As the sun sets on 2017, I’m filled with gratitude as I watch a younger generation take the reins of the movement I have spent my life helping to build. As a lifelong activist who occupied Alcatraz, Wounded Knee and DAPL, my heart is lifted by a new generation, their dedicated effort to protect Standing Rock, and their brave legal defense.
In the spirit of the holiday season, I ask that you contribute one more time to help fund the upcoming legal battles to protect our young activists, Chase Iron Eyes and HolyElk Lafferty. If you choose not to give monetarily, we welcome your thoughts and prayers for these two brave warriors. All the medicine you can provide is much appreciated as the team gathers evidence and prepares for the fight. These trials may prove to be two of the most important of our generation.
The necessity defenses of Chase and HolyElk could set a precedent to protect not only land and water, but freedom of speech itself. These trials can help create a permanent legal framework to protect indigenous, environmental, and civil rights. As this fight progresses, we also plan to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in opening a legal office focused on civil rights and treaty issues.
HolyElk and Chase embody the spirit and community of my people. The work of these young visionaries is bringing together an unprecedented coalition — a coalition that includes you. As a Lakota elder, I’ve seen days both dark and light, and I know how instrumental your spirit of cooperation is to these activists as they put their personal freedom on the line to safeguard all we hold sacred. I once stood where they now stand — in the cross hairs. They need your support.
As our Oglala holy man Black Elk once said, “The center of the universe is everywhere.” The new year marks a beginning and an opportunity for renewal of family, of dedication, and of strength. It’s also a part of the grand circle. We have been granted the gift of life together on Unci Maka, where we play our roles in the sacred hoop. Wherever you are, I thank you for joining with us. Please keep HolyElk Lafferty and Chase Iron Eyes in your prayers and your community as you begin the new year.
Wopila—Thank you and Happy New Year!
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Lakota People’s Law Project Tribal Liaison