by Wioweya Najin Win,
writing from the banks of Wounded Knee Creek
In these days of winter fading away while springtime emerges slowly, all I can think about is the smell of the wild raspberries in their full ripeness, their red skin glowing from the sunbeams falling along the banks of Tongue River in the Shining Mountains. I close my eyes and hear the roar and splash of the river, rolling against the rocks and banks, water drops splashing like little bright lights against my skin as I hang my legs over the rocks to cool my feet in the raging river, full and bank to bank with snow melt from a good winter, and rains from a loving sky. I can hear the sounds of our grandchildren laughing while their moms grill elk meat over the cracking fire, their uncles teaching the boys how to make drum sticks. I have my little spot in the shade over there all picked out, where I sit and bead.
I think of the Medicine Mountain, high up above, where our ancestors walked and prayed and lived and made war to protect our lands and waters and babies yet to be born. West and North boundary of Ft Laramie Treaty, Crazy Horse went there in the closing days of summer, I think of him when I touch ancient rocks, so many millions of years old my mind can’t handle comprehending that span of time. In the oldness of the Universe, we really are the shine of a firefly in our lifetime.
The park rangers close the mountain for us, we ask them to, so we can send our voice to the universe without four track enthusiasts buzzing around our ancient medicine wheel, tourists peeking over our shoulder, taking photos and videos on their cell phones, smirking at us, or worse yet, wanting to join us! We walk up the mountain, carrying our bundles. Each with our own thoughts, yet together in a collective consciousness gifted to us by the spirits and our ancestors. Sorrow over the destruction of Mother Earth, Grandmother Earth, all over. Prayers for guidance as Red Nations, Her children and grandchildren, to protect Her. The medicine wheel is like us, wrapped up inside a fence. That big telescope hovers, up on the next mountain. Human beings of so called America watching the stars, or watching for an atomic bomb their enemies might be sending against them? Another desecration of sacred place. Today, the people in Hawaii are standing against a telescope planned for their sacred mountain, my heart is with them.
Our delegation has four hours to be on the mountain alone, as a family, as a hocoka, as relatives to Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth). Then we must get back on the road, a long haul to the next stop in the Tour of Resistance, to get to the Moccasins on the Ground Training Camp in Montana. Water protectors and land defenders are gathering there, from the four directions. Unci Maka needs Her children and grandchildren.
We present at Moccasins, our passion for grassroots people to stand up for Unci Maka, we bring together trained and seasoned water protectors and land defenders from all over to share their truths, their experience. Tipis are everywhere, along the base of the mountain. Rains come, bless us. Drumbeat greets morning star. Ancient warrior societies keep us safe, there’s those drones again! Government infiltrators try to get in to our training camp. We are common people, but government and industry see us as challengers to the tarsands, to KXL Pipeline, the Enbridge Pipeline, planned coal mining near the Tongue River, uranium mining in Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, fracking in North Dakota, as we all gather at Moccasins. Medicine people are there, offering prayers and wisdom. A powerful place and time for parents, grandparents, common people who have nothing to lose. Lakota are always the four poorest counties in so called America. Why?
Our lands and territories have produced the wealth of “America”, the homestake gold mine in our sacred He Sapa (Black Hills), has enriched “America” beyond belief, as it poisoned the Cheyenne River. Uranium open-pit mined in the sacred He Sapa by “America” and its collaborator, Tennessee Valley Authority gave “America” its nuclear bombs while it poisoned all the rivers and lands for hundreds of miles around, forever. Fukushima is part of the “American” dream, just like Hiroshima and Nagasaki was. Now the oceans and Her babies are poisoned forever. Forever is a long time.
Crawford, Nebraska is a relatively “new” place for industry to extract uranium, 30 minutes as the crow flies from our Pine Ridge Homeland southern border, with their In Situ Leach uranium mining, piercing the Ogllala Aquifer with 8,000 wells to get at and get out the uranium, creating a toxic soup we must live with and die with, forever. Cameco and “America” do not care enough that the Ogllala Aquifer provides sacredwater to 2 million people and the breadbasket of the world. They want the money and to feed their nuclear power plants that perch along river banks all over this big land. Nuclear energy is not GREEN, President Obama! Do not believe the brainwashing. Silly man, we do not need all that energy, forget bragging that one walnut of nuclear holds the same energy producing capacity of 100 coal train cars. What we NEED, is to change our idea that we as human beings are priviledged and deserving of destroying our Unci Maka to have hair dryers and fast cars and electric oh my gawd facial hair removers. What we NEED is to collectively accept that the war making machine is what needs all that fracked oil and uranium. Why fear the alternative, which is peace and social justice for ALL?
Hear from relatives in the Williston Basin, babies born with birth defects now, people can hardly breathe in North Dakota, infiltrated by the monster taking over their home. Wasting all OUR water to frack, frack, frack. Hate those fracking frackers, Frack them! They are pushing their idea of importing drinking water now, not to drink, but to use for fracking because the river water is down so low now. The worst of the worst social problems are a plaque now in their lands, putting a damper on their enjoyment of royalty payments.
