What is your story?
My name is Laundi Keepseagle and I’m from Fort Yates, North Dakota, which is on the Standing Rock Sioux tribe reservation. I just got done running Chase’s campaign. Chase Iron Eyes, he ran for the Dem-NPL Party in North Dakota and he was running for Congress. Clearly, there was a lot of agitation from the political side, as in Trump’s campaign and segregation that he had caused, and also local aggravation from the NoDAPL movement, that I feel like was a big part in the failing of his run. Either way, onward and forward. So, now, I am the Director for Last Real Indians, which Chase Iron Eyes is the founder of, and basically, we’re switching gears from the campaign and being more involved in the political aspect into Standing Rock’s camp at Oceti Sakowin which is the head for the NoDAPL movement. Chase is a lawyer by profession, and a humanitarian by heart, and I basically just assist in all those efforts. I’m way more badass than he is, so that’s what he needs me for. So now, we are here in Charlottesville, we did a TED Talk yesterday, what town are we in actually? Bridge-builder?
Chase Iron Eyes: Water is life.
No, what town is this?
Water is life. That too. But, we’re at Natural Bridge for a pipeline summit, yesterday, we were at the TED Talk, and then, from here, I’m going to Washington, D.C. to do the groundworks. I’m organizing a benefit concert that Dave Matthews is heading in Washington D.C. at Constitution Hall on the 27th of November. And then on the 28th of November, we’re hosting a huge march, which all of you are invited to, and I hope that you guys come. It’s going to be from the Department of Justice to the Lincoln Memorial. We’re going to have a lot of great speakers and people present and basically, just make a stand that what’s happening in North Dakota…there’s zero tolerance for social injustices, for racism, segregation, and hatred, and we’re not going to put up with that shit. From the ground level all the way to the presidency, we’re just not gonna sit back and accept that this is our fate. So, it is led by the NoDAPL movement, but we’re really hoping to build those bridges between conservationists, between wild lens organizations, lawyers, students, politicians…this is all of our fight, everybody’s fight. We just want to engage the world to be involved. So that’s where we are now.
Show us your shirt and tell us what it means and how it embodies the movement.
So, this is an “Honor the Treaties” shirt, and the artist works through the Amplifier Foundation, and they do a lot of dope, grassroots artwork. So right now, what’s happening right now in Standing Rock, that land is basically treaty land. It’s a treaty that was made between the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the United States government, which isn’t being upheld. How do you trust a country that isn’t even uphold its own treaties? So a big part of this movement, is first, acknowledge our history, acknowledge that there’s a treaty already established, and then we wouldn’t be having this problem in the first place. So, that’s where my shirt comes from.
Can you tell us a little bit about what’s happening in Standing Rock right now?
So right now… I will talk about two sides of it. The first is the movement itself. In the movement itself, it is huge, it is a huge magnitude. It is indigenous peoples from all over the world, non indigenous people alike, it’s just all the people that are there standing behind the fact that climate change is real, that we need to stop our dependence on fossil fuels, that we won’t accept segregation. That indigenous people need to be recognized and valued and stop being dehumanized. It’s just this great big beautiful movement that stands not just all the injustices taking place here in the United States, but also internationally.
And then there is another side that you are looking at through another lens, and that is North Dakota itself and their local government including Governor (name) who is a piece of shit. And he has sixteen percentish invested in a pipeline itself. And because North Dakota doesn’t have an ethics commission they are pretty much able to do whatever they want. So they kind of declared a false state of emergency and urgency that enables them to pull money and resources from wherever they want. But that type of emergency that is supposed to be used for resources like I don’t know like a tornado or a mass flooding, not for a peaceful protest. So they are doing it really successfully so they are convincing all the people of North Dakota that will offer them some sort of job diversity, which it isn’t – that’s a total lie. The pipeline is owned by Energy Transfer, and they’re out of Texas. The people who are gonna moner (??) to the integrity of the pipeline come from Oklahoma and Texas, so they’re out of state. And then the people who have been hired so far like security and construction workers, those are only temporary jobs, those aren’t’ long term, lasting jobs. So I feel like it’s kind of a no-brainer, but for a lot of people it isn’t.
In addition to that, North Dakota’s oil is shitty as it is, I mean it’s crude oil. They don’t have a refinery there that’s capable of processing that type of oil. That’s why it has to be shipped out to Chicago and has to be refined there. So when it comes down to that and ‘jobs’, which are all in another state as well, and that specific oil is going to be refined and then contracted to China. So economically, it doesn’t do anything for the US let alone North Dakota, and these are the things that people aren’t paying attention to and need to be aware of.
So those are the two things happening: the beautiful, amazing camp that is there with all of these awesome people like artists, musicians, politicians, tribal leaders, indigenous peoples, just a big beautiful commune. It’s super sustainable and everybody’s working together to keep moving forward, and it’s just a great place to learn and educate each other. And there’s singing and dancing and art, and it’s just a beautiful place if you ever get the opportunity to go there that’s cool. But then the other side is the ugly side, the side that’s mostly led by the political world, which clearly sucks for us all. And now even more so with Trump, because Trump is also financially invested into DAPL, so that’s shitty too. So there’s these two worlds, but either world you want to be involved in, you should come there and make a stand with Standing Rock against big corporations, against big oil. And also for your own personal vendetta, to be there and say ‘This is what I stand for, this affects all of us and not just indigenous people.’
Can you tell us a little bit about the people from Standing Rock?
Yea, I mean we are them! We’re just like everybody else, except we grew up in a small towns. We grew up on the reservations, so it’s just like small town living that would be anywhere else. It’s always funny for me to see people who have never had a direct relationship with people who grew up on reservations, because they see living on reservations as like a weird little bubble. But actually, we’re exactly the same. Our culture is vibrant and even though it’s been threatened for hundreds of years, we’re definitely revitalizing those specific issues. We play basketball and go to college just like everybody else!
