camp Migizi. We won’t stop doing whatever it takes to build key alliances and grow this movement to protect Unci Maka, our Grandmother Earth.
Wopila tanka — thank you for standing with our Anishinaabe relatives! Phyllis Young Standing Rock Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
Last week, we introduced you to Ruby Montoya, a schoolteacher and NoDAPL resistor being prosecuted as a terrorist by the U.S. government. She’s accused of putting four tiny holes into DAPL pipes before it was carrying oil — and for this, she’s facing the prospect of up to 20 years in federal prison. That’s far from acceptable, and it’s why we’re aiding her defense. Last week, Daphne Silverman, Ruby’s new attorney, submitted a motion to change Ruby’s prior guilty plea to not guilty based on crucial new discoveries. Read on for the details.
Ruby (right) and co-defendant Jessica Reznicek prior to their arrest. In our new video, Ruby and I talk about water protectors being labeled and prosecuted as terrorists.
After initial review of the case, our side has identified a number of major issues that should disqualify Ruby’s original plea. For one thing, the prosecutor and the pipeline company allege that millions of damage was done, but an expert hired by Daphne says it’s less than $50,000. In addition, some charges filed by the prosecutor require the pipeline to have been in use at the time it was allegedly damaged. It was not.
Those distinctions make a world of difference. Without damage over $100,000 to an operational pipe, these charges don’t qualify for federal court — and outside of federal court, there can be no terrorism enhancement. As I mention in our new video, this is eerily reminiscent of how I was treated during my own resistance to DAPL in 2016 and 2017. The government and law enforcement are demonstrating a pattern of deception designed to criminalize constitutionally protected protest, elevate charges, and label citizens who dare to care about the future of Planet Earth as terrorists. It’s infuriating.
If the court labels Ruby a terrorist, she’ll be punished like a career criminal — but Ruby has no criminal history at all. We expect a court decision on the plea change in the next couple months. Meanwhile, Daphne will be investigating, researching, and conducting additional review of the discovery. We hope that, with her expert legal assistance and support from folks like you, the justice system will ultimately treat Ruby with far more fairness than water protectors have come to expect. Stay tuned.
Wopila tanka — thank you for your solidarity with water protectors! Chase Iron Eyes Co-Director and Lead Counsel The Lakota People’s Law Project
Yesterday, led by our grandmothers, we took the Line 3 pipeline resistance directly to the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul. Emblematic of the deepening solidarity among tribal nations, a caravan of 20 Standing Rock citizens, assisted by the Lakota People’s Law Project, joined us for our “Treaties not Tar Sands” rally.
An impressive lineup of BIPOC speakers and Minnesota state officials, headlined by White Earth Nation’s Winona LaDuke, addressed more than 2,000 people who showed up to call out Enbridge’s toxic tar sands oil pipeline. Toward the end of the day, we at Camp Migizi took our turn at the microphone. Five Lakota People came onstage with us to acknowledge the importance of resisting pipelines together — and they should know, since they were all at Standing Rock in 2016 and ‘17 during the NoDAPL movement.
Among the more heartfelt and timely messages imparted by our Lakota relatives was a call for unity from elder Sonny Wonase. I invite you to watch highlights from both my talk and his.
Police presence was as strong as ever, including a fence meant to wall state officials off from our prayerful ceremony and pleas for justice. As you can probably guess, that didn’t deter water protectors. At the end of the rally, my fellow organizers read a statement of demands criticizing Governor Tim Walz’s support of the pipeline and militarized response. We also continued to call on President Joe Biden to intervene.
Until we’re heard and acknowledged, we will not be silent. We will not stop taking direct action to end this invasion of our sacred lands and protect our water and manoomin (wild rice). We are carrying forward the tradition of Indigenous activism begun by the American Indian Movement in the 1960s and renewed at Standing Rock five years ago. I express my gratitude to Standing Rock for standing with us now — and to you for holding space with us and Mother Earth. If we come together across our traditional boundaries, if we act with a unified voice and spirit, we can win this fight.
Miigwech — thank you for your support! Taysha Martinaeu Camp Migizi Via the Lakota People’s Law Project
At Standing Rock in 2016, water protectors were labeled as domestic terrorists. I created this short video to counter that claim. We are just the common people out here defending our rights and our lives. The government is supposed to work FOR US. The corporations are business entities that are supposed to be producing things FOR US.
Today, water protectors from Standing Rock are still being prosecuted, and — in the troubling cases of Ruby Montoya and Jessica Reznicek — they’re still being labeled as terrorists. Because we cannot allow this dangerous precedent to be used against more people who care for our Grandmother Earth, we’re going to help defend Ruby. Our struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) didn’t end at Standing Rock in 2017, and it won’t be over until every water protector in the crosshairs of the criminal justice system is liberated.
