Archive for January 18th, 2012

Story and photo by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer

Debra White Plume, Oglala, Kandi Mosset, Mandan/Arikaree, Marie Randall, Oglala, and Tantoo Cardinal, First Nations Cree, presented their voices at the first Winyan Ituwan, “Vision of the Women.” (Photo by Karin Eagle)

PORCUPINE – With not a drum in sight, there was still a pounding of heartbeats that could be felt like a reverberation from the largest drums. The heartbeat of the women gathered on the lands of the Oglala Lakota pounded steady and hard as the women’s voices gathered to speak and encourage one another in an effort to not only encourage the men, but to call on the younger women to pick up the fight that was started generations ago by the great-grandmothers, grandmothers and mothers of today.

In Porcupine, the first of four gatherings of Native women called Winyan Ituwan, or Vision of the Women, was held this past Sunday. The Lakota leadership of Debra White Plume and Babe Poor Bear, both Oglala Lakota, pulled a wide variety of Lakota and Dakota women together in order to reestablish their power and what Alex White Plume, Oglala activist, termed “the spiritual law which men do not act on anything without, which is what women are”.
Emceeing the event were Poor Bear and Cordelia White Owl, who is also Oglala Lakota.

Each taking a turn at introducing the powerful women who, at all ages, have either stood up for the Lakota people’s human or civil rights, the preservation of culture and language and the environmental issues that have and will impact the health and well-being of the Native peoples of this land.

According to elder Marie Randall, the Lakota winyan – the women – carry the foundation of Lakota life. Randall talked about her desire to teach the Lakota language to her takoja, or grandchildren, in their schools but was initially denied because of the requirements that the state enforces, citing her lack of a teaching degree. Because she is a natural and lifelong speaker of the Lakota language, she was eventually able to obtain a teaching certificate through the state and was finally able to fulfill her own dream of teaching the Lakota language in her community school.

“I am not afraid to be Lakota,” said Randall, which incited a huge round of applause and trills from the women in the audience.
Deb White Plume, who in the summer of 2011 had been arrested in Washington, D.C., during a protest of the Keystone XL Pipeline, proposed to cross Lakota treaty lands, spoke passionately and proudly of the work that has already been accomplished on environmental issues with the leadership of Native women. The mining companies that are seeking renewal permits at the uranium mines near Crawford, Neb., a half-hour from the southern border of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, are currently being fought against.

“Our water at our home has tested so high for radiation and arsenic, which is what happens where uranium mining is being done,” said Debra White Plume, wife of Alex. “But there hasn’t been one single shovel dug in those mines since we have started these challenges, which shows how much power we as women have,” she said.

White Plume spoke eloquently about the need to stand up and have a say in any of the issues that are directly affecting Native peoples.

“I want to stand up. Who else wants to stand up?” asked White Plume. This drew a huge, minute-long response in applause and trills and whistles from the audience.

Tantoo Cardinal, a First Nations Cree from Canada whose community is at ground zero of the tar sands oil mines near Fort McMurray. She remembers not having any awareness of her language or culture, as it had been outlawed.

The Canadian government, she maintains, knew that the power of the First Nations people came from their strong tie to the language and the cultural beliefs and practices so they outlawed all of it, creating a division among the people who struggled to maintain that tie and the ones who passively went with the laws.

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