The Color of Justice

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I hope you’re staying safe as we begin this new year. It’s been a wild election season, culminating with Tuesday’s Senate races in Georgia and Wednesday’s insurrection at the Capitol. Sadly, it’s inevitable that many of Trump’s (mostly white) followers will get away with their seditious actions in D.C. — meanwhile, a pair of young, Native activists here at the Cheyenne River Nation face charges after nonviolently protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.

In November, 24 year-old Jasilyn Charger locked herself to an oil pump station, and the cops arrested her for a class 1 trespassing misdemeanor. Lakota Law rallied to her side, and we’ve secured legal representation for her that will mount a strong defense. Her predicament provides yet another opportunity to stand up in South Dakota’s courts of law and defend dissent against dangerous, unnecessary pipelines. She was arraigned Wednesday, and there will be more to share soon.
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Also on Wednesday, police arrested Cheyenne River tribal member Oscar High Elk (30 years old) and charged him on 12 counts, including felony aggravated assault, though he committed no acts of violence. Now, he faces a maximum of 23 years in prison. How wrong it would be should either one of these young water protectors serve time for standing against a Canadian pipeline which would provide little economic value to Americans and threaten Unci Maka.

This glaring disparity in our country between how law enforcement treats us Natives and other people of color as opposed to whites underlines the urgency of our struggle. We must take every opportunity to secure justice for Black and brown communities as the Trump era comes to an ignominious end. If you have not already done so, please sign our petition to the Biden transition team telling the president-elect: It’s time to end KXL and DAPL once and for all. We hope you’ll stay with us — and with our young activists — in the fight for environmental justice.

You can also share our call to action via social media by clicking the buttons below:

Wopila tanka — thank you for supporting our struggle! Mni wiconi.

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Please sign petition to Biden

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From my family on Cheyenne River Nation to yours, I hope you’re having a joyous and safe holiday season! Of course, it’s a different kind of year in 2020, when we have to bring up safety in reference to the holidays. With all that’s happened, it’s critical that we do everything we can to ensure that 2021 and the years to come see meaningful change for a healthier world.

That’s why I ask you to sign our new petition to the president-elect. Let’s tell Joe Biden to stop the Dakota Access pipeline and keep his campaign promise to cancel Keystone XL (KXL). We must protect our climate, lands, and water. He has the power to do it, and he should be reminded of his obligation to protect the Earth.

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We need president-elect Biden to enforce a robust environmental agenda from day one. The climate clock is ticking, and ending both KXL and DAPL should be one of his first steps as our chief executive. He has expressed his intent to take an anti-pipeline stance, and now we need to keep the pressure on. As FDR once said to a civil rights leader, “I agree with you, now make me do it.” 

Courts have blocked both pipelines, but that hasn’t slowed their advance. In July, the Supreme Court even weighed in, upholding a decision to prohibit KXL crossing domestic waterways under the Endangered Species Act. Still, TC Energy has moved forward to create man camps which threaten Native women very close to my reservation. On DAPL, Trump reversed Obama’s decision to require further environmental review; but courts have kept its oil flowing, at least for now. The bottom line is that Biden ought to enforce the standards spelled out by the National Environmental Policy Act.

New leadership means new possibilities. It’s up to you, me, and all who hold our oldest relative, Unci Maka — our Grandmother Earth — dear to make sure we realize them. 

Wopila tanka — Thanks for your action, and may our New Year bring big change!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

P.S. Please sign our petition to president-elect Joe Biden: End DAPL and Cancel KXL for our health, our safety, and our future. Pending her confirmation, our friend Rep. Deb Haaland will soon head up the Department of the Interior. She’ll have the ability to strongly influence our national environmental policy, and we hope she’ll help Biden hear our call.

2020 Accomplishments from Lakota People´s Law Project

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Our team here in Lakota Country hopes you are enjoying a safe and happy holiday season. Thank you for standing with the Lakota people this year!

2020 brought challenges and changes, showing us all the importance of joining together to stand strong in support of equality and justice. We believe that, now more than ever, Native voices must be heard. You can ensure that Indigenous people continue to rise. Will you contribute a year-end donation in 2020? One, final tax-deductible gift can go a long way toward accomplishing our shared mission to protect sacred lands, safeguard human rights, promote sustainability, reunite Indigenous families, and much more.

I encourage you to watch our new video, in which I detail our many, impressive shared accomplishments in 2020 — and our vision for progress together in the year to come.

