Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

September 23, 2020

Celebrating Red Warrior Debra White Plume

Debra White Plume
Photo by Kent Lebsock 

Photo Debra White Plume arrested at White House, demanding a halt to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Photo Debra White Plume giving Lewis and Clark re-enactors a symbolic blanket of smallpox. Photo by Brenda Norrell, Chamberlain, South Dakota

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Sept. 23, 2020

We celebrate today Debra White Plume, Oglala Lakota, and her courage and bravery as a matriarch for a new generation. We share with you the words of our longtime friend, who was one of the first writers for Censored News.

We honor her bold actions for truth as she fought for the water at the Red Warrior Camp in Standing Rock, fought against the Keystone XL Pipeline and was arrested in Washington, and stood to block the megaload trucks in South Dakota.

Speaking out for the water and land, she battles uranium mining in her homelands at Pine Ridge and founded Owe Aku International Justice Project, Bring Back the Way.

When AIM confronted the Lewis and Clark re-enactors on the banks of the Missouri River, and demanded they leave the Lakota homeland in September of 2004, Debra was there.

Debra gave the Lewis and Clark re-enactors a symbolic blanket of smallpox. 

“You are re-enacting genocide,” Debra told the re-enactors.

Alex White Plume said, "I remember how he jumped when Debra gave him the blanket. She said, 'We don't want your disease and bad oppressive laws that keep us in prisons called reservations."

We celebrate Debra's bold action with the Water Protectors at the Red Warrior Camp at Standing Rock, with her own words in the fall of 2016.

Speaking from the Red Warrior Camp at Standing Rock, as Water Protectors defend the Missouri River from Dakota Access Pipeline, Debra speaks on direct action and protection of the water. 

"There's a real good spirit of unity and solidarity here," Debra said, speaking out for NVDA, non-violent direct action, to protect the water. Debra describes soft actions and hard actions of lockdowns. "We halted the construction of Dakota Access Pipeline," she said of those who locked downed to equipment and were arrested.

"We are there to halt the construction."

"Water has to be protected from everyday human beings, and that is what we are," Debra said, describing the love and generosity at the Standing Rock camps.

Listen to Debra's words on Standing Rock Spirit Resistance Radio:

This live interview by Govinda Dalton was broadcast on Standing Rock Spirit Resistance Radio from Oceti Sakowin Camp in Standing Rock in 2016. It was recorded by Censored News, as we battled the cyber attackers who attempted to stop the flow of the live show in camp and online. Standing Rock Spirit Resistence Radio was re-broadcast  by radio stations throughout North America and the world.

Debra White Plume and Kent Lebsock
Owe Aku International Justice Project
Photo by Kent Lebsock 

We share with you Debra's words in December of 2016, following the Red Warrior Camp at Standing Rock, and the fight against the Black Snake.

As Long As the Water Flows, As Long As the Sweet Grass Grows by Wioweya Najin Win, Debra White Plume

Since August of this year, many people put their lives aside and gave all to fight the Black Snake. Many people from all four directions prayed for our water to be protected from the Black Snake DAPL. Many water warriors stood the frontline and were chewed up by the meat grinder of North Dakota, surrounding states, the National Guard, and DAPL hired security firms. Arms were shot off. Eyes were blown out. Skulls were broken. Bones were broken. Frontline water warriors never surrendered, never backed down from the FAT TAKER. Politicians worked hard to lobby for support. Attorneys worked hard. Everyone did the best we could. As I mentioned in the battle to shut down the KXL of TransCanada, we are all threads in the fabric of resistance.

We must not rest easy. We must not trust this enemy of Mother Earth to go away. DAPL may decide to drill on, and simply pay the fine for drilling without a permit. DAPL may trick the decision-makers to accept the Black Snake inside perimeters, but it will still be inside the perimeter.

