Oct 13, 2016 - Speaking Out Against the Dakota Access Pipeline by Tatanka Itancan Lone Eagle
Students at Kansas City Academy:
Hi! My name is Tatanka Itancan Lone Eagle. My name means Buffalo Chief. My Ina (mom) taught me that my name means that I take care of our relatives, the buffalo. I love animals and taking care of them, so my name fits me.
My Ina told me there were some students at the Kansas City Academy that would like to learn more about the Dakota Access Pipeline (or DAPL) and protecting the water. I can’t tell you about my experiences fighting DAPL without first telling you about how I became a pipeline fighter.
I live in Bridger, South Dakota on the Cheyenne River reservation. Bridger is located right along the banks of the Cheyenne River. A few years ago my little brother and sister and I learned that a company named TransCanada was going to build a pipeline called the Keystone XL (KXL) right near where we live. We asked our parents what a pipeline was. When we found out, we decided it would not be good for the river or the land. Even if the pipeline never leaked it would cause fish, deer and other animals to die. It would also cause our water to be unhealthy for us to drink. I couldn’t let that happen. We asked our parents to help us fight to stop the pipeline.
We met many people while we were fighting against the KXL and even went to Pierre, the capitol of South Dakota and told the PUC (Public Utilities Commission) we did not want the pipeline. We told them it would be bad for us, and how close we would live to it. They didn’t care.
My little brother and sister and I made some videos and put out a call for help. Many people responded, including many people from other tribes. We even sent a message to President Obama. He must have heard us because he denied the pipeline last year. We were happy.
We thought we were done fighting pipelines and we felt good because we won against KXL. In February my Ina got a call from her friend, Joye Braun. Joye needed to talk to my dad and the other headmen from Pte Ospaye (Buffalo Camp). Joye told the headmen that the elders from Cannonball, North Dakota were asking for help because there was another company trying to put another pipeline in right near their community but this one would be even closer. Our headmen sent Joye up to Cannonball to talk with their elders to see what they needed. The elders decided they needed to start a camp up there to try to stop the pipeline.
It took a lot of planning. On April 1st I rode with a large group of riders. I started off with the group but as we got closer to Cannonball, the elder riders asked me to lead them to Cannonball and into the area where we built the Sacred Stone Camp. Joye was the first camper. Our family friend, Jimmy White, who is from Cannonball, was the first warrior to stand guard over the camp. We know Jimmy for many years from the Big Foot Ride.
I am a staff carrier for the Big Foot Riders. I carry a decorated lance that represents the descendants of the survivors of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. I began going on the ride when I was 9. Jimmy is one of the elders from the Big Foot Ride that started teaching me when I was just a little guy. My Aunty Violet Catches made the lance for me and my Auntie Freida Holy Bull-Condon presented it to me and explained what everything on the lance represents. The lance represents the survivors from Bridger, Red
Scaffold and Cherry Creek who made it back from the massacre and settled these 3 communities. I was given the lance because for several years there had been no one from Bridger, which was the last place Chief Big Foot camped before the massacre and the first place the survivors returned to and settled, who rode for the survivor families. Even when I started riding I was the only rider from Bridger for years.
The reason it is a lance, instead of a full staff is because I am 14, the age at which I would begin training as a warrior. The staff has 3 large eagle feathers that represent the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota. There are 2 braids of horse hair, one black and one white, that represent the Horse Nation. There are also 4 smaller eagle feathers that represent the Itazipco (No Bows) O’ohenumpa (2 Kettle) Sihasapa (Blackfeet) and Hwohwoju (Plants by the water) Bands that live on the Cheyenne River Reservation. It has Black, Red, Yellow and White ribbons that represent the four directions. There is also a Wolf blanket wrapped around it (The Wolf is a symbol of protection) Buffalo hide, to represent our relationship to the Pte Oyate (Buffalo Nation) and red cloth to hold it all together. I was presented with this lance last year during the 125th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre and the 25th anniversary of the Big Foot Memorial Ride. That was the first time I carried the lance. The next time, was on the Wounded Knee Survivor Run which begins when the Big Foot Ride ends. We ride and run every year to remember the sacrifices of the ancestors that came before us and to look forward to all things yet to come. I carried my lance on April 1st when I lead the people into the Sacred Stone Camp. I carried it other places too, and not always on horseback.
