Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 27, 2017

Madonna Thunderhawk -- 'Time to set up camp after pipeline bursts in South Dakota'

Madonna Thunderhawk photo by Karen Wright, AIM West 2017
From Alcatraz to the Black Hills, Wounded Knee, and Standing Rock, the struggle is continuous, it is now. Fight the fight at home. -- Madonna Thunderhawk, Lakota, Cheyenne River, South Dakota

Article by Brenda Norrell
Audio by Govinda of Earthcycles
Photo by Karen Wright
Censored News

SAN FRANCISCO -- Madonna Thunderhawk, Lakota, from Cheyenne River in South Dakota, described her time on Alcatraz, with the American Indian Movement in South Dakota, and at Oceti Sakowin at Standing Rock as an elder advising the youths, during the AIM West Conference.
Urging people to fight the fight at home, Madonna said it is time to set up camp where the Keystone pipeline just burst in South Dakota. The elders must have the backs of the young people, she said.
Recalling her time in the movement, Madonna said that she came to San Francisco in the '60s,
"I left my young heart in San Francisco," she said, speaking at AIM West's annual conference on Monday, Nov. 20.
It was on Alcatraz that she became involved in the Red Power movement. Just before going to Alcatraz, she was part of the Black Hills resistance and they took over Mount Rushmore.
John Trudell came to the Black Hills and said they needed help on Alcatraz.
The year was 1969 and it was the second year of the Occupation at Alcatraz. Trudell told them in the Black Hills that the fanfare was done and the cameras were gone at Alcatraz. Although most of the support just came on weekends, as most had jobs, still, there were young people, teenagers occupying Alcatraz.
Trudell told Madonna they needed help organizing.
Madonna recalled that it was at Alcatraz in 1969 where she first met Cuny Dog from Pine Ridge, South Dakota, a longtime AIM brother.
"That was where I first got involved," Madonna said of Alcatraz.
When she returned home from Alcatraz, she became involved in the American Indian Movement.
While at Alcatraz in 1969, she helped organize a school and got the kitchen going. This helped when she went home to South Dakota and started organizing with AIM.
Since she was around 30, she was considered "older" at Alcatraz.
During those earlier years of the movement in South Dakota, people just wanted AIM to come and listen to their problems. Along with this, there was always the problem of how to feed 200 people in the AIM caravan.
"That's how we learned how to organize, how to move people."
They also learned how to listen.
They learned "not just how to hear people stories, but how to listen," Madonna said.
"With the American Indian Movement, it was a family movement."
She said it was like a family, because they knew that the elders always had their backs.
"That was our validation."
"We weren't the 'good Indians.' We were always rocking the boat. But we always knew that the elders had our back."
"That was the strength of the American Indian Movement."
She said she spent six months at Oceti Sakowin at Standing Rock as an elder, to have the backs of the young people.
"That's what the elders did for us."
Today, Madonna is working with grandparents.
These days, grandparents are raising grandchildren. Some great-grandmothers are raising great-grandchildren. The drug culture and meth culture is rampant and it is affecting us, she said.
She said it's OK to fly all over, and do what she is doing here in San Francisco, but, she said, "You need to walk your talk."
"I've earned the right to speak."
She said its OK to go fight a pipeline, but you have to go home and fight the fight.
The grandmothers are in it for the long fight against social services to keep the children in the community.
"You have to be in it for the long haul. The work is continuous."
She said there is a place in the movement for all ages.
"When you are fighting for the survival of your people, there is a place for everybody, it doesn't matter how old you are,"' she said.
When she was leaving this time for San Francisco, her four-year-old great-granddaughter asked, "Are you going to camp?"
Madonna said, she stopped, because she had just heard about the Keystone  pipeline bursting in South Dakota.
"That's why we stood up and fought DAPL. We knew that was what was going to happen," she said of the resistance to Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock.
Madonna said of course the burst of the Keystone pipeline and the leaking oil is being downplayed in the media and by TransCanada.
"When I go home, I am going to camp," Madonna said.
"If we have to set up tents again where that spill was, we've got to do it."
"Whatever we've got to do, we've got to do it."
"It is an ongoing struggle."
Madonna said it doesn't matter how many people are present at the AIM West gathering, because with the help of social media, the word will get out. "That is the audience today."
She thanked Govinda Dalton from Earthcycles for broadcasting live at AIM West and Oceti Sakowin in Standing Rock. She also thanked Tony Gonzales for pulling together the AIM West conference each year in San Francisco.
Madonna said the Occupation of Wounded Knee showed them that they had the attention of the world.
Then, at Standing Rock, there was the realization that the strength of the camps came from the Indigenous from throughout the hemisphere and the world.
"Every Indigenous People of the hemisphere came."
"They brought their flag."
"That is our strength now. We have to stop recognizing borders."
Boundaries, she said, are part of the colonizer-settler mentality,
"Our DNA is all the same. We better pull it together."
She shared how recently that her granddaughter was going to a student gathering at the college. As it turned out, she said it was the food, the Mexican food, that drew her there.
The students with Mexican fathers, it turned out, brought the best food. Madonna said as an organizer she realized, "We can start building right there." The opportunities are there, she said, for building bonds between the Eagle and the Condor.
"That is our strength."
"I choose to look at the positive. For all of those young people, the Eagle and the Condor will mean something. We better get on it now."
Transnational corporations are running politics, global politics, she said.
"If we don't stop messing around, and start organizing, in our own hemisphere, what are we doing? Are we just spinning our wheels?"
"Anyway, its at the top of my bucket list," Madonna said at the AIM West gathering.

TransCanada's Keystone pipeline burst in November and leaked 210,000 gallons of oil about three miles southeast of the town of Amherst.

Article copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored New. No portion may be used for revenues or commercial purposes. Audio available for like-minded radio stations. Contact:

1 comment:

Richard said...

As a witness to the Treaty Camp raid & a supply runner to the camps, I find Medonna's words encouraging.