"Happy Solstice!" - Newsletter December 2014
Sometimes, when I write the newsletter, I am amazed to watch the years roll by. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was writing 2004 on our newsletters which came out monthly. Do you have any idea how much work, stamps, and envelopes went into getting the mailing out then? So, today, I am getting nostalgic thinking of all we have been through as we are into our 13th year…as all volunteers…still.
It is long past time to look at improving our outfit. (For those who don’t know, “outfit” is a word we use in the Northern Plains. It can mean organization, or your pickup truck and horse trailer, or the clothes you wear.) We, who were so intensely involved in the beginning, are getting older. We have to admit it. Just like our outfit is getting older too. We want it to get better, not just coast on what we have done already. We did a lot but there is always more to be done.
For these reasons, weather permitting, a Meeting is scheduled for January 24, 2015, starting at 9:00 in the morning at the coffee room of St. Isaac Jogues church, next door to the Mother Butler Center, 221 Knollwood Drive, Rapid City, where it all started. Should we sing “Auld Ang Syne”? We have lots to discuss. And pot luck, of course. The administration, (me) will bring sandwich fixings, chips, coffee, and water. So salads, desserts, fruit, or other drinks are welcome.
Black Hills: This organization, Defenders, initially started to protect the Black Hills from further logging in the Black Elk Wilderness, 2 roadless areas, and the environment in the rest of the 1868 Treaty Territory. Logging in the roadless area north of the Wilderness was completed in 2010-2012, with a logging project southeast of the Wilderness approved by the Forest Service but not yet implemented. A proposal to burn the Wilderness to “protect” Mount Rushmore and the town of Keystone is still pending. There are 2 federal laws which are being violated but the federal Courts are approving the US Forest Service plans. Our thanks to Brian, our Treasurer, for his tremendous efforts to protect the Black Hills. Maybe we need to put prayer ties on all the trees now?
At our first meeting in 2002, there was a woman there who could not physically do much but she said, she could always pray. In the intervening years, we have had many prayer gatherings, especially in the sacred Black Hills. We have had miracles happen. And as we go up against new mining companies wanting to mine in burial grounds; these efforts to log to “protect” that which has destroyed the sacred; and other seemingly insurmountable obstacles, we still keep our prayers going. It is because we care about the Creation, and know our foes are so big, that the spirits help us.
There are many reasons we don’t understand right now why these things have to happen. But our prophesies do say that some day the entire Black Hills will burn down. It needs to be purified. In the meantime, we must keep on doing the best we can, so that when it is our time to go Home, our ancestors and the Sacred will be proud of what we have tried to do, …to protect the sacred, to help Grandmother Mother Earth.
WOPILA (Thank you): There is a new Rare Earth mine planned on being built on a sacred mountain just 10 miles from Mahto Tipila (Bear’s Lodge) AKA Devil’s Tower, Wyoming. (For those who don’t know this place, it is the sacred Butte shown in the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”) There are already many abandoned Uranium and active Uranium mines surrounding this sacred place. The river running through there is contaminated with Uranium. Now a new mine is being planned which is also radioactive, with the Uranium as one of the waste products.
Although we submitted our written comments to the U.S. Forest Service, as this is within our 1868 Treaty Territory, and also about the environmental destruction, we had a Prayer Gathering there shortly after the Summer Solstice on June 28th and prayed for the protection of all the sacred places on the Earth, including Unci Ina Makoce (Grandmother Mother Earth). Again a miracle showed us our prayers were heard. We did the Wopila (Thank you) prayers at the Fall Equinox, Sept. 21st. Thank you to all of you who participated.
CUTM: In the meantime, another project, the Clean Up the Abandoned Uranium Mines campaign is still going strong. It is now a national effort with many other organizations involved. It has been nearly two years since we began sending letters to Congressman Raul Grijalva, (D) AZ who is the ranking member on the Natural Resources Subcommittee. It seems a no-brainer that when something so dangerous as radioactive pollution is fouling the air and water making people sick, that you immediately stop the danger, go to the source. Evidently, Congress doesn’t understand this, so our Bill has been rewritten 8+ times. If anyone wishes a copy of the 8th draft, please let me know and it will be sent. For those of you who wish to know more, go to www.cleanupthemines.org Again, another topic for discussion at our meeting.
