Winter has turned to spring here in the Dakotas, and the yearly promise of new life and fresh growth has arrived. In that spirit, I write to you today with an update on the progress of our new Standing Rock teen center project, which I’m happy to say your generous support is making into a reality. As can happen with projects of this magnitude, we’re working through a small snag. But we won’t let anything get in the way of its completion!
Please watch this original music video produced by our co-director, Daniel Paul Nelson, about violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act by South Dakota.
As of a few weeks ago, we’d identified a wonderful building for sale on Main St. in the city of McLaughlin, Standing Rock’s second largest town. It’s just a couple blocks from our foster home, and we were excited about the location. Importantly, our vision for putting the teen center on Main St. includes helping revitalize the primary artery in a community struggling to keep businesses open and buildings from decaying.
Sadly, though, the non-Native property owner of the building — once he realized our goals — took the building off the market “due to family issues.” So it’s disappointing, to say the least, that his for-sale sign came down for just two weeks before it was back up in the window. Surprise, surprise, blatant racism is alive and well in South Dakota, even at Standing Rock. So we’re now talking to lawyers about the Fair Housing Act and considering a threat to sue, as we also look at other properties in town.
It has been more than five years since Standing Rock had a safe, fun place for teenagers to go after school. Even as Standing Rock captured the attention of the world during NoDAPL in 2016, the children of this community had no place to enjoy themselves in the afternoons. As managers of McLaughlin’s Lakota-run foster home, we’ve seen youth drift into substance abuse and other bad behavior because of neglect. Making kids feel supported is so important; that’s why, in partnership with you, we’re continuing to do our part.
We’ve been protecting Lakota children now for 15 years; our work began with a focus on fixing the foster care crisis in Lakota Country, and we still prioritize efforts to enforce the Indian Child Welfare Act. In solidarity with the children, Lakota Law co-director Daniel Paul Nelson produced this original music video highlighting the urgent need to make South Dakota stop taking Native kids from Native communities. We hope you’ll accept a gift from us and download the tune for free here.
Wopila — thank you for standing with our children! Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
I’m writing to thank you for supporting us water protectors here in the Dakotas, and to update you about my court case at Cheyenne River Tribal Nation near Standing Rock. Last year, construction of the Keystone XL pipeline was in full swing through my homelands. So my allies and I created a protest camp, similar to the one everyone knows about at Standing Rock four years ago (only smaller). Two days before Thanksgiving last year, I chained myself to an oil pump station and got arrested for trespassing. I’m facing up to a year in prison and I will be going to trial soon.
We won our fight against KXL — Biden has shut the pipeline down — but my allies and I are still facing potential prison time for our civil disobedience. Please pray for us, as we continue to face down the Oil Industrial Complex allied with law enforcement, and decipher the best path forward to serve Unci Maka, Grandmother Earth.
Please watch this new video that explains my court case.
Climate change has become a dominant topic of conversation in recent weeks because of Biden’s strong pivot away from Trump’s denialism. Even more is needed. As the ice caps melt and coastlines face dangerous flooding, Indigenous people all over the world are leading the fight for eco-sanity. Some are in Minnesota resisting Line 3, while many of us are still pushing the White House to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.
Last month, I traveled with other Indigenous young people to D.C. to make our ongoing commitment to Standing Rock top of mind for policymakers. As a 24-year-old Lakota woman, I look forward to many more years of movement building. We cannot let up, not while our waters, lands, and climate are endangered by fossil fuel extraction. Renewables work. There is no excuse.
I will work with my attorneys at Lakota People’s Law Project to keep you updated in the coming months. Thank you for keeping your attention on Lakota country. Your solidarity is appreciated.Wopila, Jasilyn Charger via Lakota Law
When LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, learned of what she called “the black snake” — a 1,170-mile-long underground pipeline that would stretch from the shale oil fields of northwest North Dakota to Illinois — she volunteered the use of her land to establish a resistance camp.
That camp became the base for a global protest movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which Ms. Allard said would veer too close to sacred burial grounds, including the grave of one of her sons; could contaminate the region’s water supplies if it ever leaked; and violated longstanding treaties between Native Americans and the federal government.
The movement stood not only for stopping the pipeline but also against excavating fossil fuels in general while embracing tribal sovereignty, environmental justice and the protection of water sources everywhere.
Ms. Allard died on April 10 at her home in Fort Yates, N.D. She was 64. Her family announced the death online; local media outlets said the cause was brain cancer.
She established Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers in March 2016. Neighbors starting bringing food, coffee and wood for a small core group. Indigenous youth spread the word across social media.