Thanks to you, the Lakota People’s Law Project made life better for so many this year. You helped us support Standing Rock’s legal fight against DAPL and partner with the tribe to activate Native and swing state voters. You kept tribal health and safety checkpoints operational, protecting Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge during the COVID-19 pandemic. You sent nearly 10,000 petitions urging president-elect Joe Biden to appoint the first Indigenous Cabinet member — a fight we won when he picked Rep. Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior! 
 
We have so much more to accomplish together in 2021. Please continue to stay with us so we can permanently end DAPL and KXL, get the vote out for the Georgia Senate run-off elections, and expand our kinship care program at Standing Rock, ensuring that the next generation of Lakota youth is cared for and given every opportunity to succeed.

This is your last chance to give a tax-deductible gift in 2020. Please give a year-end gift from the heart to help accomplish all this and more. 2020 showed us that life can bring unexpected challenges at any time. We plan to be there to meet them in 2021. Please continue to support our mission for justice. We can’t do any of this without you!

Wopila Tanka — we’re so grateful for your friendship.

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
Lakota People’s Law Project

Action Needed

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You’re likely aware of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s partnership with the Lakota People’s Law Project to reach and activate voters in Georgia between now and Jan. 5. Today, I have some great news for those of you who’d like to be even more involved. We’re excited to offer you an opportunity to join the calling team! 

If you can volunteer to help ensure that underrepresented voices are heard in Georgia’s Senate run-off elections, please join our Standing Rock members in calling Native American voters and others in Georgia who care about the issues so important to us.

To become a phone bank volunteer:

1) Complete this brief volunteer intake form;

2) Be available for training via Zoom this Friday Dec. 18th at 5 p.m EST.

You can help Standing Rock make a difference in the Georgia run-offs!

You’ll need a laptop, computer, or tablet, a good internet connection, a phone, and preferably a headset. We’ll provide you everything else, including the names and contact info for the voters and a script that you can follow!

Once you’ve completed the training, you’ll be free to make calls any day of the week (except Friday) between 1 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. EST. We’ll also exclude some holidays, which we’ll clarify at the training. We do ask, if you sign up and go through the training, that you commit to completing at least one four-hour volunteer calling shift.

Now that early voting has begun in Georgia, we’re calling potential voters and asking them to make a solid plan to vote. This is extremely important, because turnout in special elections is always lower than in presidential elections, and studies show that many people who intend to vote may fail to follow through due to lack of planning.

We must help each voter determine whether they’ll vote by mail, vote early, or vote on Election Day. Can you join Standing Rock and help Georgia voters make their plans? There’s so much at stake in this election — including whether we’ll be able to effectively protect our rights to clean air and water in the years to come. Mni wiconi — water is life.

Wopila tanka — your attention, and your participation, are very much appreciated!

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

Voting Information

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In this final week before the election, as we dive into the homestretch at Standing Rock to get out the vote here and in battleground states, we’re working harder than ever to make sure America hears our voices and counts our ballots. Lakota Law’s new video provides you with an inside look at our phone bank, as our Standing Rock members call into two states where the Native vote has the most potential to make a difference for Grandmother Earth: Arizona and North Carolina.

Phone bank leader Melanie Thompson demonstrates to Chase Iron Eyes exactly what a successful call to a 2020 voter looks like.

As part of this massive effort, we’ve dialed more than 55,000 numbers and had 3,000 meaningful conversations with voters in North Carolina. For example, we’ve spoken to almost 1,000 voters in Lumbee tribal territory — the counties of Cumberland, Hoke, Scotland and Robeson — who have already voted or committed to voting.

On Saturday, Oct. 24, following in the footsteps of former Vice President Biden, President Trump visited Robeson County and pledged to federally recognize the Lumbee — North Carolina’s largest tribe. It’s all part of a pattern of candidates increasingly courting the Native vote, after so many election cycles where the opposite was true. 

Of course, Native Americans still face many barriers to voting, and thankfully the press is helping to shine a light on our plight. Lakota Law’s Phyllis Young, phone bank leader Melanie Thompson, and I did interviews with the Associated Press last week, and the story dropped today. I urge you to give it a read

The bottom line is that we insist on Native voices being heard this election cycle — and it seems that the world has begun to listen in a new way, thanks in large part to the support you give to our Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and to the Lakota People’s Law Project. I cannot thank you enough.

