Moccasins on the Ground:
Protect Sacred Water
by the Lakota Media Project
Owe Aku, a grassroots organization on the Pine Ridge, SD Indian Reservation, along with many allies, held a three-day training at the Wounded Knee School, titled Moccasins on the Ground Tour of Resistance. “Over 300 people registered, some came and left, others stayed, some did not register. We estimate 250 people took part in some or all of the training,” says Vic Camp, Owe Aku organizer. Non-Indian ranchers and farmers from SD and NE participated, as well as members of SD Rural Action, Clean Water Alliance, and other Great Plains water protectors.
“Moccasins on the Ground Tour of Resistance is a community strategy to protect water from the tarsands oil proposed to pass through the Great Plains inside the Keystone XL 36-inch pipeline owned by a Canadian corporation, TransCanada [TC],” said Debra White Plume, a Lakota grandmother from Manderson. “The KXL pipeline would slurry tarsands oil from the Canadian mines, crossing hundreds of rivers and streams and the Ogllala Aquifer which provides drinking water to two million people from South Dakota to Texas, which irrigates the bread-basket of America,” said White Plume. “It would cross unceded Ft Laramie Treaty Territory without our free, prior, informed consent, our right according to the United Nations, and in violation of our treaties, which are international law. It would cross the Oglala Sioux Tribal Rural Water pipeline, which brings drinking water 200 miles to our lands here, from Pierre, SD.” TC has applied for its second international permit through the US Department of State, as the pipeline would enter Montana from Alberta, Canada. President Obama denied the first application in January, 2012. TC filed another application, which includes a 45-day Comment Period that started on March 1, 2013. A US State Dept Hearing is scheduled for April 18, 2013 in
Grand Island, NE. In past hearings, landowners expressed concern that TC forced rights of way
across their ranches and farms using eminent domain, exposing their lands to the tarsands
bitumen mixed with chemicals, heated constantly to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Concerns include
clean-up capabilities, referencing the 2010 Enbridge pipeline rupture of a million gallons of
tarsands bitumen into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, which to date has cost $809 million,
three years into the clean up effort, leaving forty miles of the river closed pending clean up. (for
info see http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20130128/dilbit-6B-pipeline-kalamazoo-riverenbridge-
The training included nonviolent direct action skills, community organizing, Human
Rights, Treaty Rights, Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (adopted by the UN
General Assembly in 2007), street medic and strategic media workshops. Folks from the
Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Texas Blockade, Owe Aku, Earth First, and many
other organizations served as trainers and will continue to network. “Effective social media
skills are critical in social justice work. Often mainstream media neglects issues impacting
people’s everyday lives, and the ability to cover non-violent direct action [nvda] situations is a
skill with value that cannot be measured,” said Suree Towfignia of People’s Media Project of
Chicago, Ill, one of the trainers in the Strategic Media workshop. Working with the Lakota
Media Project, the groups created a video that is available on Youtube.
Great Plains Tarsands Resistance is comprised of many organizations. “We are not little
organizations working in isolation, we are working collectively across the country to stop this
desecration,” said Camp, who served as “Eyapaha” (announcer), engaging folks in workshops,
plenary sessions, and social gatherings.
“We collaborated to develop and adopt the Treaty to Protect the Sacred at our Gathering
in February. We are happy to meet allies here and continue our work to protect the sacred,” said
Faith Spotted Eagle, from the Yankton, SD Homelands. “We are going to Ottawa, Canada, to
make more allies and strengthen our Treaty.” Moccasins on the Ground Tour of Resistance will
be in the Yankton area April 5-7, 2013.
“We must protect our communities, children, water, for the future. We want Moccasins on
the Ground to come to the Eagle Butte Reservation, to Bridger, the first community to face the
tarsands,” said Robin LeBeau, Tribal Council Representative from the Cheyenne River Sioux
Tribe. The training will be held in mid-April.
Medic training came in handy on the final day when a young boy experienced difficulty
breathing. Camp yelled “MEDIC”, and a dozen people came running to provide assistance. (The
boy was treated and was ok, his mother greatly relieved.)
“The US decision regarding the KXL pipeline is expected in September or October,” said
White Plume. “Through the long, hot summer we will provide requested nvda to Lakota
Homelands, several have confirmed training dates, more requests are coming in, so we will
schedule those. An organized and trained community is better prepared to protect their lands and
waters,” said White Plume, “in the event that President Obama chooses to ignore the concerns of
thousands of Americans who have commented, written letters, rallied by the tens of thousands in
Washington, DC, and the thousands of people arrested in civil disobedience at the White House
to give him the message that the KXL pipeline is not in the best interests of the big land
(America). We will join our counterparts of ranchers and farmers who will face TransCanada’s
earthmovers when they come to dig, using the human right to engage in nonviolent direct action.
We hope the president will realize the large and diverse national support to deny the permit, that
he will be revolutionary and refuse to expose the big land to such a toxic project.”
“This is the land of our ancestors. We protect it for our grandchildren,” said Marie
Randall. George Jumping Eagle led the drum group to Honor Grandmother Randall. At age 94,
she stood with others in front of a heavy haul Texan caravan transporting huge equipment
destined for Canadian oil mines, when it attempted to pass through the Pine Ridge Reservation’s
village of Wanbli, in March of 2012. Five individuals were arrested for blockading the trucks.
(Randall was not arrested). LeBeau of Eagle Butte, SD said that such caravans have passed
through her Homelands in spite of Tribal Council legislation and expressed concern that South
Dakota’s Governor seems oblivious to tribal council action. Twice her people have blockaded
“We need tools to fight this KXL black snake pipeline. The strongest tool we gained is
unity between Lakota and non-native supporters,” said Marty Cobenais, from IEN. He spook of
the Enbridge pipeline blockade in Minnesota, which the Red Lake Nation states has been on their
lands illegally since 1949.
Grandmother Randall conducted a traditional Lakota Water Ceremony, calling those who
intend to protect sacred water. “Almost everyone came forward to receive sacred red earth paint
to make their commitment to Grandmother Earth,” said White Plume.
Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer addressed the crowd, vowing to protect the
water and the Lakota generations from TransCanada’s KXL tarsands pipeline, “I will put my
moccasins on the ground with my people.”
For more info contact Debra White Plume on FaceBook.
Ama's Freedom School is dedicated to our children by providing decolonized educational programs based on traditional Lakota teachings and law.
An initiative of Owe Aku and Prairie Dust Films, the Lakota Media Project began in 2003 to mentor Lakota youth and women on documentary film-making.
The Moccasins on the Ground, a grassroots resistance training, focuses on skills, tactics, and techniques of nonviolent direct action in three day training camps.