How 13 year old felt about the breaking news: “Like I got my future back”—and then we both broke down in tears.

December 7, 2016

I have a 12 year old daughter too, and met Takota Iron Eyes at the Indigenous Environmental Law Conference earlier this fall.  Her dad spoke.  GCCM Steering Committee members Danny Sheehan and Sara Nelson work with and have co-directed the Lakota Law Center with Chase Iron Eyes since its inception.

Naomi Klein shared this reflection

Standing Rock is different. This time the movement was still out on the land in massive numbers when the news came down. The line between resistance and results is bright and undeniable. That kind of victory is rare precisely because it’s contagious, because it shows people everywhere that organizing and resistance is not futile. And as Donald Trump moves closer and closer to the White House, that message is very important indeed.

The youngest person here is someone many people credit with starting this remarkable movement: 13-year-old Tokata Iron Eyes, a fiercely grounded yet playful water-warrior who joined with her friends to spread the word about the threat the pipeline posed to their water. When I asked her how she felt about the breaking news she replied, “Like I got my future back”—and then we both broke down in tears.

Everyone here is aware that the fight is not over. The company will challenge the decision. Trump will try to reverse it. “The legal path is not yet clear, and the need to put financial pressure on the banks invested in the pipeline is more crucial than ever,” says Chase Iron Eyes, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe attorney and member (and a recent congressional candidate).

Nor does today’s victory erase the need for justice and restitution for the string of shocking human-rights violations against the mainly Indigenous water protectors—the water cannons, the dog attacks, the hundreds arrested, the grave injuries inflicted by supposedly non-lethal weapons.

Still, there is more physical and psychic relief in this room than I have witnessed in my life. As Cody’s father, Don Two Bears, says when he arrives at the house, “It’s not over, but it’s a good day.”

For his son, what today means is that the real work can begin: building living and inspiring alternatives to water-polluting and climate-destabilizing fossil fuels. Leaning back on his leather chair, dressed in a red sweatshirt with the word “Warrior” emblazoned in black letters, Cody Two Bears reflects on the start of colonization, when his ancestors taught the Europeans to survive in a harsh and unfamiliar climate.

“We taught them how to grow food, keep warm, build longhouses.” But the taking never ended, from the Earth and from Indigenous people. And now, Two Bears says, “things are getting worse. So the first people of this land have to teach this country how to live again. By going green, by going renewable, by using the blessings the creator has given us: the sun and the wind.

“We are going to start in Native country. And we’re going to show the rest of the country how to live.”