Indigenous Women: Nations, Cultures, Voices

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Dakota Pipeline: Unvanquished Perserverance & Hope

b2ap3_thumbnail_th_Jenni-Monet-Oceti-Sakowin-water-protectors-FB-live-2-22-17.jpgLike General Braddock and his colonial-era armies that slaughtered Eastern Woodlands Indigenous peoples in Pennsylvania and Colonel Chivington (a Methodist minister) who lead his army against the Cheyenne ending in the massacre of Natives at Sand Creek in the 1800s, the 45th President of the United States and his supporters are leading a 21st century war under the same old banner of "social progress." However, this 21st century colonial war is for the same reason and intention of all previous colonial wars in America and around the world: confiscation of land, natural resources, and the willful harm of Indigenous people's cultural expression, personhood, and sovereignty. In this 21st century war it is ever clearer how those who benefit and support the old Dominator power structures continue to exploit and desecrate the land and Mother Earth's resources. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_DAPL-action-2017-Ray-Cook.jpgThe photograph above is a scene from Oceti Sakowin Camp that housed the protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline who left the camp this past week. Protestors numbered up to 10,000 at times over the course of the movement. Indigenous people from all over Turtle Island came to the aid of the Standing Rock Sioux nation, and advocates of all races and identities, especially American Veterans, came to show their support of tribal sovereignty and protection of the Earth. On February 22 Water Protectors left the camp ceremonially (and somberly) singing and drumming to honor the work behind them and all that is still left to do. Some of the few protestors remaining were arrested by police. The photo just above shows police in riot gear and thus the level of tension and threat the Water Protectors bravely faced.

b2ap3_thumbnail_archambault_ii-dc_sept_26-courtesy_teko_alejo-facebook.jpgWhat remains behind is the Sacred Will of the People--sweat lodge ceremonies, prayers, singing, drumming, and cosmic union of ancestors, animals, earth and humanity that flourished during the protests. Memories of militarized police violence, the assault of Elders, the confiscation of sacred objects, the herding of Indigenous peoples into cages like they were animals by police in riot gear, rubber bullets, concussion grenades, and hosing down peaceful protestors with water canons in 20 degree weather all remain in the protestors' memories, in media coverage, and in the minds of advocates from the around the world. Above, a photograph from Indian Country Today Media Network of Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II in Washington D.C. on September 26, 2016, addressing supporters in the fight against the Dakota Access oil pipeline's routing under the Missouri River near the reservation.

But the Indigenous peoples--and all non-violent advocates for justice throughout history--will do what they have always done in the face of a difficult cause: the Water Protectors have receded into safety where they will grow strong and live to fight another day. Like the Indigenous peoples of the Eastern Woodlands who hid in Plain Sight in order to survive by telling their EuroAmerican neighbors they were "Italians", the Native Americans will prevail. Like the Mohegan nation that built a church on their land but still practiced their traditions and only spoke their language in secret, the Natives will prevail. Like the Blackfeet that won their treaty dispute before the Supreme Court; like the Ojibwe that won their fight for return of some of their lands--no matter how defeated the Indigenous peoples may currently appear to be, they will prevail because....

THEY HAVE ALWAYS PREVAILED. b2ap3_thumbnail_Girls_20170226-180952_1.jpg

As I remind my students, Mother Earth NEVER discriminates when it comes to sharing Herself with humanity. She shares freely with all who need regardless of identity or social rank. Alternatively, human pollution affects us all as well, though not equally: poor people of all races and Native Americans living in Native communities experience their lands being polluted and impacted at far greater rates than middle and upper-class Americans' geographic spaces. This is why it is essential that all people participate in advocacy to protect the most vulnerable communities in our country from exploitation.

Being an ADVOCATE and not just a sympathizer is very important in the work of social justice. Working together, honoring the perspectives and voices of those for whom you are advocating, and remaining diligent in our approach yields results! Energy Transfer Company with the aid of some components of the U.S. Government, particularly the 45th President, have pushed forward in the struggle. But Native people have 500 years of experience in their collective histories of fighting oppression to draw from, and with the essential help of everyone who cares about Native people and the Earth Mother, we can keep earth corruptors at bay....Let us all listen for what the Water Protectors declare is the next step.

Until then, we will think of the next seven generations and all who have struggled before us. For them, we will NEVER give up because we cannot.b2ap3_thumbnail_vintage-native-american-girls-portrait-photography-36-575a88a99f15d__700.jpg



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Dr. Mays is a professional writer with a doctoral degree in Native American Studies who has taught at the college level for nearly two decades. She is committed to educating about Indigenous cultures, especially about practices that specifically relate to women, in order to raise awareness about current issues in Indian Country, dissolve stereotypes, and create healing among all communities.


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