Hundreds of people went to jail, some are facing serious charges that can land them locked in jail for decades, for simply doing their jobs as media and medics. Some for being grabbed up in police sweeps long after an action was completed. Some for being set up by DAPL and police informers, infiltrators and provocateurs. Many lives have been changed forever by being engaged in this battle for the past 5 months.
Individuals have formed bonds with others, creating new family. The bonds of frontline battle never go away. No one can understand this, if one has not gone through this experience.

The PTSD never goes away either. The sound of airplanes flying low overhead, of helicopters chop chop chopping 24 hours a day. One does not forget that sound. For many, this has been the experience of a lifetime and they will go away with fond remembrances, never to be in such a camp again. For a lot of us, we will carry on with our work, make our prayers, put our lives back together the best way we can once we get home, if we still have a home to go back to. Rest awhile, refresh, eat and sleep-and prepare for the next battle. That's what water warriors do. That's what Black Snake Killas do.

America is a huge beast, FAT TAKER is a huge beast. European banks are a huge beast. FAT TAKER is never satisfied. FAT TAKER always wants more. It took the generosity of millions of people to donate and keep donating, to the people in all the camps. We could not have done it without that generosity. All the attorneys, politicians, organizers who worked non-stop, all that work was necessary. But we cannot rest now.

The Black Snake may be hibernating, resting to come at us again. Stay vigilant. Our SacredWater needs us. All of us. The many generations, the many races of humans, the many religions of people.
As long as there is one Indian left, there will be a fight for the land and the water. As long as the water flows, as long as the sweetgrass grows, we must keep our eyes open and watch for FAT TAKER.

Marching against the Keystone XL Tarsands Pipeline in South Dakota

Moccasins on the Ground to Protect Sacred Water  by Debra White Plume (March 2013)

Lakota know we love Unci Maka. All of Unci Maka. Our ancestors were free, to follow the Star Nation Path (the Good Red Road), to roam, to hunt, to be happy, to have sacred water. Then one day, FAT TAKER came thru camp, and stole the fat that many women prepared to get their lodges through the harsh prairie winters. From then on, it was the beginning of a war our ancestors waged in defense of their children, their babies, their, and our, sacred path of life. The gunfire may have ended at Wounded Knee in 1890 on that day when the 7th Calvary massacred unarmed women, children, old people, and men. But the war continues.

America continues to violate international law, which is what a treaty is. Our ancestors made the 1851 and 1868 Ft Laramie Treaty with the United States to retain territory and make peace. America violated the Treaty Law when Fat Taker found gold, and they have been violating it ever since. America recently admitted their guilt in being a Fat Taker, through the unilateral (because no one bothered to talk with Traditional government about this lawsuit) approval of the Cobell Settlement, which awarded a few billion to the many many Red Nations peoples who America stole money from in the amount of $134 billion dollars worth of what American calls "natural resources". These were taken off Unci Maka to make a profit for a few Fat Takers, leaving destruction and contamination behind that our Red Nations have to live and die with.

Our Treaty boundaries encompass a large part of the Great Plains. This is our ancestral territory that we retained through Treaty. We, to this day, love this land, and feel that we need to take care of it. At one point in time, America called, after illegal takings of other unceeded territory, the remaining portions this land base "the Great Sioux Reservation". Nonetheless, we are our own sovereign Nation!

Therein lies some of the confusion as to the understanding of the American people when we speak of "reservations". The place where I live now is the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. Officially, in the records of the American government's Interior Department (where the national parks, animals, and plants are managed, is also where the Indians and our lands are "managed") Pine Ridge Reservation is acknowledged as Prisoner of War Camp 344. In the past days, our people were not under the Interior Department, we were classified under the War Department. American Indians (sic) are the only people in this big land who have ANOTHER number, beyond the social security number of all Americans. We have our "Indian" number, our Prisoner of War number. Mine begins with 344. So America knows I dwell within Prisoner of War Camp 344. Think about that for a while.

