August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Monday, September 5, 2011

Owe Aku, Bring Back the Way, at the White House

By Owe Aku, Bring Back the Way

Photo by Josh Lopez
WASHINGTON (September 3, 20011) -- Debra White Plume from Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way), a Lakota organization from Pine Ridge Indian land designed for cultural preservation and protection of Lakota treaty rights and human rights, and Kent Lebsock from Owe Aku’s International Justice Project which utilizes international strategies to preserve Lakota treaties, sovereignty and self-determination, were both arrested at the White House on Friday, September 2, 2011. 
They were participating in the two-week long civil resistance that occurred there in opposition to the XL Pipeline and tar sands oil mining. Organized by the Indigenous Environmental Network and their allies, September 2 was designated as Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance Day. The tar sands come from Native lands and the pipeline would cross hundreds of miles of Native territory, including Lakota territory, and violate treaty rights under the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868 as well as human rights under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Before the arrests, Debra White Plume addressed the large crowd that gathered in Lafayette Park across from the White House perimeter, saying:
“Our Lakota people oppose this pipeline because of the potential contamination of the surface water and of the Ogallala aquifer. We have thousands of ancient and historical cultural resources that would be destroyed across our treaty lands. As a mother and a grandmother, I am related to Mother Earth and the life-giving water and it is my spiritual responsibility to be here today protecting Mother Earth from Father Greed.”
Kent Lebsock/Photo Shadia Fayne Wood
After being released from jail, Debra White Plume, along with Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network, met with State Department official Daniel A. Clune, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environmental and Scientific Affairs. There they urged the State Department to consult at high levels with Native leaders and to consider Section 106 (tribal” consultations) in line with free, prior and informed consent as set forth in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Kent Lebsock stated, “What action will be taken by politicians is unknown but the two-week long demonstrations at the White House and Indigenous participation are having an effect, if not on the President, at least in building alliances in opposition to corporate greed and government abuse.”
Democratic state senator from Maryland, Paul Pinsky, also addressed those gathered in the park and stated that the non-Native environmental movement owed a great debt to Indigenous peoples who had been involved in this struggle long before anyone else. Later, Senator Pinsky was arrested along with 165 other demonstrators.
The Native American peoples gathered in front of the White House fence sang throughout the long afternoon of arrests. Differing cultural viewpoints between Native and non-Native allies were only visible when the crowd would chant, “this is what democracy looks like.” Native people were respectfully silent, pointing out that any American view of democracy has rarely served the interests of Native peoples, our lands or resources. Mrs. White Plume was the first Native woman to be arrested and the last five arrests were all of Native men including Owe Aku’s Kent Lebsock. Speaking from the Lakota homeland, Rosalie Little Thunder, also an elder. leader, mother and grandmother from Owe Aku’s International Justice Project and a long time defender of Lakota sacred sites, said of those who took part, “Today, you acquired probably hundreds if not thousands of relatives! It is a good thing to use your whole body and spirit to protect Mother Earth. Was-te ksto!”
Owe Aku Owe Aku International Justice Project
PO Box 325 720 W. 173rd St. #59
Manderson SD 57756 New York City 10032
605-455-2155 646-233-4406

Lakota grandmother, activist, arrested at White House

Debra White Plume/Photo Josh Lopez
Debra White Plume/Photo Josh Lopez
Debra White Plume/Photo Josh Lopez

UPDATE: Statement by Owe Aku, Bring Back the Way:

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Photo Josh Lopez, Tar Sands Action
WASHINGTON -- Debra White Plume, activist and grandmother, of Owe Aku, Bring Back the Way, was arrested at the White House protesting the tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline headed for Indian country between Canada and Texas, including the massive Ogallala aquifer.
White Plume, Lakota grassroots leader, with Owe Aku, an Oglala Lakota organization in South Dakota working on revitalization of Lakota culture and on 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty rights.
“This is an issue of the full recognition of our right to say no, as sovereign independent indigenous nations. The colonial US government doesn’t have our best interest in mind, nor the rights of Mother Earth. Our Lakota people oppose this pipeline because of the potential contamination of the surface water and of the Oglala aquifer. We have thousands of ancient and historical cultural resources that would be destroyed across our treaty lands," White Plume said.
“The traditional government of the Great Sioux Nation, as well as the elected leadership have all taken official action to oppose the tar sands oil and the pipeline and have communicated this to the U.S. government. The Native people of the land have not been consulted and we have not given our consent for this pipeline. The right to free prior and informed consent as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as the rights affirmed in treaties with the US government and Native Nations are continually being violated. It’s my responsibility as a mother and grandmother to stand with Mother Earth against male dominated corporate greed.  Where will President Obama stand?”
The highly corrosive oil is an environmental disaster in the making. Protesters were arrested for two week, totaling 1,252 people arrested, to send a message to President Obama to halt the tar sands pipeline.
The tar sands mining is already destroying First Nation homelands in Alberta, Canada.

At home, Debra and Alex White Plume are fighting uranium mining in Lakota country. Here's more from Owe Aku:

History of Owe Aku & The Focus of Our Work
Owe Aku, a Lakota term meaning "Bring Back the Way", was founded in 1997 by Alex and Debra White Plume and their extended families. Owe Aku is a grassroots non-governmental social change organization dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of the Lakota Way of Life, 1851 & 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty Rights, and Human Rights. Our work encompasses and goes beyond the Oglala band of the Lakota Nation and the Pine Ridge Homeland, to the Lakota Nation and the Oceti Sakowin: the Seven Council Fires, known historically (incorrectly) as the "Great Sioux Nation". In our Lakota world view of "Mitakuye Oyasin" (we are all related) we have an International Justice Office in New York City which carries all of our appropriate work into the international Human Rights and Justice arena in our birth role and responsibility as Maka Luta Awanke: Protectors of the Sacred Red Earth.
Our work is focused in the following areas:

Lakota People's School of Liberation

  • Unite to Fight! Leadership Training project
  • Decolonization & Pedagogy of the Liberated
  • Oceti Sakowin Treaty School
  • Children's Human Rights Education Campaign
Lakota Treaty Territory Defense Project

  • Unci Maka Kiktakte: Protection of Lakota Sacred Lands
  • Unci Maka Wijala! Crying Earth Rise Up! Water Research Project
  • Lakota Media Project: Documentary Making
  • Lakota Cultural Preservation & Revitalization
Community Development/Sustainability

  • Community House & Cottage Industry Construction Project
  • Wind/Solar Hybrid Development Project
  • Kiza Park Improvement Project
  • Food for Our Tables Garden Project
  • Silk Screen Youth Economic Development Project
See more arrest photos of the Native American and First Nation delegation on Friday, Sept. 2, 2011, at Censored News.

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