Native American lacrosse teams leagueless in South Dakota

In this 2017 photo provided by Franky Jackson, members of the Lightning Stick Society lacrosse team pose with their 2017 Dakota Premier Lacrosse League championship trophy. The team is one of three that was kicked out of the youth league this year amid concerns about racial abuse. (Franky Jackson via AP), The Associated Press

Travis Brave Heart was planning to spend his senior season this spring and summer tuning up to play college lacrosse in the fall. Instead, the 17-year-old standout from Aberdeen, South Dakota, is faced with the prospect of not playing at all.

His Lightning Stick Society team was one of three Native American clubs kicked out of a developmental league in North Dakota and South Dakota amid their concerns about racial abuse, leaving players and coaches upset and scrambling to find ways to continue playing a game that originated with their ancestors and means more to them than just competition.

“I got my anger out of the way,” Brave Heart said. “I went outside and practiced lacrosse, even though it was snowing. After I played, I wasn’t angry anymore. Then I thought, ‘What do we need to get past this? To get playing again?’”

The head of the league rejected any notion of widespread racism, and said the teams were removed not for complaining but for issues such as unreliable attendance.

Lacrosse is considered America’s oldest sport — an important part of Native American cultures long before the arrival of Europeans. It’s still used to teach Native youth about culture, values and life skills like keeping emotions under control. It can also be a path to college for players who often come from impoverished reservations.

The Dakota Premier Lacrosse League is part of a surge in popularity. Participation on organized teams — mostly youth and high school level — more than tripled over 15 years to a record 825,000 players in 2016, according to U.S. Lacrosse, the sport’s national governing body.

Since the Dakota league launched in 2016, Native American teams have experienced racial abuse that they don’t experience in neighboring states like Minnesota and Nebraska, said Kevin DeCora, a Lightning Stick Society coach.

“Racism kind of goes across the board with all sports,” he said. “It’s the attitude and belief that people in the Dakotas have always had to the indigenous population, for hundreds of years.”

As an example, Lightning Stick director and co-coach Franky Jackson and others cited a 2015 incident in which Native American children were sprayed with beer while watching a minor league hockey game in Rapid City.

Brave Heart said he has endured taunts about his Native American ancestry from white players and their parents, rough play he feels crosses the line into abuse and what he views as biased refereeing toward white players. He described an incident after one game, as his team was resting in the shade under some trees, in which a parent from another team carrying a cellphone camera came looking for evidence of drugs or alcohol, “assuming we were a bunch of drunk Natives.”

This undated photo provided by Denis Brave Heart, shows Travis Brave Heart, front left, of Aberdeen, S.D., playing lacrosse. Brave Heart plays for a team that was kicked out of a youth league in the Dakotas amid concerns about racial abuse. (Denise Brave Heart via AP), The Associated Press

The primarily Native teams expelled from the Dakota league — Susbeca and 7 Flames are the others — say they were kicked out after asking the league to address their allegations. They provided copies of letters they said they sent to the league and to U.S. Lacrosse in 2016 and 2017, detailing the cellphone-toting parent incident and other specific instances of racial slurs and overly rough play.

League Administrator Corey Mitchell said he received only one formal complaint, in 2016. He said he investigated and found no evidence of misconduct warranting punishment, but he provided a copy of an email he sent to people in the league after the complaint informing them of a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination or racial slurs.

Mitchell said the league had problems with the Native American teams including unreliable attendance and improper registration of some coaches and players.

“I think this is nothing more than a response to being held accountable,” he said.

Ali Vincent, who writes grant requests to fund the 7 Flames, said the teams dispute they did anything that warranted expulsion.

U.S. Lacrosse in a statement said “diversity and inclusion are essential components of our sport” and that it would investigate.

Mitchell acknowledged that the fledgling league has had its struggles, including inexperienced referees, but said it has strived to improve through such measures as requiring U.S. Lacrosse certification for coaches. He has formed a board of directors with Native American representation to run the league and said he will step down as director after this season.

None of the league’s predominantly white teams responded to requests for comment, though the association that runs the team in Fargo, North Dakota, quit the league and issued a statement saying it doesn’t condone racism. That association’s president didn’t respond to an interview request.

The Native teams said they are getting support and offers to play from teams around the country, and are lining up other opponents.

“At the end of the day, we only want these kids to play,” Jackson said. “We deal with disenfranchised youth that can’t even afford to buy a mouth guard half the time. We understand how to empower these kids.”