In our work to protect Treaty Territory, Human Rights, Treaty Rights, we make allies all over the world to educate about our situation in POW Camp #344, our Treaties, and our obligation and privilege to protect lands and waters for our coming generations. We have many American people allies. Sometimes they make the human error of going by information they find about us, and utilize American records, and America refers to some of our land base as the "Great Sioux Reservation" which was a collective land base for our Nations to live on together, vs the individual 'reservation' landbases that remain after American carved out all our Treaty Territory that they wanted for the Fat. These individual 'reservations' are where the distinct Bands (I am of the Oglala Band) reside today.

There is a tarsands oil pipeline, the Keystone XL pipeline, planned by TransCanada, Inc. that will pierce through our Treaty Territory, or, if you go by American records, parts of the "Great Sioux Reservation". It will cross hundreds of rivers, streams, creeks, and it will be over our Ogallala Aquifer, which spans 8 states from South Dakota to Texas, and it will cross our piped-in drinking water as well. This aquifer is also our source of drinking water for portions of the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Cheyenne River Eagle Butte Reservation, and Rosebud Reservation, which by the way, also depend on the piped-in drinking water. We must protect our drinking water.

The American process of citizen involvement is designed to make people feel they have a voice. However, as the process applies to "American Indians", the process is flawed to benefit the United States and any corporations who want to do business on our lands. America claims their process gives us voice to express our concerns and needs and RIGHTS. We know this is to be fallacy, a myth, a disguise for Fat Taker to continue to get their way.

TransCanada has a website that displays our Moccasins on the Ground Activist Training poster. TC claims they have utilized this American process to "work with" the tribes, but it is just more of the manipulation of Fat Taker to get what they want. Say our "tribe" meets with the American entities of EPA, BLM, etc. and we voice "NO, don't come through here." The entities will say, but we have the right to come through there, it does not violate any law. That is not a consultation, it is the federal government TELLING us what they will do. Our Red Nations have all opposed the KXL pipeline and called upon Lakota to defend the water.

TransCanada is trying to make a big deal out of a mistaken American identification of who our people are and what are Territories consist of. TransCanada is trying to explain away how their tarsands KXL pipeline application process for a permit to enter the big land is all above board and honest and good. Ask the non-Indian American ranchers and farmers from Montana to Texas how above board TC and America have behaved. They lost their lands to eminent domain to TC. They are the new Indians of today, the federal government is helping Fat Taker to take their lands now, against their wishes.

Folks have to take caution, and read between the lines of what these Fat Taker corporations say, as they manipulate the English language and play with words to make themselves look like they are not Fat Taker, that they are honest and good. Do not be deceived by Fat Taker. Stand with us to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and shut down tarsands oil mine. Stand with us now while there is still time to stop them. Take courage! We do have the right to protect our sacred water for our children and grandchildren. It is their water. We must be prepared to protect that which is for our generations.

We are now hosting a three-day training session to learn from each other how to protect our sacred water using non-violent direct action, which, by the way, is a right of all citizens in this big land. We will make allies, learn new skills, share existing effective skills that will make us stronger in our collective action of putting our Moccasins on the Ground to protect our sacred water. Hecetuwe. (It is so so.)

Debra White Plume

Owe Aku, Bring Back the Way

Oglala Vice President Tom Poor Bear, Debra White Plume and Tantoo Cardinal speaking out against the tar sands and Keystone XL pipeline at the White House in November 2011

Protect Our Good Red Road by Debra White Plume, writing from the banks of Wounded Knee Creek, August 21, 2012

“As long as the water flows and the sweetgrass grows” are words Red Nations people take seriously, like in Treaty-Making. We have learned the so-called United States is a trickster. They are settler invaders who occupy our lands across Turtle Island. As Lakota people, we know who we are and where we come from. We went deep underground for generations, and emerged through Wind Cave in the sacred Black Hills, a place that is located in the middle of this land, to live on Mother Earth again.

