Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights 2020

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vi Waln: Winyan Ituwan Women of Vision

Winyan Ituwan holds first of four gatherings
by Vi Waln
Lakota Country Times Editor

PAHIN SINTE OWAYAWA – “This is a collective effort to bring women together to share experience, wisdom and vision; our Earth Mother needs us to stand up for her to be a voice for these young girls to walk in our path,” stated Pte San Win, one of the organizers of the initial Winyan Ituwan gathering. “We hope to inspire and encourage you to go home with lots of information for your family.”

Topics discussed at the gathering revolved around the desecration of Mother Earth and water, as well as mining issues facing the people living on the Great Plains of the United States. In addition, the traditional roles and responsibilities of Native women were presented. Over 200 people attended.

Lorraine White Face prayed with her macaw feather fan and blessed everyone with sage smoke. Opening prayer was offered by Esther White Face. Singing a beautiful opening song were duet Tianna Spotted Thunder and Autumn Two Bulls.

“Each and every one of us is special. Faith, hope and love will make a better generation for all of us,” stated Marie Randall. “As women we all carry the water of life and we must care for ourselves because of the children. We must have the courage to change because the gifts that were given to us by Tunkasila are suffering. I encourage all of you to teach the children to love and respect one another. I am not afraid to be Lakota.”

“Water is the first medicine,” stated Cordelia White Elk.

“Tunkasila gave us the guidance to do this,” Debra White Plume stated. “We want to share the love we have for Unci Maka, we are trying to live in a good way.

The power comes from love, the work we do comes from our love of Lakota ways. Pine Ridge has been fighting uranium mining being done south of us. We have challenged their right to mine uranium because we have scientific evidence that the mine site near Crawford, NE is linked to our drinking water. We have been fighting North Trend for 7 years now. We use water in every single ceremony. This is the same water that was here when the dinosaurs were here; it is our duty and privilege to fight for drinking water. These are issues that are genocidal to our people. If water is contaminated where are we going to get water for 50,000 Oglala? What about water for our horses and other animals?”

“We never started out to fight the biggest uranium mine under Cameco; we started out trying to find out why things were happening to our people. It doesn’t matter who tests the water, the results are always the same. We have to fight for the water to keep it clean and keep it good. We have to speak up, we have to take action. They may have a lot of money but we have a lot of love. There can be no more desecrating of Unci Maka; we are going to defend our sacred water. It’s hard to be Lakota because you have to stand up. Our courage is greater than the corporations and government who want to take our water.

“The Keystone XL pipeline expansion will cross the Lyman Jones Rural Water System in many places. It will cross the Mni Wiconi Water System in two places. We are trying to teach our non-Indian allies to call Earth our Mother instead of a planet,” stated White Plume.

The Keystone XL pipeline expansion consists of a 1,912-mile pipeline that would transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Texas. The proposed project could transport up to 830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands crude per day right through the Ogallala Aquifer which supplies drinking water to over 2 million people and countless animals, trees and plants. National lawmakers have used their power of politics to force President Obama to decide by February 21 if he will sign the permit needed for TransCanada to build the pipeline.

“Even in the 1800’s geologists in the area already knew what was in that land,” stated Tantoo Cardinal, a Cree actress who grew up near the Athabasca oil sands. “Everything that had to do with our culture was outlawed. I saw people who lived a life of strength off the bush. The outlawing of language and ways was an attempt to sever our connection to the Creator. This made us mean to each other too. When I was young we would go on berry picking trips and we could get our water out of the lake. Our children aren’t going to know that. Now, 10% of the fish coming out of the water are abnormal.”

“The people who come to Fort McMurray have no love for the land, they come for money. Even though we had no ceremonies we had medicine. There’s medicine on that land. A woman from Yellow Knife has medicine to doctor AIDS. There is medicine to doctor AIDS in that land they are killing. We were right from the beginning. Our treaties were established because we know our Mother. We have the blueprint. We have to discern who are allies are, defenders of the Earth come in all colors. In that knowing, in that teaching is where the women stand. Women’s place hasn’t been respected. The Earth is being treated the same way women are being treated.

“Sands are the grit that wears and tears on that pipe,” Cardinal continued. “All we have had are lies from this civilization, so why would they start telling us the truth now?”