That’s true for Brave Heart, an Oglala Sioux tribal member who helped captain his team to a league championship last year and parlayed that success into an athletic scholarship at Emmanuel College in Georgia. But the sport means much more to him than a pathway to a future as an historic preservation officer.

“We play for the Creator, and we play for the community,” he said. “You think of all the people who can’t play, like people in wheelchairs and the sick, and when you play for them, you get this drive you just can’t explain.

“The day just gets better when you start playing,” Brave Heart added. “It’s definitely more than a game.”


By: Blake Nicholson The Associated Press


TransCanada Sends More Crews to Keystone Pipeline Leak in South Dakota

An aerial view shows the darkened ground of the oil spill that shut down the Keystone pipeline near Amherst, South Dakota. (Courtesy DroneBase/Handout via Reuters)

TransCanada, the operator of Keystone pipeline says the company has sent additional crews and equipment to the site of a 210,000-gallon oil spill in South Dakota.

Crews shut down the Keystone Thursday after discovering a leak.


TransCanada said Saturday it is making progress in its investigation into the cause of the spill on farmland near Amherst in Marshall County.

But the company did not elaborate on the cause. The company says additional equipment and workers continue to be dispatched to the site.

TransCanada says the leak is under control and there is no significant environmental impact or threat to the public.

The spill happened just days before Nebraska regulators were to announce their decision on whether they approve an expansion of the Keystone system. The commission is set to announce their decision Monday.

Nebraska officials said Friday that the oil spill won’t affect their decision to approve or deny a route for the related Keystone XL project.

A spokeswoman for the Nebraska Public Service Commission said that commissioners will base their decision solely on evidence presented during public hearings and from official public comments.

The Keystone pipeline delivers oil from Canada to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma.

Keystone Pipeline Shut Down after Leak Spills 210K Gallons of Oil In South Dakota

FILE: TransCanada workers excavating a section of the Keystone oil pipeline near Freeman after oil was discovered above ground. Apr, 2016.

Keystone pipeline shut down after oil spill in Marshall County

TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone pipeline has leaked an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil in northeastern South Dakota, the company and state regulators reported Thursday.

TransCanada said in a statement crews shut down the Keystone pipeline at approximately 6 a.m. Thursday and activated emergency response procedures after a drop in pressure was detected resulting from a leak south of the Ludden pump station in Marshall County.

According to TransCanada, the spill was completely isolated within 15 minutes. The cause is being investigated.

Brian Walsh with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said he anticipates the clean up will take some time.

Walsh said the leak happened in a rural area about three miles from the town of Amherst.

This is the largest Keystone oil spill to date in South Dakota.

Back in April 2016, crews responded to a 16,800 gallons spill from the Keystone pipeline in Freeman, South Dakota.

David Flute, chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribe, told BuzzFeed News Thursday’s leak was on a section of pipeline adjacent to his reservation. He said the area has “the cleanest lakes in South Dakota,” as well as a large subterranean aquifer, and that he was “concerned” about the possibility of contamination.

“I’m thinking there is going to be an impact, some type of environmental impact,” Flute said. “As the oil seeps, if they can’t contain the spill, which I’m hoping they do, if they’re unable to contain it from seeping into the water systems, it can be hurtful and harmful to everybody.”

In response to the spill, Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign director Kelly Martin released the following statement:

“We’ve always said it’s not a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but when, and today TransCanada is making our case for us. This is not the first time TransCanada’s pipeline has spilled toxic tar sands, and it won’t be the last. The PSC must take note: there is no such thing as a safe tar sands pipeline, and the only way to protect Nebraska communities from more tar sands spills is to say no to Keystone XL.”

There have been no reports of the oil entering any waterways or water systems at this time.

Sitting Bull Killed by Indian Police – Dec 15, 1890

Sitting Bull by Kenneth Ferguson

Sitting Bull by Kenneth Ferguson

Red Power Media | Dec 15, 2016

After many years of successfully resisting white efforts to destroy him and the Sioux people, the great Sioux chief and holy man Sitting Bull is killed by Indian police at the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota.