But right now, this is very personal because it challenges our inherited stewardship we have for the planet as indigenous people, and so that’s why I feel like we’re having such an uprising right now.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your life?
I’m 29 years old, and I have two daughters; my oldest is 6 and my youngest is 4, and they’re probably like the coolest people on the planet. I currently live in Bismarck, North Dakota, but I’ll probably be travelling around for the next however long. I grew up in Fort Yates, North Dakota, with my grandmother. I have a huge family (10:38)
With my dad I have 17 siblings, so there’s eighteen of us. My siblings are all super powerful and involved, and amazing people. Funny story is that Chase’s mom and my grandmother were super homies growing up. And so our families have been intertwined through generations.
This is personally really important to me because I went to school for sustainable development. I have also been involved in an organization called POSO? which is Placed based Opportunity for Sustainable development and high hopes which builds science curriculums infuses indigenous knowledges, ecological knowledges with core sciences like chemistry and biology. I have been really immersed in that really environmental aspect. And when that fight was taken to my home, you take on a personal relationship. So I have been there doing whatever I can to stand in support. I haven’t been arrested and I don’t really plan to get arrested. I am taking on more of the political side and hopefully the legal side. So now I am here and I don’t really know what is going on after this. This is my real focus as a person.
And just that, I have two cats. Winston and Sebastian, they are pretty sweet. And that’s just about me basically, I am a workaholic.
My number one thing is educate yourself, so become well versed on your topic so you know where you stand and you have the ability to communicate it clearly. That’s one of the biggest things. Be educated. Be woke. Wake yourself up. Be aware of these things, be aware of the politics, be aware of the legal elements so you are able understand these things from the broader elements.Take your education seriously, that is the only way you can help any movement. And the biggest thing we are lacking right now are lawyers. So just consider that, be educated.
And the second thing is in your own way pray. There is a higher power, and I know that there are a lot of people indigenous and non indigenous alike are called to the movement, so take the time to reflect within yourself and do whatever you do to connect with your higher power to find the right answer.
As far as money, you can go to the Last Real Indians, contact us and we can help you with that, or you can go to standingrock.org and they have a donation site there. Organize your own rallies, ask questions, join social media movements, if you cant travel there, which is the number one thing, just because it is a super awesome, it would be a super awesome experience for you, when you are 70 years old you can tell your grandkids about
But if you can’t do that, educate yourself, pray, maybe donate some money, maybe donate some time, but also be influenced by the movement to bring that type of motivation and that inspiration to your own local fights. That is really important as well.
So on the ground there are camps, so people are camp living so that is really cool. But winter is coming so that is a big fear for everyone. So on the ground there is that, there is the camp. Also they have the direct action and civil disobedience quite often. So they go out and practice civil disobedience and at different construction sites and locations. That is where they are facing militarized security that is funded by the DAPL, police officers that are influenced by our super shity governor, and they are facing extreme brutality but I mean this is real. People are getting shot with rubber bullets, which people call non-lethal, but in actuality they are just less lethal. They are painful, they tear your skin and it feels like you are actually being shot. People are being maced; men, women, children, it doesn’t matter, People are being tear gassed, there are constant sound horns that blast excruciating sounds. People are being subjected to extreme violence just for standing up for clean water.
On the ground people are dealing with PTSD and severe emotional abuse. Believe it or not, we are all on the same team. People have a hard time understanding how other Americans can completely dehumanize us as a nation. It is really intense, it is really crazy, it is really sad. We need people like you guys to stand up with us and basically say that “this is not okay that this is happening.”
What keeps you motivated?
My daughters. Anytime I have reflected within myself and thought about why I am doing this, why is this important, it comes at a personal level because this is my home. I don’t want my daughters to think it is okay to treat them awfully because of the pigmentation of their skin. This is a civil rights movement, it truly is. I will not sit back and let not let my daughters see me be mistreated because I have a darker color skin. That is absurd. I will not do it as a mom.
Also we have one planet. We don’t get another one. We don’t get to go anywhere else. That river that is there right now is the cleanest river in the United States. People in other countries right now are being stripped their rights of their right to clean water. I don’t want that to be my children’s or my children’s children’s future. That’s insane. I will not sit back and let that happen. Also my friends and family. They are there every day. They are there being arrested. They are there taking bullets directly to the face. They are my inspiration. Anyone would be there to protect their family. And you just got to do it in the best way you know how to do it.
Everyone else that is part of the movement is really my inspiration. And Chase is my inspiration as well. To watch someone from my own community to get through roadblocks in their own life, continue to move forward, get educated, become eloquently spoken, and run for Congress, it makes you feel like anything is possible.
People like that give me inspiration for standing up for what is right. This movement and the peaceful protestors are 100% in the right. I don’t care what they have to say, there is no argument that can tell me what they are doing is wrong. If they are trespassing…well Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus at that time, and history vindicated her. And that is what will happen to this movement.
Anything else you want people you want know?
The biggest thing is not to be discouraged by this Presidency. If you look at the voting map of your generation, almost every state except for North Dakota is blue. That gives me hope. You guys the most inspirational right now. You are on the right path. Keep doing what you are doing.
We all have to be aware of the environment. It is all interconnected. Whatever you are doing can be useful. So just know that. Education is definitely the path you should be taking. And also we have bomb food at camp right now. Seriously there’s four really awesome food tents. So if you needed any other reason to go, just go and stuff your face, it is really delicious.
And also you can add on facebook “Last Real Indian” and Standingrock.org, if you want more information go on that site. Follow me on facebook, my name is Laundi Keepseagle.