“In 1947 the US Government built a dam,” stated Kandi Mossett, a Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikira tribal member who is currently employed with the Indigenous Environmental Network. “We were forced into a cash economy; it was like walking through door never to go back. When women eat mercury contaminated fish it affects our bodies. We are always told that we can’t eat the big fish we catch in Lake Sakakawea anymore. There are many flares or giant candles of natural gas now. Many tribal members were paid $34 an acre for their land versus the $5,000-$6,000 an acre paid to non-Indians.

“Now, every single place you go you see trucks hauling water in and hauling water out. Many people have died in head-on crashes with the trucks. It’s all for oil mining. It’s wrong. The tribally elected leaders at Fort Berthold are not my leaders. Women have to lead, let us show you how to lead. A Tribal Environmental Code was just passed last year. There are many open valves. There are 2,500 chemicals in that fracked water that leaks out of the valves on the trucks. Tribal police have no jurisdiction over the truck drivers. People are getting money now and they are happy because we’ve been poor for so long. Drugs are coming in worse than they were before. We need to stop it at all costs.

“Why should you care what is happening on Fort Berthold?” Mossett asked. People need to care because “it’s affecting you down here. Green water found in Lake Sakakawea was said to be a blue green algae bloom which is toxic.” Also, leakage that “cannot be seen with the naked eye but infrared cameras shows the constant smoke coming from pipes and those round storage tanks along with frack trucks around the reservation. People are not dumb. People just became complacent. I survived cancer when I was 20 years old. I refused chemotherapy, I refused radiation. There’s so much to fight for an as long as I have a breath in me I am going to go anywhere to lift people up. Forget the Keystone XL pipeline; we are going to kill it. As long as there are little kids running around we are going to fight.”

“Kandi Mossett is my hero,” stated Phyllis Young, a newly elected tribal council representative at Standing Rock. “She inspired me to pass legislation against fracturing. Demonstrations are significant; we need to have an Occupy Wall Street type of event in the Black Hills. We have the Standing Rock directors working to beef up the regulations we have. We are also trying to prohibit horizontal drilling. I have been on the tribal council for two months and we will do everything we can to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.”

“What is it going to take for activism in Indian Country?” Madonna Thunder Hawk asked. She is currently working on Indian Child Welfare Act violations in East River South Dakota. “Check the website for documents about the Department of Social Services. Lean on your tribal councils because they have to make child welfare a priority. Not one tribe in the State of South Dakota has made child welfare a priority. Kids are kept in the system for the money. They are drugged up and then when they age out they dump them back into the Indian community. I’m hoping there will be younger women who will pick up this fight.”

."I love my people,” stated Regina Brave who is also a long-time activist for the Lakota. “This whole country still belongs to us; I want you to remember that. They want to build Keystone XL through here because they called this a sparsely populated area. We have farmers, ranchers and processing plants. 75% of the groceries people take for granted come from this sparsely populated area. We have a right to protest and shut down TransCanada, we have to stop it. We are a nation fighting for survival. 2012 is the beginning of a whole new era for Indian people, it’s time for women to stand up and start fighting. We waited for a long time for this to happen where we could stand together and fight.”

“I believe this is an historical gathering,” stated Faith Spotted Eagle. “We have a responsibility to recreate societies. In 1994 we revived the Brave Heart Society. We have to build these young women. There are 90 girls scattered across the country that have been through the Isnati ceremony.”

Brittany Poor Bear, a Brave Heart Society member, offered a prayer for the wamakaskan.

Russell Means’ recent bout with cancer “was a powerful and humbling experience,” stated his wife Pearl Means. “But the power of our ancestors and spirituality is hard to express. We are downwind from North Dakota which is where the largest strip mining in the country is taking place.”

Other speakers included Arlette Loud Hawk who spoke as the Whip Bearer for the Tokala Kit Fox Warrior Society. Troy Lynn Yellow Wood talked about the roles of women. Special guest speakers included Alex White Plume, Russell Means, and Lily Mae Red Eagle.

Winyan Ituwan is a collective effort to bring women together to share experiences, vision, and wisdom. There were many door prizes including propane and other gifts. Winyan Ituwan is the first of four women’s gatherings, with one set for spring, summer and fall. People can call 605-899-1419 or connect at Winyan Ituwan on Face Book for more information.

“Each of us has power in our thoughts and in prayer. When we think and pray in a good way that is what we add to the atmosphere,” stated Cardinal

Russell Means and Alex White Plume
Photo Vi Waln.

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