One of the most famous Native Americans of the 19th century, Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake) was a fierce enemy of Anglo-Americans from a young age. Deeply devoted to the traditional ways, Sitting Bull believed that contact with non-Indians undermined the strength and identity of the Sioux and would lead to their ultimate decline. However, Sitting Bull’s tactics were generally more defensive than aggressive, especially as he grew older and became a Sioux leader. Fundamentally, Sitting Bull and those associated with his tribe wished only to be left alone to pursue their traditional ways, but the Anglo settlers’ growing interest in the land and the resulting confinement of Indians to government-controlled reservations inevitably led to conflicts. Sitting Bull’s refusal to follow an 1875 order to bring his people to the Sioux reservation directly led to the famous Battle of the Little Bighorn, during which the Sioux and Cheyenne wiped out five troops of Custer’s 7th Cavalry.

After the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull and his followers fled to Canada for four years. Faced with mass starvation among his people, Sitting Bull finally returned to the United States and surrendered in 1883. Sitting Bull was assigned to the Standing Rock reservation in present-day South Dakota, where he maintained considerable power despite the best efforts of the Indian bureau agents to undermine his influence. When the apocalyptic spiritual revival movement known as the Ghost Dance began to grow in popularity among the Sioux in 1890, Indian agents feared it might lead to an Indian uprising. Wrongly believing that Sitting Bull was the driving force behind the Ghost Dance, agent James McLaughlin sent Indian police to arrest the chief at his small cabin on the Grand River.

The Indian police rousted the naked chief from his bed at 6:00 in the morning, hoping to spirit him away before his guards and neighbors knew what had happened. When the fifty-nine-year-old chief refused to go quietly, a crowd gathered and a few hotheaded young men threatened the Indian police. Someone fired a shot that hit one of the Indian police; they retaliated by shooting Sitting Bull in the chest and head. The great chief was killed instantly. Before the ensuing gunfight ended, twelve other Indians were dead and three were wounded.

The man who had nobly resisted the encroachment of whites and their culture for nearly three decades was buried in a far corner of the post cemetery at Fort Yates. Two weeks later, the army brutally suppressed the Ghost Dance movement with the massacre of a band of Sioux at Wounded Knee, the final act in the long and tragic history of the American war against the Plains Indians.


Keystone Pipeline Shut Down After Crude Leak In South Dakota

TransCanada and regulatory officials are working together on remediation of the site, above. (Supplied )

TransCanada and regulatory officials are working together on remediation of the site, above. (Supplied )

CBC News Posted: Apr 04, 2016

The source of the leak remains under investigation

TransCanada Corp. has shut down its Keystone crude oil pipeline indefinitely after a leak was detected Saturday afternoon in South Dakota.

The company is investigating the incident near its Freeman pump station, in a remote area of Hutchinson County.

It is not clear how much oil was spilled but cleanup is underway.

“We’ve been given an early estimate, but until they actually dig down to the pipeline, I don’t think they’re going to have a firm number on the exact number of gallons that were involved,” said Chris Nelson, chairman of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.

TransCanada is in the process of removing the oil and investigating the source of the leak, reported at 4 p.m. Saturday.

“No significant impact to the environment has been observed and our investigation continues,” Calgary-based TransCanada officials said in a statement.

The pipeline remains shut down from Hardisty, Alta., to Wood River, Ill., and from Steele City, Neb., to Cushing, Okla. However, the Gulf Coast line, from Cushing to Nederland, Texas, remains operational.

TransCanada has advised affected shippers the line will remain closed until at least Friday.

Keystone pipeline

TransCanada continues to investigate the cause of the leak, which was detected Saturday afternoon in a remote area of South Dakota. (Supplied)

10 Things You May Not Know About Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull

AUTHOR: Evan Andrews

10 Things You May Not Know About Sitting Bull

On the morning of December 15, 1890, the 59-year-old Lakota Sioux chief Sitting Bull was shot dead by Indian police during a botched arrest on a reservation in South Dakota. A renowned warrior and holy man, he first rose to prominence for his stubborn resistance to white incursions onto the Great Plains, and later served as the spiritual leader of the tribal confederation that defeated Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer at 1876’s Battle of the Little Bighorn. On the anniversary of Sitting Bull’s death, learn 10 surprising facts about one of the most legendary Native Americans of the 19th century.

1. He was originally named “Jumping Badger.”

Sitting Bull was born around 1831 into the Hunkpapa people, a Lakota Sioux tribe that roamed the Great Plains in what is now the Dakotas. He was initially called “Jumping Badger” by his family, but earned the boyhood nickname “Slow” for his quiet and deliberate demeanor. The future chief killed his first buffalo when he was just 10 years old. At 14, he joined a Hunkpapa raiding party and distinguished himself by knocking a Crow warrior from his horse with a tomahawk. In celebration of the boy’s bravery, his father relinquished his own name and transferred it to his son. From then on, Slow became known as Tatanka-Iyotanka, or “Sitting Bull.”

