Day 21: Something is stirring in the Native communities I visit that gives me hope. We gathered in the cold morning air with the earth dusted in snow from last night’s winter preview. Medicine Man Mr. Roy Stone blessed us with a prayer before we set off down the road, with Chief John Spotted Tail leading the procession. Shane Red Hawk and his family had arrived before daybreak so seven of their beautiful horses could join the ride. Other community members drove their cars with signs reading “Unci Maka Na’wik Cinji” (“I Protect Mother Earth”). As we galloped and pedaled the two miles to the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Office (thank you, Vi Wain, for videotaping the procession – not many reporters who will do that for you on top of their own reporting), car drivers honked and pedestrians waved. One man even ran out to the road to hand out Halloween candy. People could see we were a unique, united force, and wanted to participate.
Greeting us at the end of the ride was Rosebud Council Representative Russell Eagle Bear, who along with Chief John Spotted Tail, led a community forum with passionate speakers addressing the Keystone XL travesty. Joining us were Miss Rosebud, Miss Teen Rosebud and Little Miss Rosebud. Afterwards we were blessed by an honor song sung by tribal youth and a presentation of gifts, followed by a closing prayer and a community feast. I don’t know how one could possibly be made to feel more welcome. A special thanks to Paula Antoine for her work to pull today’s inspiring event together.
I later sat down with the tribe’s renewable energy expert, Ken Haukaas, and learned about the community’s strong desire to develop community scale renewable energy to improve their lives and become energy self sufficient. Yet here we are debating a tar sands pipeline proposal that violates treaty territory, when the Rosebud Tribe has a 30 MW wind farm that’s been shovel ready since 2008, a country desperately in need of green energy, and no buyer of the energy to be found. Ken shared with me some of the other daunting challenges the community faces: a per capita income of under $8000/year, 80% unemployment, one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation, and the fraying of the social fabric by too many desperately overcrowded homes.
America needs Native wisdom now more than ever, and Native communities need America’s help. So let us rise up together against the forces of greed and build a just world that honors the rights of future generations. Today felt like another big step in that direction.