In 2017, Ruby and Jessica engaged in a direct action that damaged an empty section of DAPL’s pipe. Jessica was recently found guilty, given a “terrorism enhancement,” and sentenced to eight years in prison. Ruby’s fate now hangs in the balance as her trial approaches. With litigation support from Lakota Law and the National Lawyers Guild, Ruby is going to fight. Her next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 1.
As Ruby says in this new video produced by our team, humanity is going through a reckoning. In the future, no one will fondly remember the names of corporations that represented the status quo; instead, many people will only wish they had fought harder to protect life on this planet. Nobody who takes a stand to stop extractive destruction should ever be charged with a felony, much less be labeled a terrorist.
Ruby told me that Jessica has never even held a weapon in her hands, and at one point she was considering entering a monastery. And Ruby is a Waldorf School teacher, who vividly remembers kids in her classes crying and losing sleep because Australia and the Amazon were on fire. Ruby’s resistance, like my own back in 2017 that earned me a felony charge, has been motivated only by a desire to give the next generations a destiny they can believe in.
Nothing any of us did comes close to a level of governmental coercion necessary to justify a terrorism enhancement. It’s fallacious to suggest we have that type of power. If the government is being coerced by anyone, it’s the fossil fuel barons who buy politicians to protect their profits. Ruby was invited by an Indigenous community to protect water and help safeguard sacred lands. She showed up. Now, we will have her back, just like she had ours. Please stay tuned as we continue to fight to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice.
Wopila tanka — thank you for standing for justice! Chase iron Eyes Co-Director and Lead Counsel via the Lakota People’s Law Project
Sending you best wishes from the Line 3 frontline in Minnesota. I’m encouraged to report that nearly 30 high-profile national lawmakers have responded to grassroots pressure and sent a joint letter to President Biden. It urges the White House to ensure a full environmental assessment of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, which is damaging sensitive wetlands in the midst of the ever-worsening climate emergency. We on the frontlines are grateful we’re being heard. Our team is doing all we can to protect our sacred homelands — and your support is essential.
Please give to lift up our #StopLine3 resistance. We need food, fuel, equipment, and supplies to remain effective. We now have just a matter of weeks to convince the Biden administration to end the desecration of our lands and waterways. We won’t go away — but this pipeline must. Help us stay in its path every single day.
Lakota Law reached out to lawmakers it has relationships with to sign onto the Biden letter, and the progress in D.C. is partly a result of all the direct action occurring here in Minnesota. Just today, we at Camp Migizi led a march on the Army Corps of Engineers building in Duluth, Minnesota. Lakota Law co-director and lead counsel Chase Iron Eyes and more than 300 water protectors joined us in delivering a strong message of resistance.
Today’s direct action exemplifies the growing partnership between my Anishinaabe People and the Lakota who have come to stand with us. As expected, the police reacted aggressively, even detaining one Indigenous woman so forcefully that we felt it necessary to shut down a nearby bridge in response.
Next, on Saturday, we’re helping organize and publicize a direct action in D.C. In tandem with allied groups and influencers, Camp Migizi and Lakota Law will deliver more than 127,000 #StopLine3 petitions to Biden, hold a sacred ceremony, and engage with our fellow activists at the National Museum of the American Indian.
I want you to know that, even as we — and so many in the world — grapple with one existential crisis after another, there is much reason for hope. We must stay active and vigilant!
Miigwech — thank you for your solidarity with our Indigenous nations. Taysha Martineau Via the Lakota People’s Law Project
As we enter the dog days of August, I think it’s fair to say that 2021 has become a year for recognition and reckoning. Of course, Native People grow up with a heightened understanding of the genocide on which the U.S. was founded. Today, I want to share a little more of that perspective with you.
As an ally integral to our movement for justice, your willingness to engage with hard truths is appreciated. You can help us spread the word and find a better way forward. Today, as part of this process, I ask you — if you can stomach it — to watch this special report about the Hiawatha Indian Insane Asylum from prominent South Dakota news organization KELO.
Hiawatha was a horrific place, located right here in South Dakota — something that should surprise nobody. Its reputation among Native People was so bad that the threat of being sent there was used as a deterrent for children who misbehaved at boarding schools. As some of the keepers of this story mention in their interviews with KELO, it housed people from many tribal nations, and once you went in, you were very unlikely to come out.
It’s hard to find an “insane asylum” with a good reputation. But of course, the conditions at the one that impounded Native folks were far worse than most. Most of those sent to Hiawatha were anything but “crazy.” As my colleague, Chase Iron Eyes, put it earlier today, many of these relatives were spiritually gifted. Others probably just had too much fighting spirit for their own good.
I know this is a heavy topic, and I thank you for reading. We are living in troubled times, and it’s only with your attention that we can avoid making the same mistakes again and leave a more equitable world to our future generations.
Wopila tanka — my gratitude for being on this difficult journey with us. You’re making things better! Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project