2. Sitting Bull was credited with several legendary acts of bravery.

Sitting Bull was renowned for his skill in close quarters fighting and collected several red feathers representing wounds sustained in battle. As word of his exploits spread, his fellow warriors took to yelling, “Sitting Bull, I am he!” to intimidate their enemies during combat. The most stunning display of his courage came in 1872, when the Sioux clashed with the U.S. Army during a campaign to block construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad. As a symbol of his contempt for the soldiers, the middle-aged chief strolled out into the open and took a seat in front of their lines. Inviting several others to join him, he proceeded to have a long, leisurely smoke from his tobacco pipe, all the while ignoring the hail of bullets whizzing by his head. Upon finishing his pipe, Siting Bull carefully cleaned it and then walked off, still seemingly oblivious to the gunfire around him. His nephew White Bull would later call the act of defiance “the bravest deed possible.”

3. He was the first man to become chief of the entire Lakota Sioux nation.

In the 1860s, Sitting Bull emerged as one of the fiercest opponents of white encroachment on Sioux land. His resistance usually took the form of raids on livestock and hit-and-run attacks against military outposts, including several against Fort Buford in North Dakota. Knowing that the Indians required unity to face down the might of the U.S. Army, Sitting Bull’s uncle Four Horns eventually spearheaded a campaign to make the war chief the supreme leader of all the autonomous bands of Lakota Sioux—a position that had never before existed. Sitting Bull was elevated to his new rank sometime around 1869. Other hunting bands later flocked to his banner, and by the mid-1870s his group also included several Cheyenne and Arapaho.

4. Sitting Bull had a spiritual premonition of his most famous victory.

Though mainly remembered as a warrior and political leader, Sitting Bull was also a Lakota “Wichasa Wakan,” a type of holy man believed to have the gift of spiritual insight and prophecy. During a Sun Dance ceremony in early June 1876, he made 50 sacrificial cuts into each arm and danced for hours before falling into a trance. When he awoke, he claimed to have witnessed soldiers tumbling into his camp like grasshoppers falling from the sky—a vision he interpreted to mean that the Sioux would soon win a great victory. Just a few weeks later on June 25, the prophecy was fulfilled when Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer’s Seventh Cavalry attacked the encampment in what became known as the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Spurred on by Sitting Bull’s vision, the numerically superior Indians surrounded the bluecoats and completely obliterated Custer’s contingent of over 200 troops.

5. He didn’t lead the Indians at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Following the rout at the Little Bighorn, many people credited Sitting Bull with having masterminded the Indian victory. Some even claimed the 45-year-old had once attended the military academy at West Point. But while Sitting Bull was active in protecting the camp’s women and children during the attack, he seems to have left the fighting to the younger men, most of whom battled in disorganized groups. The Indians were no doubt energized by Sitting Bull’s prophecy, but the main heroes on the day were his nephew White Bull and the Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse, who led a charge that supposedly split the soldiers’ lines in two.

6. Sitting Bull spent four years in exile in Canada.

After the embarrassment at the Little Bighorn, the U.S. Army doubled down on its efforts to defeat the Plains Indians and force them onto reservations. Sitting Bull refused to submit, however, and in May 1877 he led his followers across the border to the safety of Canada. He would spend the next four years hiding out in the land of the “Grandmother,” as he called Queen Victoria, but the disappearance of the buffalo eventually drove his people to the brink of starvation. Prodded along by the Canadian and American governments, many Sioux refugees abandoned the camp and crossed back into the United States. In July 1881, Sitting Bull and the last holdouts followed suit and surrendered to American authorities in North Dakota. The aging chief spent most of the next two years as a prisoner before being assigned to Standing Rock Agency—the reservation that remained his home for the rest of his life.