We call the Black Hills He Sapa. In our Lakota language, we call He Sapa “The Heart of Everything That Is”, it is sacred land. To make a long story short, our Lakota Nation fought the US military for decades for our freedom and territory, we made Treaty with them in 1851 and 1868 after they begged for Peace. We retained a land base including the He Sapa. After the US made bounty on the Buffalo Nation and almost wiped them out as part of the Scorched Earth Policy to get us off the land (in violation of the Treaties), we came in to be counted. We were each given an Indian Number, and assigned to Prisoner of War Camps. Pine Ridge Reservation was POW Camp 344. We, the Oglala Band of the Lakota Nation, live the closest of the Tetuwan Oyate to the He Sapa, the other Lakota and Dakota Bands located nearby.

                                 Photo by Kent Lebsock 

When our ancestors came in off the land they had a star map and a land map they had preserved through decades of warfare with the US. The Star Map shows constellations, the Earth Map shows land where our people are to be when the stars are in a certain position, and what ceremony we are to have in that place at that time.  As traditional Lakota people, we are schooled in this way from the womb, so by adulthood, we know this deep in our spirits, hearts, and minds. We teach it on to the next generation, and to those who grew up assimilated and colonized but want to reclaim their Lakota identity. We are to hold our ceremonies at a certain place on Mother Earth when the stars travel to their special place in the sky during the seasons, when done this way by the Lakota people, we call this the Good Red Road. This is what Lakota people are talking about when we say we are walking the Good Red Road, we are traveling through He Sapa in ceremony just as the Stars are traveling through the sky.  We also say “He Sapa is the Heart of Our Home, He Sapa is the Home of our Heart”, so our ancestors fought for it, and so do we. Love is a very powerful force!

One part of the Good Red Road is a prairie area called Pe Sla, in Treaty Territory that the US stole when gold was discovered. Unilaterally approving laws in violation of the Treaty, the US made land available to settlers through gradual encroachment. The Reynolds family began obtaining parcels of land on Pe Sla 136 years ago. Local legend has it they tried to mine for gold there, but found none, no one did, so they bought out the other settlers, one by one. Now the descendants of the early settlers want to sell the land through an auction on August 26 in Rapid City. Every bone in my body tells me this is wrong. Not just illegal, but wrong. It tears at my heart to think part of our Good Red Road is being auctioned. Pe Sla is a place that fills your heart with love and joy, and when you go there, you just want to cry, and the healing tears fall, the power there is so strong. It is a place where generations of Lakota have sent their voices to the Universe. We want our generations to be able to go there, too. All of our Lakota way, belongs to our children’s children, and so on. We are keeping care of the Lakota way, for them, to carry on. So we are in a dilemma. 

Photo by Kent Lebsock 

Certain circumstances can prevail upon a person to behave in a manner that is fundamentally contrary to one’s belief system, instincts, and historical frame of reference. To even sporadically arrive at this conclusion is shocking! Talk about a paradigm shift!

Such is the situation when faced with a very real possibility that sacred ancestral land, that in living memory has not been available to the people, is suddenly obtainable!  Imagine that YOU must get permission from those who withhold it, when you want to pray in ceremony, how would that make you feel? Deprived of your ancestral identity, who will you be? Our Lakota ceremonies are who we are. Without our ceremonies, we cease to be Lakota. We must have access to our sacred places that collectively make up the Good Red Road, for us, here on earth.

While paying money for Pe Sla in the paradigm of western thought is repugnant, knowing what may happen if it developers buy it is more horrendous. The lesser of two evils is to purchase that land to get it off the auction block. The worst scenario is to do nothing, and risk the land passing into hands of a big Fat Taker who will wring every red cent out of it that he can, carelessly destroying the land. While the land purchase is not a happy option, it is seen by some as realistic, the temptation is there to go for it. Buy the land, get it back, even if it is already ours. Take care of it like a good relative! 

