They fed the masses. They guarded the water. They provided spiritual guidance. They even gave birth, and were born themselves. The women water protectors who played an integral role in opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock were a wellspring of strength, wisdom and resistance. In honor of International Women’s Day, we highlight some who made the news during the height of the NoDAPL standoff at Standing Rock.
LaDonna Brave Bull Allard
Allard established Sacred Stone Camp in April 2016, setting the stage for those who poured in later in the summer. She felt she had no choice; her ancestors had been victims of the Whitestone Massacre on this very spot.
Faith Spotted Eagle
The Yankton Sioux elder not only delved into Lakota spiritual matters before members of the House of Representatives but also received a vote for President from the Electoral College, the first Native American to do so. In September, after the first of many militarized attacks on water protectors, Spotted Eagle helped craft a statement from the Braveheart Society, the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society and Stone Boy Society decrying the “war of ‘bio-politics’ being waged on indigenous homelands all across the Americas.” In January she spoke to Longhouse Media about the pitfalls of spiritual appropriation.
The 19-year-old joined Spotted Eagle in Congress and was at the forefront of the young people who originally galvanized the water protectors. She attended the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) national meeting with Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II and other youth representatives and was among the contingent who visited the campaign headquarters of then Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton last October to demand she take a stand on DAPL and the environment. She outlined her plans to Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC’s The Last Word.
“We are coming directly to Hillary at her headquarters because as the future president, she is going to have to work for us, and we want her to uphold the treaties and her promise to protect unci maka (Mother Earth),” the 19-year-old said at the time, according to Greenpeace.
As Lead Organizer on the Extreme Energy & Just Transition Campaign with the Indigenous Environmental Network, Mossett was a voice of peace, even at the frontlines.
“These are peaceful, prayerful actions,” Mossett told ICMN during the early days of the protests, when authorities first began calling the unarmed water protectors violent.
During the height of the water protectors initiative at the camps, she spoke out on standing up for the sacred.
Diane Hart, Patty Thomas, and All the Kitchen Organizers
During the height of the on-site resistance out at Standing Rock, as many as ten kitchens fed the thousands of water protectors who descended upon the camps, the Sierra Club noted. The most famous was dubbed Grandma’s Kitchen, or the California Kitchen, headed by Diane Hart and Patty Thomas at the Oceti Sakowin camp. The kitchens were filled with cooks, male and female, who nourished the water protectors nearly 24/7.
Mothers, Teachers and Allies
For all the women—and men—involved, it was all about the water, as the blog Rewire noted. Joy Braun explained eloquently why there were no acceptable rerouting options for DAPL. Water protectors sacrificed their well-being, and even potentially their lives, to stand for this. Sophia Wilansky, a 21-year-old from New York City, nearly lost her arm. She was later honored by the Ramapo of New Jersey for her courageous fight and road to healing. Indigenous women rose in the January 21 March on Washington, and continue to do so in the march currently unfolding in D.C. this week. Teachers like Alayna Eagle Shield flocked to the camps to educate and help care for the children of the water protectors.
Lastly, what better way to shine hope for the future than to give birth at the water protector camps? This is what Zintkala Mahpiya Wi Blackowl, Sky Bird Woman, of the Sicangu and Ihanktonwan Lakota tribes, opted to do—birth her daughter in a tipi at Oceti Sakowin, as her family slept nearby, creating a sacred space for the baby to enter this world.
“Having babies is my act of resistance,” she told ICMN. “Our reproductive rights as Native women have been taken away from us in so many ways.”