A few months later during one of our trips to help the camp, there were other youth who had decided to run from Cannonball to the Army Corps of Engineers office in Omaha, Nebraska. We caught up to the runners when they got to the North Dakota, South Dakota state line. I told my Ina to let me out because I wanted to run. I took my lance and carried it from the state line to McLaughlin, South Dakota, about a 10 mile run. I wanted to keep running, but I started having trouble breathing. My Ina took me to the doctor from there and he told me I had pneumonia. I knew I was sick, but I wanted to run anyway. When we asked for help to stop KXL many people came to help us. I want to stop DAPL so other kids will have clean water and so the animals will be healthy and survive. If the water dies so will everything else.
About a week or 2 later, my Ina told me the elders from Cannonball were asking for riders like me to come to a meeting at their casino in Mobridge, South Dakota. There was going to be a public meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers. They asked me to be one of the warrior/guards for the Itancans that would be attending. I took my lance and rode into the casino with Naca Arvol Looking Horse. I was honored to be chosen as his escort. I sat in the meeting and made a statement to the Colonel. My relative, Morgan Brings Plenty-LeBeau and I told him that we had fought and won against the KXL and we would fight DAPL too. We told him why it was wrong. He didn’t listen. Now we have to fight in different ways to stop the pipeline. During the summer the youth that ran to Omaha, decided to run to Washington, DC to bring the petition they started to the Pentagon and to President Obama. I was asked to go on this run too. I was able to run with them through South Dakota, but in order to be able to go out of South Dakota without a parent I needed to have my own photo ID. My Ina tried to get one for me, but we didn’t have enough time, so I had to leave the other runners when we got to the South Dakota, Iowa state line. I was sad to have to leave the run, but I kept praying for them and now I get to see the other runners at camp all the time. During one of our visits to the camp in the Summer Ezra Miller was there. Ezra is the actor that plays The
Flash. It was cool to meet him. When we first met him he recognized my little brother and sister and me. He thought we were actors. When we told him no, he was trying to think of where he knew us from. He kept asking if we were sure we weren’t actors. My Ina told him about the videos we made during KXL. Then he remembered the videos and even some of the things we said. He said it was some of the things we said and other things he had heard and seen from the kids from Cannonball that made him want to come and learn more. He was funny. He even put up a tipi. Before we left he asked me for riding lessons. I liked that. I thought you had to know how to ride a horse to be an actor. He told me no, but he still wanted to learn. When the chairman from Standing Rock put out a call for help fighting the pipeline, my Ate (dad) and I packed up and went up to help at the camp. My family now lives between the camp and Bridger. We are preparing for Winter Camp. We have horses and dogs we need to move up. There is a camp school that my little brother and sister go to. It is different for me because I am a freshman in high school now. They don’t have a high school set up yet, but if I can get home based from my high school, Takini, there are some of the teachers that said they would help me with my school work.
When it gets colder, we will move to the camp to stay for the winter. We will stay at the camp until DAPL is defeated. When I watch the videos we made for KXL, sometimes I think about the other kids in Cannonball. I am glad to be able to help them like we got help when we needed it. I think pipelines are stupid. Even when they don’t leak they wreck the water and the land. If the water and the land are wrecked the animals can’t survive. If the animals can’t survive, we can’t either. I don’t like living on the front lines against pipelines, but they keep trying to put them where our people live. If we don’t fight against them they will keep putting them in and they will keep killing the Earth. I fight pipelines because I am 14 years old and I don’t want to die. I hope this helps you to understand more about me and why I fight pipelines.
Tatanka Itancan Lone Eagle