One does not easily get comfortable with the decision. Inner conflict rises, you know that feeling of uneasiness, like a distracted thought, just out of reach? Doubts rise, begin to spread, just as that first glimmer of chance that “yes, we can get that land back!” brought elation. If we could see what it looks like, the going back and forth between the conflicting paradigms, intellectually and emotionally, I imagine the image would look like waves in the ocean, rising, falling, going this way and that way, as we change our minds, is it right or wrong to buy this land? Many people suffer this.

 Meanwhile, a group of people has committed to the land purchase option and they are taking action. They are the steady rock of firm belief that this is the route to take, they are leading the way for people to accept the purchase option and have spurred a collective action to raise funds and awareness. This group is called the Last Real Indians, an organization of professional, educated, dedicated Red Nations people. While most Tetuwan Oyate have identity based on ancestral freedom and way of life, it is also possible, and often necessary, to be able to successfully navigate life in the western world's processes on an ‘as-needed basis’, without relinquishing ones' ancient ways.

Such rationale supports the immediate option that requires about $10 million, maybe more, and it is a peaceful option. Will it hurt our stance that the land is our Territory by Treaty? Legal minds say no, because it is not Traditional Government doing this work, raising funds, or bidding at the auction; it is Tribal Councils, individuals, organizations that operate in the framework of the US.

A discussion in Indian Country reflects the belief that it is ludicrous that land purchase is the ONLY immediate option, when most Red Nations people believe that it is ALSO an option for the US government to honor the Ft Laramie Treaties, and relinquish its’ illegal and immoral “title” to the land.  After all, the Treaties are legally binding international documents. The US does not make treaties with ethnic minorities now, does it? It makes treaties with other Nations and its Constitution states that treaties are the supreme law of the land. The US Supreme Court in 1980 ruled that the illegal taking of the He Sapa was the “ripest, rankest case of land theft in its history” then awarded millions of dollars to compensate the Lakota Nation, who refuse the money. Other Governments all over the earth are returning stolen lands and territories to indigenous people. What is preventing the US from taking such action?

The United Nations Special Rapporteur, Mr James Anaya, acknowledges how the return of the Black Hills to the Great Sioux Nation would be a way for the US to begin reconciliation with the Lakota Nation, stating: “that's a situation where indigenous people have seen over time, encroachment on to their land, and they've lost vast territories. there have been clear instances of broken treaty promises. It's undisputed that the Black Hills was guaranteed them by treaty and that treaty was outright violated by the United States, That has been recognized by the US supreme court," he said. he reserves recommendations on a plan for land restoration until his final report to the UN human rights council in September. “I'm talking about restoring to indigenous peoples what they're entitled to and have a legitimate claim to in a way that is not divisive but restorative. That's the idea behind reconciliation," he said.

As folks everywhere prepare to go to the auction, it is important to know where they are going.  While the richest gold mine in the history of the world was in the He Sapa, it has closed, mined out. Alot of the settlers who came here back in the day were gold miners, people who were FAT TAKERS, our term for selfish greedy people. They saw us, along with the 7th Calvary who grew tired of fighting us, (we are known incorrectly as the Great Sioux Nation) as folks who should be rubbed out. Indeed, many US leaders said so! Dig deep into history to find those old quotes. Mt Rushmore is carved into a mountain in our sacred He Sapa, four faces of American Presidents, a major attraction in a state dependent on tourist dollars. Crazy Horse, carved into granite, is a desecration that attracts major tourist revenue, and is commonly viewed as a twisted Fat Taker gesture to “honor” a great War Chief who gave his life to protect the Lakota people, lifeway, land. Tourist attractions are protected by SD law, while Lakota are prohibited from sacred lands so tourists can free roam to spend dollars. James Anaya of the UN knows what he’s talking about!