WATER TESTS AT PINE RIDGE RESERVATION: We initially took a water test at Red Shirt Village, which was reported in the June newsletter, and learned that there were 5 deep wells which supply most of the water to the Pine Ridge Reservation. Our results showed high levels of Thorium, which is the second state of decay of naturally occurring Uranium, and included naturally occurring Uranium and mined Uranium. The wells go into the Arikaree aquifer, which is also being used by Crow Butte Uranium Mining Company at Crawford, NB.
We took another water test of one of the other deep wells. Again, same results. Thanks to a donation from WILPF (Womens International League for Peace and Freedom), we were able to recently get another water test from a third deep well much closer to the Uranium Mine. The test costs $500.00. The results will be available by the end of December. Veterans for Peace has offered to raise the funds to provide for filters so the people can have clean drinking water. Again, another topic for discussion at the Jan. 24th meeting. All of you from Pine Ridge Reservation might want to attend this meeting, as you can have an influence on the outcome with the Tribal Council.
OTHER WATER TESTS: As we all know, the abandoned Uranium mines have polluted all the water in the Region. We have a way to test just for Uranium or Arsenic without cost just to find out if they are in your water. Please send your samples to me in an airtight container and I will send it on. But this test will not tell if you have other radioactive particles in your water, just the Uranium, or Arsenic. Both will make you sick.
We have not forgotten Rock Creek (Bullhead) on the Standing Rock Reservation. Please, if you live in that community, please send me your samples from inside your houses. I only got samples at the Grand River and the community center. It would help to have some information from inside the housing. Thank you.
SNTC: Now for some better news to balance this out. Defenders has always supported the work of the Sioux Nation Treaty Council for the upholding and enforcement of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. The Treaty Council just had a great meeting on Nov. 1st and plan another one in April, 2015. Thanks to the 7th Generation Fund and many of our members who donated funds for the meeting. In our culture, we provide for the food and lodging of those who attend. In our case, we try to provide lodging for elders who might not be able to attend otherwise, and also the food for everyone, as well as speaker expenses. Our speakers were excellent and DVD copies of the morning session are available from KOLC-TV, at Oglala Lakota College, Kyle, SD. An Advisory Committee of elders was formed and had their first meeting on Dec. 5th with plans for monthly meetings.
There were many handouts including a skit called, “To Colonize or Decolonize, that is the question.” It is very short and we would like to show it at our Defenders meeting. The roles are for 2-3 Native women, 1 Native child, 1 Native man, and 1 white man. It teaches decolonization as well as about the 1868 Treaty. Please let me know if you want to “star” in this production.
ATTORNEYS: We need some attorneys for a couple of different reasons. Either we would like an attorney to offer his services pro bono, or we need to know how much money to raise to pay for their services. Not going into too much detail, the following is one case were legal help is requested.
The Keystone XL Pipeline plans on going through our Treaty Territory without our “free, prior, and informed consent”. Check out Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and some of the other Articles. President Obama signed the Declaration in December, 2012. To bring this to the public’s attention, is one of our goals, as the 1868 Treaty is still valid according to U.S. Federal courts.
This has been mentioned at many meetings about the KXL for the past few years, with the hope that one of the Tribal governments would take it up. However, we realize that for a Tribal government to do so would jeopardize their federal funding. Defenders receives no federal funding. So, we are hoping there is a brave attorney out there who will consider doing this, knowing we will probably lose the case.
The win will be the waking up of the public to the fact of our Treaty territory, and the lack of “free, prior, and informed consent” of Native people on this and many other projects in our Treaty territory. As many of you know, we sent in hundreds of letters to President Obama regarding the violation of the Treaty territory if he gave approval to the KXL Pipeline, not just the environmental consequences. We need to do this next step now. Another topic of discussion at our next meeting.
So, I hope you will schedule Sat., Jan. 24th to participate at the next Defenders meeting starting at 9:00 in the morning. It will be pot luck and lots of good food is always shared. At our first January meeting held in 2003, we took up the shooting range near sacred Bear Butte and 11 months later, won our case. (By the way, we still owe our attorney for his out of pocket expenses. The courts refused to pay him even though we won the case. Any ideas?) Hopefully, this thirteenth January meeting will be as lucky and can win another case.
We need to discuss priorities and the future direction we wish to take. There is still a lot to do. Many of us are getting older and need more help; thinking of an office again, and, hopefully, paid staff. Look forward to seeing you all at the meeting.
Charmaine White Face, Coordinator
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