Mni Wiconi: water threatened again!

Following is from Chase Iron Eyes, Legal Counsel, The Lakota People’s Law Project:

In 2016 and ‘17, you stood with Standing Rock because you knew the importance of the Lakota maxim: Mni Wiconi — water is life. Decades back, a liberal Congress understood that, too, which is why a conduit that carries fresh water from the Missouri River to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is named the Mni Wiconi Rural Water Supply System.

As described here by the Guardian, the Oglala Lakota Nation gets about half of our water through the Mni Wiconi. The other half comes from private wells and the deeper Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers. If the Keystone XL oil pipeline (KXL) is completed, it will traverse the Mni Wiconi in two locations, cross tributaries that flow into the Missouri River, and endanger both our aquifers. There literally isn’t a drop of our water supply that isn’t threatened by KXL.

If that isn’t scary enough, uranium mining — licensed by the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations in the 1950s and ‘60s and tied to nuclear weapons manufacturing — has, at times, contaminated water near Pine Ridge. Extraction looms over us in multiple ways, threatening our water and threatening our health.

“Hot Water,” a powerful documentary available on Amazon, talks about the tragic effects of contamination on our people. The filmmakers have generously allowed us to share a special excerpt with you here.

Oglala Lakota President Julian Bear Runner and I were both unlawfully arrested in 2017 for trying to stop the Dakota Access pipeline from traversing our Oceti Sakowin Oyate — with all charges now dismissed.

In 2020, we pledge to keep fighting to safeguard water by attending to contamination issues and by doing all we can to stop KXL in its tracks.

I wish a happy New Year to you and yours, and I ask that you stay active with me in this battle. By holding our coalition together, we water protectors can and will continue to make a tremendous difference.

Wopila — Our gratitude for your attention.

Chase Iron Eyes

It is frustrating that the Keystone XL pipeline never seems to go away. I became involved when I attended training sessions to become an Action Leader in the Keystone Pledge of Resistance campaign, in the summer of 2013.

The Keystone Pledge of Resistance was a successful campaign to draw people into a nationwide movement. This Pledge was on the Internet, where people could sign it. This created a pool of people across the country. Eventually over 90,000 people signed it. Of course not nearly that many people became actively involved. Around 400 people were trained as Action Leaders, who in turn trained about 4,000 people locally to participate in nonviolent direct actions.

“I pledge, if necessary, to join others in my community, and engage in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in my arrest in order to send the message to President Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Rainforest Action Network (RAN), CREDO, and The Other 98% developed the Keystone Pledge of Resistance, March 6, 2013. 

Along with three other Action Leaders in Indianapolis, we designed a nonviolent direct action, which was to block the doors of the Federal building, if it appeared the Obama administration was about to approved the Keystone permit. President Obama eventually decided not to approve that permit.

We held multiple events to try to raise public awareness about the pipeline. There was a weekly peace vigil in downtown Indianapolis that was held in front of the very building, the Federal building where our action would occur. Each week I held a sign saying Stop Keystone Pipeline.

One project my friends Derek Glass, Andrew Burger and I did to raise awareness about Keystone was to create this video.

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