Rapid City (RC) is the site of the auction to sell 2,000 acres of Pe Sla. RC was the site of a US Civil Rights Hearing years ago to examine many violent crimes against the Lakota by whites; RC is known for the dozen deaths of Lakota men who “drown” in Rapid Creek, while it is rare for Lakota men to drown in their homelands, for some reason, they drown in RC; RC is known for shoot-outs between the RC Police and Lakota men, sometimes the police die, sometimes the Lakota die. Sometimes both die. Who said the ‘wild west’ was over?

There was recently a march there of Lakota people demanding justice for a blind elder who came out of heart surgery with KKK burned or cut into his torso; indeed, a town nearby still displays photographs of their last KKK Rally in full regalia, held in my childhood. SD social services is under investigation for high rates of Lakota children taken from their families and placed in non-Lakota homes that all get a pretty penny from the state, while Lakota relatives are ignored, overlooked, and never receive one red cent, anyway. RC is where a big trial was held for a white attorney who was guilty of taking pornographic photographs of his foster Lakota daughters. SD was the second place in the US to pass the “show me your papers” law targeted at immigrants from “Mexico”.

So in RC, where Human Rights and Civil Rights hearings have to be held, we can think that there will be nicey-nice doings at the Pe Sla auction, yes we actually have many friends and allies among the white people in SD! Yet, SD history shows wherever there might be more than 3 Lakota people, there is intensified police presence, like state troopers, US Marshalls, FBI, and Homeland Security. Like at the US State Dept Hearing in Pierre, SD recently regarding TransCanada’s proposed oil pipeline. They expected many Lakota to testify on behalf of sacred water and earth, therefore, against the Keystone XL Pipeline, so police presence was intense!

A comment in an area newspaper this week says: "The US stole all that land fair and square. They stole pretty much the whole of this nation. It is one's right as a European to steal anything under the notion of manifest destiny. Make those Indians pay something to get back what was stolen from them. After all giving back stolen goods is not in the best interests of the thieves.”

            While the purchase option is controversial, it is an immediate solution to a BIG problem: access to sacred places that are part of our identity. It is achievable, to make the fast purchase now, and to keep working to get the Ft Laramie Treaties upheld, a struggle that has been going on since 1868 and that we have not abandoned.

Lakota elder Leonard Little Finger when asked by a reporter about the possibility of being outbid at the auction said, “if someone else buys Pe Sla and won’t let the Lakota go there to pray, we’ll still go and if they shoot us or disallow us, there’ll be others that come.”  We have the inherent right to be who we are, so do our children’s children, no government should have the power and support of its people to deliberately take our people’s identity away, to break apart our Good Red Road.

“Crying Earth Rise Up,” documentary showcased in Crawford, Neb., in 2015 and exposed Canadian uranium mining giant Cameco Corp. for renewal and expansion of permits at nearby Crow Butte in-situ leach operations.

Speaking at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Debra spoke of protecting the water and the land and described the white man, the fat takers.

She told of the coming of a white man in heavy winter when there was deep snow. In those early times, fat was tied in the trees in a bladder or stomach bag of the buffalo. Fat was a very valuable substance because there is no fat on buffalo, elk or deer, except for a little around the kidneys.

The starving white man came for the bundles of fat. “He took them all, stuffed them all down his mouth. We called him the fat taker. He thought only of himself. He didn’t think of the women who worked for five months to gather the fat so we would have it through the five months of winter.”

Those words reflect the untold history of exploitation and greed when white men arrived on this continent. When Lewis and Clark re-enactors arrived in South Dakota, Debra gave them a symbolic blanket of smallpox. 

Debra speaks on 'fat takers' at the University of Arizona in Tucson

Lakotas arrested at a blockade of tarsands pipeline trucks.