7. He considered Annie Oakley his adopted daughter.

In the years after his surrender, Sitting Bull was hailed as a minor celebrity by the same country that had once branded him an outlaw. He found people were willing to pay $2 just for his autograph, and in 1884, he was allowed to leave the reservation to tour as the star of his own exhibition show. During a stopover in Minnesota, he took in a performance by the famed lady sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Sitting Bull was hugely impressed by her marksmanship, and the two became fast friends after he requested a photograph of her. The old warrior nicknamed Oakley “Little Sure Shot” and insisted on unofficially adopting her as his daughter. To seal the arrangement, he supposedly gifted her the pair of moccasins he had worn during the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

8. Sitting Bull toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.

In June 1885, the former army scout and entertainer William “Buffalo Bill” Cody hired Sitting Bull to perform in his famous “Wild West” show. For a fee of $50 a week, the chief donned full war attire and rode on horseback during the show’s opening procession. He considered the job an easy way to earn money and draw attention to his people’s plight on the reservation, but he was occasionally subjected to booing from his audiences and criticism in the press. One reporter in Michigan even labeled him “as mild mannered a man as ever cut a throat or scalped a helpless woman.” Sitting Bull soon grew tired of traveling and longed to return to his family. He left the tour for good after its final show in October, saying, “the wigwam is a better place for the red man.”

9. He was killed over his supposed involvement in the “Ghost Dance” movement.

Beginning in 1889, many reservation tribes were gripped by the “Ghost Dance,” a spiritual movement that spoke of a messiah who would bury the white man’s world under a layer of soil and allow the Indians to return to their old ways. Sitting Bull had been at the forefront of preserving the Lakota’s traditional culture—he still lived with two wives and stubbornly resisted converting to Christianity—and it wasn’t long before the authorities became convinced he might use the Ghost Dance movement to foment a resistance or lead a breakout from the reservation. On the morning of December 15, 1890, reservation agent James McLaughlin dispatched a party of Lakota policemen to arrest Sitting Bull and bring him in for questioning. The men succeeded in dragging the 59-year-old from his cabin, but the commotion caused a large group of his followers to converge on the scene. One of the Ghost Dancers fired a shot at the policemen, setting off a brief gun battle. In the confusion that followed, more than a dozen people were killed including Sitting Bull, who was shot in the head and chest.

10. The location of his gravesite is still debated today.

Two days after he was killed, Sitting Bull’s body was unceremoniously buried in the post cemetery at Fort Yates, North Dakota. There it remained for more than 60 years until 1953, when a Sitting Bull descendant named Clarence Grey Eagle led a party that secretly exhumed and relocated it to a new grave in Mobridge, South Dakota. A monument and a bust of Sitting Bull were later erected on the Mobridge site, but to this day rumors persist that Grey Eagle and his team may have dug up the wrong body. North Dakota officials even put up a plaque at the original Fort Yates site reading, “He was buried here but his grave has been vandalized many times.” Others, meanwhile, claim the great chief’s bones had already been exhumed prior to 1953 and reinterred near Turtle Mountain in the Canadian province of Manitoba.


Sex Traffickers Targeting Native American Women

FILE - A hunter flushes a pheasant in this 2009 photo from the South Dakota Department of Tourism.

FILE – A hunter flushes a pheasant in this 2009 photo from the South Dakota Department of Tourism.

By Cecily Hilleary | Voice of America

Every autumn, tens of thousands of sportsmen from across the globe descend on rural South Dakota, the pheasant hunting “capital” of the world. That’s good news for the state’s hotel, restaurant and sporting goods store owners. It’s very bad news for victims of sex traffickers, some girls as young as 14, brought every year from as far away as Las Vegas, Nevada – or as close as the nearest Indian reservation.

“If you are a trafficker looking for the perfect population of people to violate, Native women would be a prime target,” said Sarah Deer, an attorney, law professor and author of The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America.

“You have extreme poverty. You have a people who have been traumatized. You have addiction to alcohol and drugs as a result of trauma. And you have a legal system that doesn’t step in to stop it,” Deer said.

Federal law defines sex trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act in which the act is induced by force, fraud or coercion — or if a person forced into sex acts is under the age of 18.

Making matters worse, sparse law enforcement in rural areas, gaps in the law and conflicts over jurisdiction on Indian reservations mean that sex traffickers know they can get away with their crimes.

“Traffickers know who to target,” said Lisa Heth, executive director of the Wiconi Wawokiya (“Helping Families”) shelter in Fort Thompson, on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation.

“There are certain signs that I’m sure that they can see when a young girl’s self-esteem isn’t that great or she may come from a family where there is domestic violence or there’s alcohol or drugs, where she’s not getting that attention or love at home,” she said.

That’s when the traffickers start “grooming” their victims with expensive gifts and promises of a better life.

“We’re also seeing traffickers coming into the reservation and selling drugs,” Heth explained. “Sometimes they get these young women to sell for them, and then if they end up owing these guys money, then the guys traffic them out for sex to get money back from them. If the girls resist, the perpetrator will beat them up, threaten them or their families, rape them, or in some cases, have them gang raped.”

During hunting season, young women are exploited and prostituted in strip clubs and so-called “gentleman’s clubs,” some of which are open only during the hunting season, from October til early January.

Forced prostitution of native women also is a problem in oil fields, forestry projects or fracking operations such as the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Montana, where transient workers, almost exclusively male, are housed in remote “man camps.” Sometimes these amount to little more than a collection of trailers in a field, far from the prying eyes of law enforcement, and are fertile ground for drugs, gambling and sex trafficking.

“Groups of men from the man camps use free access to drugs and alcohol as a method of coercion for young native women to ‘get in the car’ and go party. This has resulted in 11 young Native women ranging from the ages of 16-21 years of age reporting rape, gang rape and other sex acts; the majority of these victims are afraid to report due to fear and shame,” Lisa Brunner, former spokesperson for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in 2013.

Elsewhere, for generations, Dakota and Ojibwe women in Minnesota have been trafficked from their reservations onto the boats in the port city of Duluth and prostituted in the international waters of Lake Superior. Some women are sold to ships’ crews and forced to remain onboard for months at a time.

Elementary school class of Indian students at United States Indian Industrial School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Photo by Francis Benjamin Johnson, Dec. 31, 1900

Elementary school class of Indian students at United States Indian Industrial School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Photo by Francis Benjamin Johnson, Dec. 31, 1900

Legacy of violence

It is impossible to discuss the trafficking of Native youth outside of the context of history, especially the so-called “boarding school” and “relocation” eras, which were part of a long-standing campaign to indoctrinate and assimilate American Indian children into non-Native culture.

From the 1800s to the early 1900s, many Native children were taken from their homes and forced to live in government-run boarding schools, where they were harshly punished for speaking their own languages or practicing their religions.

Between 1941 and 1967, as many as one-third of Native American children were removed from their families and placed in foster homes, the vast majority non-Indian, according to a 1976 report by the Association on American Indian Affairs. Stripped of family support and tradition, they were easy targets for physical and sexual abuse.

Lynn Eagle Feather, now in her 50s, was born on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota. When she was six, she and her siblings were abandoned by their mother and sent to the Saint Francis Mission School at Rosebud until they could be placed in foster care.

“The first person to ever hit me was in boarding school. An old nun with a German accent hit me with steel scissors on the side of the head,” Eagle Feather remembered.

“Later on, I went into foster care in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was abused there also. Physically, sexually, emotionally. Once, I got pushed down a flight of stairs.”

Sunny Red Bear, 28, a Lakota, was removed from her family on the Cheyenne River Reservation when she was only two days old and placed with a non-Native family who lived on the reservation and later adopted her formally.

“My adoptive father started abusing me when I was really young, maybe about four. It continued on until middle school or so,” she said, adding, “He was a very Christian man and he used God kind of as leverage to me, growing up.”

At 17, Red Bear ran away from home.

“I remember I was cold and hungry, I would talk to guys. They would ask me if I wanted to come home with them, and I was, like, ‘Yeah, I’d love to have a bed to sleep in tonight.’ It wasn’t just one guy, it was multiple guys. And I remember I wouldn’t sleep with them and they would get really mad.”

Today, a mother and successful fashion model, she uses her career as a platform to speak to young Native women about the dangers of trafficking.

“Sometimes when I speak, it’s very blunt and real, not sugar coated. I know that people feel awkward,” Red Bear said. “I want them to take that little bit of awkwardness, multiply it by a thousand, a million, and then maybe they can imagine how trafficking victims feel.”

A way out

There are shelters that offer housing to victims of abuse, but most offer residence for no more than 30 days.

“Thirty days to get your life back in order? That’s just not realistic,” she said.

Recently, Heth purchased a vacant motel she plans to convert into the “Pathfinder Center,” South Dakota’s first dedicated “safe house” for rescued trafficking victims.

“The mission is to help them heal and become self-sufficient,” she said. “Pathfinder will help them find their true purpose in life, to focus on the talents they might not know they have and fulfill their dreams that they had as children.”

The U.S. Justice Department reports that sexual violence in American Indian/Alaska Native communities is “epidemic.” Native Americans experience sexual assault at a rate of 2.5 times greater than other races. A third of all Native women will be raped.

President Barack Obama has pledged to invest in helping trafficking victims rebuild their lives. In 2014, Federal agencies announced a five-year plan to combat human trafficking.

As part of that plan, the FBI will broaden community outreach to American Indian/Native Alaskan law enforcement agencies, community leaders and social service providers.

