YoNasDa Lonewolf, a Black and Native American water protector and activist, pens a moving letter to America about the government's war on our water — not only in Flint and North Dakota, but also in Newark and Baltimore and many universities, high schools and even elementary schools that are dealing with high levels of lead in their pipes.
My name is YoNasDa LoneWolf. I am a proud enrolled Oglala Lakota Native and African-American woman. As the only girl born during the American Indian Movement's “The Longest Walk,“ I was born with my fist up and ready to fight for freedom, justice and equality. So when I got the call from Standing Rock tribal member Phyliss Young to assist the Standing Rock youth runners to bring awareness to the Dakota Access Pipeline that was scheduled to be built on the Fort Laramie Treaty Land, I knew I needed to help my sister tribe fight.
After receiving urgent calls from tribal members that were getting arrested by Morton County Police because they were using their bodies as shields to physically stop bulldozers from digging up burial and sacred sites, I drove 28 hours to Standing Rock in September 2016. When I arrived, I saw 50 flags from various tribes across the United States and the Oceti Sakowin Camp. It was so beautiful to see tribes that haven’t united since the 1800s, all uniting for our sacred lands and waters. Less than two miles up the road, the Dakota Access workers were bulldozing tribal grave sites without any remorse. As we went over the fence to walk in front of the bulldozers, the private security retaliated by releasing their dogs on us and using pepper spray. We continued to sing and chant “Protect Mother Earth” until the workers got frustrated and stopped construction. We left that day hopeful that we would be able to stop this pipeline.
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Since September, thousands of people from all over the world have come to Standing Rock, bringing their flags for us to put up on flagpoles. We still remained in prayer and song and unity and continued to use non-violent action to stop the workers––even though the Army Corp of Engineers, Energy Transfer, the Governor, the Mayor and all of the private security and cross jurisdiction police returned in action with tear gas, rubber bullets, sound cannons, and water cannons. We are protectors of this land. We are water protectors for all of us. It pains me that not only do I feel the longstanding injustice to Black people, but I also feel it as a Native American woman.
Today, many Native Americans are forced on land that this government calls “reservations." We call them “our nation within a nation.” We have our own government, businesses, and schools. Some tribes are federally recognized and some are not, but we are considered sovereign. Because many of our nations are in rural communities, throughout history many corporations have illegally built factories, pipelines, coal mines and even farms on our lands without our permission. Historically, the Sioux Nation “Oceti Sakowin”––Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people––are one of the tribes that fought the longest with the U.S government. We are the people of Crazy Horse, Red Cloud and Sitting Bull, so yes, we are going to Stand in Standing Rock!
We are at war. While I was at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump within the first week of office has made executive action towards moving forward on building the Dakota Access Pipeline, which will be built along the Missouri River. It will affect over four states' water supply, because when this oil pipeline leaks, it will leak into the water source for Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota. President Trump also made the executive action on moving forward on the Keystone XL pipeline that is planned to be built along the Mississippi River and will affect half of America’s water source, as well as tribal lands that don’t belong to the United States Government. In Trump’s rampant signing of executive actions, he also ceased $100 million scheduled to go to Flint to replace their lead-infested water pipelines.
We are at war. Not only in Flint, but also in Newark and Baltimore and many universities, high schools and even elementary schools are dealing with high levels of lead in their water pipes. Trump is a businessman with a history of lawsuits. The way he has handled his business affairs shows that he is about money and could care less about the life of the people his decisions are affecting.
As an activist, as a freedom fighter, I am motivated. Trump is the perfect opponent for freedom fighters. This president is showing us how we are built. We may see some sell out the people for his business deals and money, but we know that the villain never wins. The egotistical tyrant will fall by the hands of his own greed. We are the answer of the prayers of our ancestors. We must stand like Harriet Tubman and act on finding our freedom. We must be fearless like Geronimo and Sitting Bull. We must use wisdom like Marcus Garvey and begin to build a nation within a nation like the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan.
I am carrying on the legacy of my late mother Wauneta Lonewolf, as she has taught me that the women are the heart of the movement.
“We’re here to finish the work of all of our Black ancestors that fought this enemy.” – Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan