Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 13, 2021

'Find Your Bravery' Tara Houska Shot with Rubber Bullets and Jailed in Solitary Confinement

By Tara Zhaabowekwe Houska
Censored News

Fifteen days ago I got shot with rubber bullets, mace, and pepper balls paid for by Enbridge. I heard shouts, cries, and gasping coughing punctuated by the sound of munitions firing and a huge drill out of a sci-fi movie boring thru the river we were there to protect. I heard a woman paid to organize against Line 3 screaming at us that we were violent, that we needed to stop.

I heard a woman screaming who had blood pouring down her face from the rubber bullet that had hit her. I heard the sound of my own breath rattling in my respirator.

Four of us jumped off a ladder into a wall of police. I figured I might be seriously injured, but the sound of the drill filled my head. It was all I could hear, at the end. In our handcuffs and zip ties, the 4 rubber bullets that hit me and the chemicals all over my body began to burn as some cops laughed at us, others looked uncomfortable.

I was put into solitary confinement for 4 days after that, after a trip to the hospital because the fire red on the back of my left knee was concerning even to the police. My mind played young people being shot at under a smoky sky with a red sun next to a nearly-empty river being drilled under on an endless loop.

Pennington County refused me anything to read or write on until the last night, when I got a Bible. I read the New Testament that night, reflected on Jesus the human being, the revolutionary.

When I stepped out into sunshine, the smiles and songs of land defenders greeted. The world felt brave again.

I was handed my phone, full of rumors, anger, and vicious messages over the course of my time in jail. Those messages kept pouring in while I tried to eat, shower, rest. As I sat listening to stories of media stints, of needing to apologize for being screamed at by our own, of how I should’ve been wearing body armor, of how I was spreading rumors from behind bars, of what I should’ve done and should’ve done and should’ve done, my own bruised body wondered if I counted as a Native woman who had just experienced intense violence.

Many times during the 7 years I’ve fought back against Line 3, my own personhood has felt entirely absent, I’ve been nothing but a means to an end for so many at different moments. A workhorse, a rival, a scapegoat, a stonewall, an outsider, an insider, a radical, a liberal, it goes on. Manoomin and nibi are never present in those definitions.

That drill filling the air. Filling the world.

The machines are just south of our camp now, these woods I’ve lived in for 3 years. The night after getting out of solitary, Line 3 construction kept on shaking the earth, relentless and desperate to finish.

Seven days ago, I went home. I spent time with my dearest ones, with my family. Gojijiing-zaaga’igan is as powerful as ever. The sun danced on waves, my phone stayed off, the seagulls cried, the concrete walls felt further away, the young faces twisted in pain were held by the water, by the cedar.

Three days ago, I drove away from the lake that holds my ancestors and heart to a meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers. Another kick down the road, another refusal to answer. We are owed a yes or no. Pictures of scraped, bruised, lacerated flesh partnered with slide shows of chemical spills in rivers and wetlands. Native people demanding the respect and dignity mandated by law.

One of my wounds seems to be permanent, with hard scar tissue underneath. Hubbard County used pain compliance techniques on the fearless defenders who stopped Enbridge’s machines 2 days ago. Police brutality on behalf of a foreign corporation.

But the beauty of young people smiling and determined is here again in these woods. The sounds of the machines continue on past the trees.

Pray for us. Stand with us, if you can. Find your bravery. Our Mother needs us, so badly.
Never forget the humanity inside every human being on earth.


designer1 said...

Thank you all for your courage and strength. You have our love and support.
Where can we send our support?
I'm in New Jersey and cannot travel, but would like to support you as best we can.
Green blessings,

Unknown said...

What a hearttouching letter. Thank you for the truth, thank you for protecting the Land, the people, mother earth. Stand strong and proud, the ancestors are on your side dear Tara and Earthprotectors. I have you all in my prayers.
Creators blessings to you all and all native people.

Sandra Star