Driving south now, the Tour of Resistance continues. The desert air is different from on the plains. Traveling to Gila River in Arizona, we drove through many mountains. Blizzards in the south pushed us to drive through north country. Chinle is flooding. What is wrong with that picture? Arrival in the desert came as a blessing, dry air, warm temperatures good for my bones. But that pollen! Sneezing for days until someone gave me some meds. Maybe the GMO created something in all the Standing Silent Nation (plants) that now makes us allergic? Watching a cactus flower is so beautiful. Rising while the starlight shines, waiting for daybreak, sitting under the trees while it is still blue outside, drinking hot, hot coffee, watching the fog come out of the mountains when that first sunbeam hits. Bunny rabbits scurry back to the homes, those big black birds fly away. Insects stop singing, the birds flutter in. Gila River folks are fighting that major highway nearby, proposed to enhance the economy. Then it is time to pack the car and drive to Sedona, the vortex of people wanting something out of their capitalist life, something spiritual.
Crying Earth Rise Up documentary about our struggle to protect sacred water will show at Sedona. We drive up a mountain, offer tobacco and water for our time in this territory. Apache greets us, welcomes us. Ahh, it is so good that natural protocol can be enacted, because he felt drawn to the theater. Lots of friendly people there. We travel on to Oak Flat, meet the Apache medicine man who prays with us. Big monster machines of Rio Tinto plunked down on the next hill over, a reminder that copper is under our feet. Apache nations’ sacred places to be destroyed so Rio Tinto can get richer? Government and industry must be in bed together, how else can it be explained that a people’s destiny is not as important as the quarterly bottom line? Wanted to see the Grand Canyon, but home responsibilities called out, uranium mining is proposed there, can you believe it? I take a good look at the Apache sacred lands, and think of the lands in British Columbia ruined forever by the copper mine there whose toxic dam broke and flooded, ripping trees out of the ground, leaving poisonous sludge everywhere. Nope, millions of dollars later, and still it cannot be cleaned up.
We get back on the road, drive through the beautiful lands of the Dine, ravaged by uranium mining and coal mining and greedy tribal leaders. Looking for water, we see instead, the rock beds of the dwindling rivers and creeks and streams, they are all running so low. The Colorado River is being decimated by the fat taker cities of LA, Vegas. Too many dams are still standing, trapping the sacred water and giving Americans their electricity while Unci Maka is suffering drought, and so do we all, suffer drought. Our friends in California are hit with rationing of water while the mining fat cats and refineries have free rein. When will they learn?
Our friends send an email, they are preparing prayers for the south, the oceans, the surface and ground waters, the death has not left from BP’s mistakes. We drive for hours, hoping to rest, but no hotel rooms. “Haliburton is in town, all the rooms are rented out. Go to the next town.” The frackers are everywhere it seems. So we drive on deep into the night, bright starlight glistening so calm, I think about the star nation shifting now, spring equinox coming and our people sending delegations to Hinhan Kaga Paha in our sacred He Sapa, to welcome the thunders, the lightening that gives life through rain and destroys through fire.
I get home, pressing thoughts about the film Crying Earth Rise Up being released a few months prior to our seven year case against the worlds largest uranium miner, a case brought from us, the poorest people in America. Shake my dam head, who thought we’d be in a court room with these evil people? They want to gang rape Crow Butte with three MORE uranium mines, where Crazy Horse prayed with his sacred pipe before the 7th Calvary killed him. A few steps away is the US Army barracks where our loving and red Cheyenne ancestors were held prisoners of war until they broke out in the dark of night and fought to the death for their freedom. Out on the prairie, their spirits still wander, you can hear the sounds of unarmed Cheyenne Dog Soldiers and their women fight the 7th Calvary so their children and old people can run for their lives. I heard them, this past winter, on a night when the air was so cold your noseholes stick together, when our Cheyenne and Lakota remembered, and made prayers out in the middle of that farmers field. The sound of saddle leather creaking on the soldiers horses, the sound of hoof beats slamming against the frozen ground as they came to massacre our Cheyenne ancestors.
The thunders are coming back soon, on the plains the many plants are peeking out now, filling the air with their sweet perfume. Earth Day is all over the news, like its news. Human beings destroy Unci Maka and then create Earth Day, a tool to create awareness about human beings destroying the earth. Everyone is supposed to plant a tree. I wonder about that. I wonder about how all these experiences are connected. The cell phone in my pocket beeps with an invitation to come to Manitoba, grassroots people there want out from under the thumb of tribal governments flirting with industry over diamonds, coal, oil, uranium.
I wonder about the thousands of missing and murdered women in Canada. I wonder about the stolen Lakota children ripped from families by the government of South Dakota. Lots of rallies and marches in South Dakota recently, against racism and theft of children, uranium mining and the KXL tarsands pipeline.
Walking along Wounded Knee creek, I see a beaver peering out from his dam. The cottonwood trees wear big fat buds, ready to pop soon, teasing me, making me think of those hot summer days when the sunlight flashes off the cottonwood leaves. The chokecherry trees are in full blossom now, their sweetness fills my head and heart. The scent of the blossoms reminds me of raspberries. My feet trample the baby blades of grass as I walk the miles back to my house, the earth is soft from recent rains, I sink in a little bit, and recall little girl days of springtime home visits after a long winter at boarding school.
I want to go back to the Shining Mountains when the raspberries are ripe and glowing in the summer sunshine, and cool my hot feet in the Tongue River, to give wopila and gather medicine like my great great great great grandmothers did, and their generations before them. Like them, I remember the sacredness of water, starlight and raspberries.