Wopila tanka — it means the world that you stand with Standing Rock!

Terry Yellow Fat
Tribal Elder
Via 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.

Vote 2020

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It’s an exciting week at Standing Rock as we’re in full swing with our Vote 2020 call center! On Wednesday, our media team hit the ground running, and we trained a full room of 25 Standing Rock members to call and activate voters around the U.S.


Watch our new video: Standing Rock members call potential voters in North Carolina.

It’s been said a thousand times: this is the most important election of our lifetime. With so much wrong in the world, we can turn the tide — right now. I’m confident that we’ll successfully combat attempts to disenfranchise Native people and make our voices heard loud and clear on Nov. 3. 

We’re encouraging everyone we speak with to vote — and whenever possible, we’re making sure they can do so early. This election offers us a chance to turn what is usually a particularly hard time of year for us in Native communities into a time of hope. While it’s always a challenge being Indian in America, as we go from October into November, our pain intensifies. Beginning with Columbus Day and continuing through Thanksgiving, the wider culture seems to constantly celebrate calls for erasure of Indigenous personhood.

That history is exactly why we’re calling on each other to speak truth to power, to envision who we want to be in the times to come. This election is a test: Who are we, really, when the going gets tough? As Americans, it’s critical we work together to be our best selves. Yes, this is a hard, trying time — but as Indigenous peoples and nations, this has always been the case. 

Standing Rock Protest Video
Callers celebrate a day of effective outreach.

Let me be clear: we believe in American ideals as much as anyone. We want liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So this November, we’re doing everything humanly possible to make sure the Earth is respected, fascism is rejected, and our democracy is protected.

Wopila — thank you, always, for your generosity and heart.

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

The Truth and Healing Act

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Hihanni waste,

In the U.S., some of the ugly realities of our history continue to unfold, but there is always hope when we push back. We’re seeing this now in the continued struggle for racial justice, a movement that is playing out not only on the streets but in the halls of Congress. We’re grateful that last week, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced a new bill in the House of Representatives to bring to light the injustices suffered by my people at the hands of the federal government. 

The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy in the United States Act aims to establish a formal commission to expose the atrocities committed by the federal boarding school policy, and give a voice to the descendants dealing with the resulting trauma. It is co-sponsored by a long list of congressional reps, including Rep. Sharice L. Davids (D-Kan.), a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Davids and Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) were recently the first two Native women elected to the House.

Between 1879 and 1918, more than 10,000 Native American children from 140 tribes attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. 158 graduated.

As you may know, the Indian boarding school era is one of the darkest chapters in the history of American Indian policy. Under a government-approved goal to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man,” our children were taken and forcibly assimilated into colonized ways of thinking. Their braids cut and the speaking of their languages prohibited, these children were subjected to repeated physical, sexual, and mental abuse — and too many never made it back home. The horrible reality is that hundreds, if not thousands, of these children still lie in boarding school graveyards around the country instead of resting in their homelands with their ancestors. 

This history is not removed from modern day, either. My sister and I were sent to boarding school back in the 1940s, and this awful practice didn’t end until the ‘60s. I witnessed this genocidal policy firsthand. 

Here at LPLP, we’ve long been proponents of Truth and Healing. Back in 2015-’16, about 50 Native nations signed onto our petition for a congressional committee modeled after Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation effort. We stand with the many other tribal leaders supporting the creation of this commission under Haaland and Warren’s bill.

In these days of deception and disease — when our rights are once again being violated by officials who seek to limit our power at the polls — a new way forward must be found. Truth and healing is exactly what we need.

Wopila tanka — In solidarity!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River 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

Voting Efforts

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As you know, the Lakota People’s Law Project does all we can to ensure that my fellow Native Americans can cast their ballots each election cycle. In recent weeks, we’ve been writing to you about our effort to pass the Native American Voting Rights Act (NAVRA). Now we’re taking things to the next level. We’ve partnered with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and leading up to the election we’ll run a joint phone bank where tribal members activate their neighbors and Native voters in swing states like North Carolina and Arizona. We’re doing all we can to see that Indian Country makes a big noise in the 2020 election.

Lakota LawOur first team members feel the joy after a day of making a difference in the 2020 election.

We’ll hire and train about 30 tribal residents as get-out-the-vote organizers. Using data-driven targeting and leveraging the latest tech to increase efficiency, we’ll have tens of thousands of conversations with voters. In addition to boosting the number of people casting ballots in important regional elections, this will put Standing Rock’s citizens to work learning valuable skills at a time when earning money is harder than ever on the reservation.