(MARCH 5, 2012) Debra White Plume, released from jail in Kyle, South Dakota, said Monday night, "Alex, myself, Sam Long Black Cat, Andrew Iron Shell and Terrell Eugene Iron Shell were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct."
"We formed a blockade to stop tarsands oil mine equipment from passing our lands. The truckers told us the corporation office from Calgary, Alberta, Canada and the State of South Dakota made a deal to save the truckers $50,000 per truck, there were two trucks, from having to pay $100,000," Debra White Plume told Censored News.
"There were about 50 to 75 people on the blockade at the village of Wanblee in Eagle Nest District on the northern side of the Pine Ridge rez."

Debra White Plume Testimony on May 1st to the UN Special Rapporteur, May 1, 2012

Testimony of Debra White Plume, Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Pine Ridge, South Dakota at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

Mitakuye na Oyate kin na Mr. Anaya, iyuskinya cante waste nape ciyuspape. Cante mawaste lel wahi. Wasicu caje kin Debra White Plume. Ite Sica Tioyspaye ematanhan.

Translation: My relatives, the people, and Mr. Anaya, I shake your hands with a good heart. I come here with a good heart. My English name is Debra White Plume, I come from the Red Cloud Family.

I speak for Owe Aku, Bring Back the Way, a grassroots Oglala Lakota non-governmental organization, and do work at the direction of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council. I speak as a Grandmother, as the lead plaintiff against the world’s largest uranium producer, Cameco, Inc., and as an activist.

Mr. Anaya, I give you good greetings and acknowledge your presence here on Lakota Homelands in your role as Special Rapporteur for the United Nations and in your very serious responsibility to express the voice of Native Nations peoples across this land to gather information and report on the American governments’ treatment of our people regarding the conditions our people live under and experience on the historical basis that becomes transformative to the daily experience of today’s modern society.

As you know, our people have made the Ft Laramie Treaties with the United States. Our ancestors retained a Homeland for us to live on undisturbed. However, once the United States “discovered” gold in our Territory, they broke the Treaty, they broke their word, and they broke international law.

The United States allowed and allows, supported and supports corporate encroachment onto our Homelands to get at the gold in our sacred Black Hills. The Homestake gold mine corporation and later the uranium mining corporations were and are allowed to come here to our Homelands to extract minerals and metals for private profit and then to leave their mess behind when they have mined out their profits.

The mining fouled and fouls our sacred water and lands. This relationship between the United States government and corporations continues to this day.

There are uranium, oil, and gas corporations here now, and more want to come. We did not invite them.

America welcomes Canadian-owned Cameco uranium corporation, TransCanada oil pipeline corporation, and PowerTech uranium corporation to come and obtain permits to mine uranium and slurry oil in our Territory against our wishes, this extraction and pipeline threaten our Ogalalla Aquifer, which gives 2 million people drinking water and irrigates the world's breadbasket.

We have not given our free, prior and informed consent as required by the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, we know not everyone is satisfied with the Declaration, but it is a minimum standards document.

Our lands, waters, and peoples have been under constant assault by government-sanctioned Fat Taker corporations since the formation of the Settler Nation. Around here, the deadly radioactivity unleashed by uranium mining corporations contaminants our sacred ground and surface waters, and the in situ leach mining method of mining is permitted to store forever, deep underground, toxic waste as an unlicensed nuclear waste dump. This is all occurring 30 minutes from our southern border on the Pine Ridge and within Treaty Territory.

The United States federal Indian policy does not recognize but instead violates the Ft Laramie Treaties. This practice allows corporations to come to our land, make profit while contaminating our Homelands and our People, who are sick, suffering and dying from the impacts of mining and United States government practices.

United States federal Indian policy does not, does not increase health care budgets or environmental protection budgets to alleviate deadly mining impacts to our people and coming generations.

The United States government blatantly continues to violate our Treaties and their own water laws while our people are dying. A long time ago, our ancestors said the Settler Nation could use as much of our land as was between the wheels of the wagon train and allowed them to pass through our Territory. However, greed overtook the Settler Nation.