This year, the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime awarded more than $22.7 million to programs working to combat human trafficking and an additional $8.1 million to a dozen victim service organizations across the country – among them, Wiconi Wawokiya.

Those funds, says Heth, will go a long way toward ensuring that the Pathfinder Center opens, as scheduled, in early 2016.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe To Host Keystone XL Rejection Victory Celebration

"Wocekiye Unwohiye” Success through Prayer. Photo: Facebook

“Wocekiye Unwohiye” Success through Prayer. Photo: Facebook

For Immediate Release: 11/10/2015

Rosebud, SD Tribal Nations ranchers and farmers from South Dakota and Nebraska to celebrate the Death of the Black Snake / Keystone XL rejection.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe announced this morning that they will be hosting a Keystone XL Rejection Victory Celebration. The celebration is titled “Wocekiye Unwohiye” Success through Prayer. The Celebration will take place at the Sinte Gleska University Multi-Purpose Center, 101 Antelope Lake Circle, Mission, South Dakota over two days.

The two day celebration is in tribute of another great victory that of the Battle of the Greasy Grass aka Battle of the Little Big Horn. On June 26, 1876, 139 years ago this battle took place and the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota Cheyenne and Arapaho defeated the US Calvary. The victory celebration and dance was held in Rosebud and hosted by the Sicangu Oyate soon after. Which has become an annual event. Paula Antoine Tribal member and event organizer stated “At that time tribal nations were faced with insurmountable foes, the US Calvary for one. Today our allies are not only our Tribal relatives but allies from across the country farming and ranching communities from along the proposed route were joined by national environmental groups together we stood against a giant sent by big oil and we defeated it.”

The two day celebration will be focused on honoring key individuals and organizations who were instrumental in organizing efforts against the Black Snake event will start at noon and will be as follows;

On Friday November 13th The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will be hosting a closed ceremony for the tribe and tribal members at the tribal bldg.

On Saturday Nov 14th at 12pm cst the tribe is inviting all of the allies, partner organizations and media from across the nation to attend this Keystone XL rejection victory celebration.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is grateful and honored by President Obama’s decision and looks forward to recognizing the grassroots, tribal, local, state, and national efforts in helping reject the pipeline. Through unity we ensured a better world for our grandchildren.

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Native American Spirit Camp Reacts To Obama’s Keystone Pipeline Decision


By Katie Scarlett Brandt | Huffington Post

As President Barack Obama announced a formal rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline this morning, Leota Eastman Iron Cloud stood in Alaska, crying.

For nearly two years, Iron Cloud had slept in a teepee in western South Dakota, part of a Spirit Camp set up in opposition to the TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone Pipeline. Native Americans from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe built the camp in 2013, fighting the pipeline’s construction due to environmental and public safety concerns.

“I’m still going through all of the emotions. I just want to hoop and holler,” Iron Cloud said, hours after President Obama’s announcement. “Although there are other issues like uranium mining and fracking, that pipeline was a major issue that was going to go right by our tribe. I’m so thankful to Barack Obama.”

In fact, the pipeline would’ve traveled so close to sovereign tribal lands near Winner, South Dakota, that designers had mapped a bend in the pipeline’s route. That close vicinity posed a threat to historic cultural sites, as well as water sources, said Keith Fielder, back in January.

A former engineer and archaeological monitor with the Rosebud Tribe, Fielder said, “It’s all about the water. We spend billions flying spacecraft to other planets to see if they have water, and we’re about to destroy ours.”

Iron Cloud, a Rosebud native, had traveled to Alaska at the end of October for work, which she said is difficult to find on the reservation. After the Keystone rejection announcement, she called home to the Spirit Camp.

“I wish I was there at the camp. They’re still there, standing strong all the way through,” she said, adding that camp supporters told her they were heading to the Rosebud tribal office for a victory song and to make celebratory plans.

During her year and a half at the camp, Iron Cloud educated visitors, prayed for protection for the earth, and served as a visual reminder of everyone who opposed the pipeline’s construction. But it was never easy, she said.

Iron Cloud sacrificed spending time with her family, having a job, and sometimes even eating–which she gave up to stand in solidarity with Native Americans on the reservation who go without food.

“My thoughts, heart and soul was all to the camp. I couldn’t go out. I couldn’t do all of the little things that people take for granted each day,” she said.