Lakota LawDana Yellow Fat works the phones to Standing Rock the Vote.

Meanwhile, growing support for NAVRA has moved it closer to getting out of committee and into law. Over the past month, partly because of our efforts, the bill gained five new sponsors in the House of Representatives (including some in critical swing states). We’re also engaged with investigative journalists at national press outlets to ensure high-level coverage of the suppression tactics and other difficulties faced by Native voters in 2020.

We’ll maintain our ambitious media and video production calendar to make sure you’ve got a clear window into the work. As always, your support makes all we do possible — and I can’t thank you enough for helping us lead the struggle. Let’s stay committed!

Wopila tanka — my gratitude for continuing to propel this movement forward.

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

Standing Rock

Thu, Oct 1, 2020 6:36 pm Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota Law (info@lakotalaw.org)To:you Details

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Warm greetings! As we look to escape the shadow of the most embarrassing presidential debate in the history of our still-young nation, our team here at Standing Rock has begun assembling tribal phone bankers. Our mission? We must remind Native voters in battleground states that their voice matters and help them cast their ballots. Much more news to come soon on that front. 

Meanwhile, I share with you a powerful new video about our NoDAPL stand, produced by VICE News in conjunction with the Lakota People’s Law Project. As we’ve continued to work with students at Loyola University to compile our archive of NoDAPL resources, we’ve also been releasing videos to tell you the full story of our stand to protect Standing Rock’s water. Another key reason for compiling these materials is to allow journalists, like our friends at VICE News, to help tell that story effectively. 

About a month ago, VICE News sent their “I Was There” production team to meet me in South Dakota so we could talk about what really happened at Standing Rock. We also provided their team with access to our archival resources. Using all of that plus other sourced footage, they produced “I was There: DAPL Protests.” I urge you to watch it to gain a fuller picture of the timeline and meaning of our movement, and how it fits into the present cultural moment. I hope that you will find it informative.

Please know that, as we ramp up our Vote 2020 campaign to protect the future of our right to be heard in this democracy, we won’t stop our continued efforts to defeat DAPL — and Keystone XL — once and for all. This year has shown us so clearly that we must take our vigilance to new levels to protect one another. We have to fight on multiple fronts and make sure that the truth always comes to light. We’re so grateful for responsible journalists like the team from VICE News who help us do that. And, of course, we couldn’t be more appreciative of you for helping us stay in the fight every single day.

Wopila tanka — thank you for standing with us and with Standing Rock!

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
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.

Latest DAPL News

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I hope you’re hanging in there in what has become a more difficult and surreal year with every passing month. As if 2020 hadn’t hit hard enough yet, the death this week of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg landed yet another troubling blow to the health and safety of our democracy. But we’re pushing back in Indian Country.  

The fate of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) is one among many issues that could be adversely affected, if the Senate confirms a conservative nominee from President Trump as Justice Ginsberg’s replacement. But because Joe Biden’s team has announced his intention to shut down both DAPL and Keystone XL (KXL), the courts could be removed from the equation entirely should he become president.

In our new DAPL Archive video, SD Rancher Marv Kammerer — the personification of what mutual understanding and alliance-building should look like — discusses appropriate stewardship of land and water.

No matter what happens in November, we must stand unified, together, across dividing lines real and imagined, to protect our future in this homeland. To see exactly what that looks like, I invite you to watch our latest DAPL Archive video. In 2017, I wrote an op-ed in The Hill about DAPL’s continuation of the age-old battle between cowboys and Indians. I’m happy to say that, in 2020, we have now evolved a small cowboy-Indian alliance against DAPL and KXL. Listen to our ally, rancher Marv Kammerer. You’ll be inspired.

At the end of the day, it is our shared values — not our racial differences — that must determine where we stand and where we’re going. By giving our common values a chance to resonate, we can heal the past and present and create the future we want. 
 
Please stay with us as we begin to hire and train dozens of Standing Rock tribal members to call voters in states like Florida and Arizona between now and Nov 3. We’ll make sure Native votes are cast and counted in this all-important election. Despite the challenges 2020 has brought, America will hear our voice. As Marv so eloquently puts it, we must be proper stewards of this land. So let us rise to the occasion.

Wopila tanka — thank you for being part of our alliance!

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
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.