Now today the United States government’s federal Indian policy lumps all Native Nations together, and calls us American Indians. This attacks our dignity and this de-humanizes us, and we find it ludicrous that this young United States Settler Nation government wants to dominate our ancient Peoples and Nations and observe the new map they have drawn that not only ignores Treaty Territory but also ignores the ancient maps of our Lakota Nation: the Mother Earth map and the Star Nation map ...that correspond with each other and that guides us to be Lakota people and Lakota Nation. All lands inside our maps have been under constant attack since the Settler Nation became greedy Fat Takers.

In Wounded Knee in 1890 the 7th Calvary of the United States used gatling guns to massacre unarmed men, women, and children. Today it is the United States federal Indian policy that is the gatling gun the American government is using against our people. The death may be slower, but it is just as sure.

We want to honor the two items our people carried onto our Homelands in the Treaty Era, the Star Nation map and the Mother Earth map. These were the two items we brought with us, to what American calls Prisoner of War Camp 344, and what is now known as the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Mr. Anaya, I ask you to keep this message clear, do not pretty up my testimony. I am saying that America is committing ethnocide against our way of life, ecocide against our Mother Earth, and genocide in our Lakota Homelands. Our Human Rights are being violated and our Inherent Right to live as Lakota People and Nation is being violated as well. Without access to our lands and waters, we cannot live our collective Inherent Rights to be who we are.

We must have our lands. Share this message with the world. The United States Supreme Court agreed our Territory was stolen by the United States and was the ripest, rankest case of land theft in the United States of America’s history and thus awarded us millions of dollars. Tell the world we refused the money. We want our lands and our waters. We want our Treaties upheld. We must have our lands.

Wioweya Egna Najin Win miye. Lila wopila, mitakuyepi na Mr. Anaya.

Translation: I am Stands Among the Colors of the Sun Woman. I thank you, my relatives and Mr. Anaya.

Left Forum, New York, March 2012

Debra White Plume (Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge) spoke about her life as a mother, a grandmother, a life-long activist and a woman who’s responsibility was always to protect Ina Maka (Mother Earth). In an eloquent style for which she is known, she described the Lakota way of life through the history, stories and the contemporary struggles she is involved in with our people to preserve sacred water from uranium mining, the Keystone XL Pipeline and the myriad other assaults occurring on Lakota treaty territory. 

“Corporations and their governments are responsible for raiding precious drinking water, including North America’s largest underground lake, the Oglala Aquifer in Lakota territory running from the Dakotas to Texas, and the boreal forest eco-system in Alberta, Canada which provides 80% of the world’s drinking water.” She stressed the importance of all of us taking responsibility, each day, for protecting the sacred water upon which all life relies. Lakota identity exists within the interrelated circles of family, tiyospaye (clan) and nation and how these define our relationships to one another and to Ina Maka. She received an ovation from the people gathered when they learned that only days before she had been arrested, along with other Lakota people, stopping heavy haul trucks bound for the tarsands from crossing Lakota territory.

Owe Aku, which means “Bring Back the Way” is the organization that she and her family created on the Pine Ridge Reservation in order to preserve Lakota culture and lifeways. In reflecting on the Left Forum, Debra stated that “if we impacted some people yesterday, with the truth of our lives, and our love for Mother Earth, and taught them something about the workings of the Lakota and Dine minds, then we have done good. If we shared with them a perspective that includes personal responsibility and prompted them to look inside and examine their own paradigm, then we have done something good.”


Tetuwan Okshila said...

wow, thank you Brenda for your sincere and comprehensive article on my sister's activism and lifelong work.

Yvonne Swan said...

I have a lot of respect for my sister/friend, Debra White Plume. She doesn't know what fear is. Every time we talk, she tells me of another coup that she and other women counted as if it was a daily routine. One that comes to mind is them stopping helicopters from landing by running under them where they wanted to land. I mean, you cannot love the earth any more than that. Much love and much respect for you, Debra, and all the people you are helping and teaching. Stay strong.