Editor’s Note: the original version of this story was replaced by one with more detail.
Faith Spotted Eagle, Yankton Sioux, was driving her daughter to the airport on December 19 when a reporter messaged her.
When she was told an elector in Washington state had cast his vote for her for president, she thought it was “fake news.” But then, she got a call from the elector, Robert Satiacum, Puyallup, and later saw her name on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.
Spotted Eagle once ran for South Dakota state representative, in 2006, and lost by 431 votes. On Dec. 19, she came within 269 votes of the presidency of the United States.
Four electors in Washington state broke ranks and cast their votes for alternative candidates – three for former secretary of state Colin Powell and one for Spotted Eagle. Electors are expected to cast their votes for the presidential candidate that won their state – in Washington, that was former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. However, Satiacum made it clear early on that he planned to break ranks because he believes Clinton has flip-flopped on issues and he distrusts her regarding the environment.
Satiacum met Spotted Eagle at Standing Rock during the stand against the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Spotted Eagle, chairwoman of the Ihanktonwan Oyate Treaty Steering Committee, has long been a defender of Mother Earth. When she was in her own mother’s womb more than 68 years ago, she said, the place where her family lived along the Missouri River was flooded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She was born fighting for the river and the land, she said.
Satiacum’s vote is not about her, she said, but is “symbolic of the fight for Mother Earth at Standing Rock.” She said the teachings are that there will be a war over water, and people must take a stand to protect the river for the grandchildren.
She said Satiacum “felt that spirit, felt that urgency to get that message out by doing what he could do” by casting his electoral vote for an alternative candidate.
She said Satiacum’s vote wasn’t about her as much as it was about Mother Earth and all the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. “I’m not a candidate, but I stand for something,” she said, and she wants others to stand for something – to stand for Mother Earth – too. The fight to bring down the dams on the Elwha River in Washington state took 100 years, but the dams came down, the river and beaches are healing, and the salmon are returning. Likewise, the fight to protect Ihanktonwan Oyate water and lands has taken generations “and we are still here.”
In a February 2015 interview, Spotted Eagle told Indian Country Today’s Gyasi Ross, “Without water there is no life. These pipelines, fracking and uranium development are polluting the Mni Wiconi — the water of life, the Missouri River and her tributaries … The only way to get out of this assault on Mother Earth is through prayer, healing and unification among races and various populations, public outcry, and the assertion of both our treaty rights and our reserved rights, even in unceded territories. We are occupied peoples but maintain our tie to the land and that makes us sovereign with the earth and all living things.”