Mar 23, 2014 - The Oglala Lakota Nation and Ending Dependency on Fossil Fuels by Andrew Ironshell

My daughter asked me, Dad “What happens after this, is this it?” She eludes to a question asked by many who stand with us in this crowd of people. Grandma’s, little children, cowboys, Indians, women and men of all colors and age, we are all here. We stand on the front lines to protect sacred water.

A camouflage shadow breathing out toxic fumes, daughter says she’s dreamed about this. Cameras, guns, innuendo, all looking down upon us, screaming we are bad people. Criminalized by thoughts that we are less than human when we know the real crime against humanity is the poisoning of water for fossil fuel extraction. The real crime is lack of ingenuity and desire to create clean energy.

What happens after this to answer her question. Where do the protesters go, where do the crack heads for fossil fuel go when the police barricades go down and the debate moves back into the safety of our own homes.

The argument against us is always that we need fossil fuels, that all of us in one way or another buy into the addiction. We drive cars, we use plastics, we all benefit from the saturation of products created by toxic oil that exist in our everyday lives. They say we are hypocrites because we have no alternatives to speak to, they say we have no plan of how we could possibly live and prosper without oil. They say our ambition to protect the water, our ambition to end fossil fuel use is faulty because we the people have no clue.

I know different, I have a clue what’s in store for the future because I see it coming to life here on the Oglala Lakota Nation in South Dakota. The question, what happens after the protest should be what has happened before the protest.

In Oglala Territory they have passed laws that mandate a new direction of sustainability called The Oglala Lakota Plan and from programs like the Oglala Lakota Housing Authority, those directives are becoming reality. This year they are constructing 18 new highly energy efficient family housing units. A minimum of 50% lower cost savings in energy utility rates and 25% cheaper to construct than previous tribal housing options. These homes are durable and say good bye to $400 a month propane cost. They are designed to take into account the forces of impending climate change and give to our community, the answer to what life can be like off the grid, off the umbilical cord of fossil fuel addiction. The Oglala are addressing their extreme housing shortage while empowering the world with example of how to ‘go green’ and do it affordable and in a manner reflective of the community values of the Oglala people.

To change the paradigm takes a collective effort. Through hundreds of hours of interaction with local community stakeholders, sustainability has arrived at a place where the voice of community becomes reality. Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, a community led non-profit on the Oglala Lakota Nation is also a game changer. A Regenerative Community Development set to break ground summer of 2014 will offer 31 affordable home ownership and 16 townhouses in Phase 1 where by design all the energy needs of the home and of the development, will be created here. You will not find one propane tank, not one utility bill you can’t afford. What you will find for those willing to roll up their selves and work towards it, opportunity and a new way of living that is better for the environment, better for the physical and economic health of the family.

When vice-president of the Oglala Lakota Nation, Tom Poor Bear stands with the Cowboy & Indian Alliance, when he is side by side with Lakota people on the protest line, he is not just voicing resistance to the profiteers of the toxic oil industry and water abusers. He is also saying look at the powerful things happening right here in Lakota territory where our community are taking an active approach to what those alternatives to fossil fuel addiction look like. Lakota are leading the way.

Those tribal elders and those children stopping the tar sands bound mega loads, stopping the heavy equipment of those destroying our eco systems, they are not a terrorist. They are you and me. They are the ones history will thank for protecting the water.

So the question of where do we go from here (after the protest) is not as important as where did you come from before the protest? Are you walking the talk? Are you pushing for solutions beyond what we can accomplish in the trenches of war with the hostile fossil fuel industry?

Where we go from here is an economy where the green is no longer in the stingy hands of the fat taker, the profiteer of toxic industry but the green is reclaimed by a way of life known as our sustainable future.

Last Real Indians