Spirit Camp members withstood threats, belittling and bullying from Keystone Pipeline supporters. They held their ground through extreme wind, rain and cold (as low as 20 degrees below 0), keeping warm by a fire in the center of the circle of teepees. Instead of beds, they slept on the ground in their teepees.

“But that’s what it’s all about, connecting with Mother Earth, feeling her, being with her,” Iron Cloud said.

Connecting with others is important, too. And Iron Cloud said she hopes the Keystone Pipeline’s rejection inspires other native tribes fighting to protect future generations.

“For everybody else around the world fighting for what they believe in, the message here is to stay strong, stay connected. We have our prayers, and our ancestors were behind us all the way. When people stand together, we can beat big oil,” she said. “People need to wake up to what is really real in this world, which is our earth.”

Even though she’s in Alaska for work, Iron Cloud said her heart is always out at the camp. But even 3,000 miles away, she can’t get away from hearing news of TransCanada, which is also working on a liquefied natural gas project in Alaska.

“I’m just living for the moment,” Iron Cloud said of potential future challenges. “I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Only Tunkashila (God) knows. I’m just so elated about the Keystone getting rejected and so thankful for all of the support, prayers, and thoughts. That really kept us going.”

Check out the Oyate Wahacanka Woecun Spirit Camp on Facebook, and share your own reaction to the pipeline decision.

Source: Huffington Post

Authorities End Investigation Into Death Of Sarah Lee Circle Bear

Photo courtesy Terrance Circle Bear Sr. On July 5, 24-year-old Sarah Lee Circle Bear of Clairmont, South Dakota, was found unconscious in a holding cell in Brown County Jail in Aberdeen. Circle Bear, a Lakota, was jailed on a bond violation.

Photo courtesy Terrance Circle Bear Sr. On July 5, 24-year-old Sarah Lee Circle Bear of Clairmont, South Dakota, was found unconscious in a holding cell in Brown County Jail in Aberdeen. Circle Bear, a Lakota, was jailed on a bond violation.

By Simon Moya-Smith / Indian Country Today

The South Dakota State Attorney General announced Tuesday that authorities have officially concluded their investigation into the death of a Sarah Lee Circle Bear, the 24-year-old Lakota mother of two boys who family claims was pregnant when she died in police custody in South Dakota last July.

In August, Attorney General Marty Jackley said, citing the toxicology report, Circle Bear, of Clairmont, died of a drug overdose after methamphetamine was found in her blood.

RELATED:Manning: Sarah Lee Circle Bear Died While in Police Custody; Family Seeks Justice

Circle Bear, who was arrested on a bond violation following a traffic accident on July 3, somehow smuggled the narcotic into the Brown County Jail in Aberdeen, South Dakota, states a press release sent to ICTMN by State Attorney spokeswoman Sara Rabern on Tuesday.

“After the review of jail surveillance video and numerous interviews, investigators found no evidence to indicate Circle Bear obtained methamphetamine while in custody at the Brown County Jail and the totality of evidence demonstrates she brought the controlled substance into the Brown County Jail in a way that was not detectable from regular and acceptable jail procedures,” the press release reads.

Authorities concluded that jailers were closely monitoring Circle Bear while she was in her cell, a finding that stands in stark contrast to a statement made by an inmate that jailers had allegedly ignored Circle Bear as she shouted for help as she suffered excruciating abdominal pain. The jailers allegedly told Circle Bear to “knock it off” and “quit faking.”

According to the press release, after a nearby inmate signaled for help, “[Circle Bear] was removed from cell block and taken to a holding cell where she was more closely monitored by jail staff for the next two hours, including checking her vital signs and consulted medical staff via telephone. At 10:37 a.m. Circle Bear was then found unresponsive and EMT services were called immediately.”

RELATED:Sarah Lee Circle Bear Was Pregnant When She Died in Police Custody, Family Says

Terrance Circle Bear Sr., Sarah Lee’s father, told ICTMN on Tuesday that he feels the Brown County Sheriff’s Office is withholding information.

“If she was more closely monitored why didn’t they take her to the hospital?” he asked.

Authorities also claim that three times authorities asked Circle Bear if she was under the influence of drugs. “Each time she denied,” the press release reads.

In August, ICTMN had requested the toxicology report on Circle Bear to confirm her pregnancy at the time of her death, but Rabern said it is against South Dakota state statute to release toxicology reports to the public.

Circle Bear’s two sons are currently living with their grandmother.

Read the entire press release: Release of Additional Findings on Death Investigation of Sarah Circle Bear at the Brown County Jail