LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who gave powerful voice and visibility to the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, passed away last week from brain cancer.
She called herself simply Tamakawastewin — or “Good Earth Woman.”
It was a fitting name for a woman whose voice of protest was powerfully expressed as an ode to her sacred, native land.
In 2014 Allard found out about plans to construct the pipeline near her North Dakota home, at the confluence of the Cannon Ball and the Missouri Rivers. The pipeline — she called it “the black snake” — would run alongside her property, past a sacred graveyard where her son Philip Levon Hurkes was buried.
Allard alerted her community to the construction plans and donated her family’s land, which became the Sacred Stone protest camp, eventually drawing thousands of Native Americans, students, environmentalists, politicians, and other protestors from across the country.
Tirelessly, Allard used her voice to speak out against the pipeline project, at rallies, community events, and public hearings. In 2016 she spoke at the United Nations.
“What have we ever done? I live in my own homeland in my own country. I am indigenous to this land. The roots grow out of my feet,” she said in 2019 testimony before the North Dakota Public Service Commission. “I will object until I die on this earth . . . I will not back down.”
“What have we ever done? I live in my own homeland in my own country. I am indigenous to this land. The roots grow out of my feet.”
The pipeline was approved, then halted, under the Obama administration. Despite fierce opposition, the pipeline eventually went ahead again under Trump. Running 1,172 miles underground from the shale oil fields in northwest North Dakota to an oil terminal in Illinois, it was completed in April 2017.
But the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and protestors won a legal victory last year when a federal judge ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline to be shut down and emptied of all oil, pending an environmental review.
You can watch Allard’s powerful 2017 speech to Conservation Colorado here.
In lyrical, mesmerizing language, she describes the land she had loved since childhood: the fish traps in the Cannon Ball river, the honeycombs in the trees, the nests of the eagles, the baby buffalo, the coyote dens, the flocks of turkey, and the grouse.
RIP Tamakawastewin — “Good Earth Woman.”
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