Within months, the resistance had turned into a cultural movement, with thousands of people — members of other tribes, environmental and civil rights activists, politicians — joining in, tucking into tents, tepees and trailers in similar camps across the prairie.
The movement also drew what Ms. Allard told Teen Vogue in 2017 were “spiritual leaders from every facet of every Indigenous people — Mongolians, the people out of Africa, India, China, Australia and New Zealand,” as well as South America, Canada and the Midwestern United States, all to be part of one of the largest gatherings of Indigenous peoples in more than a century.
Construction of the pipeline began under President Barack Obama. But with demonstrations growing — and security guards attacking protesters with freezing water from pressure hoses, pepper spray, rubber bullets, dogs and mass arrests — the Obama administration later had a change of heart and blocked construction of part of the pipeline.
The reprieve was only temporary. President Donald J. Trump, who viewed the project as a boon to the economy and a way of weaning the country off foreign oil, ordered the pipeline completed and the protest camps evacuated and razed. Environmental and Indigenous groups responded with legal challenges.
The fate of the $3.7 billion project now lies with the Biden administration and the courts. But while an environmental review continues, the pipeline remains in operation.
As one of the leaders of the resistance, Ms. Allard appeared on television; wrote opinion pieces for newspapers, including The Guardian in England; and traveled the world as a keynote speaker on Indigenous history and culture. She argued for the protection of sacred Indigenous lands everywhere. She worked on campaigns to encourage divestment from the fossil fuel industry, and she became an annual speaker at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Rather, she said, they were fighting for something much bigger: their rights and for the “liberation” of Mother Earth. “We want every last oil and gas pipe removed from her body,” she wrote. “We want healing. We want clean water. We want to determine our own future.”
LaDonna Carole Brave Bull was born on June 8, 1956, in Fort Yates to Valerie Lovejoy Brave Bull and Frank Brave Bull.
She spent much of her girlhood with her grandmothers and grew up all over, from the Dakotas to California to New England and Florida. She enrolled in Standing Rock Community College, transferred to Black Hills State College and eventually graduated from the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks in 1990.
After college, she went to work for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as cultural resource planner. She also served as its historian and genealogist. She later helped the tribe create its office of historic preservation and a tourism office.
She has said she had been struck by the depth of historical trauma when she visited the site of the 1863 massacre at Whitestone Hill, in south-central North Dakota, where the U.S. Army slaughtered hundreds of Sioux. In a 2017 essay in Yes! magazine, she linked that event with the pipeline’s destruction of hundreds of archaeological sites and sacred places.
“The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas,” she wrote. “And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people.”
In 2019 Ms. Allard became an official representative for Indigenous peoples within the United Nations Economic and Social Council. She held positions on numerous boards and taught a class on combining Indigenous knowledge with modern technology.
After two early marriages, she married Miles D. Allard, whom she met at the University of North Dakota, in 1990 and whom a family obituary called the love of her life. Mr. Allard died in 2018.
Her survivors include six sons, William J. Brave Bull, Freedom P. McLaughlin, Eric Grey Cloud, Ian Scotty Halsey, Alex Schien and Shannon Meister; two daughters, Prairie Fawn McLaughlin and Nikola Allard; 21 grandchildren; two great-granddaughters; eight sisters; and eight brothers.
Shortly before Ms. Allard died, Indigenous youth on their way to a rally against the pipeline stopped by her house and placed signs in her yard saying “We love you LaDonna” and “Water is Life,” Kandi White of the Indigenous Environmental Network told Indian Country Today.
“Her son told us that LaDonna heard us chanting and knew we were there,” Ms. White said. “She told us not to be sad for her but to continue the fight.”
Katharine Q. “Kit” Seelye is a Times obituary writer. She was previously the paper’s New England bureau chief, based in Boston. She worked in The Times’s Washington bureau for 12 years, has covered six presidential campaigns and pioneered The Times’s online coverage of politics. @kseelye
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
The best news I have heard this year! She should never have been arrested in the first place. It was a clear set up and attempt to intimidate protestors.
Image Credit: Twitter: @lakotalaw
An Indigenous water protector who was arrested during protests against the Dakota Access pipeline has been released from federal prison. Prosecutors accused Red Fawn Fallis of firing three shots from a handgun as police in riot gear, wielding batons, surrounded her to make an arrest amid mass protests against the pipeline in 2016. Red Fawn’s uncle, Glenn Morris, welcomed her release Thursday, telling Indian Country Today, “The real criminals continue to pump oil through the pipeline in violation of the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaties and US environmental laws.”