Horses, Hemp and Solar Panels

By Winona LaDuke 
 - For News From Indian Country - 

Sometimes, let’s be honest; it’s hard not to hang your head with the challenges of these times. To counter this, I just pick my head up, and look around and find beauty.

Honor the Earth’s “Water is Life Concert” at Bayfront Park in Duluth featured the Indigo Girls, Corey Medina, Lyz Jakkola, Annie Humphrey and Chastity Brown, playing to a large crowd supporting the front lines of Water Protectors.

“We are tremendously grateful to these musicians,” Paul DeMain, Board Co-Chair of Honor the Earth told reporters.  “Honor the Earth celebrates music and art at the core of our mission, and this was a great gift for our work.”

At a federal level, in late July, the Senate approved the legalization of the hemp, ending a seventy-year ban on the plant which devastated a number of farms, and sent the US textile industry into a domination by petrochemicals present in rayon, polyester, and other “synthetic blends”

The renaissance opens the door for more tribal hemp farms, and hopefully a re-establishment of a viable hemp industry in North America.  

Elsewhere, Ireland not only banned fracking but decided to divest its nest egg from fossil fuels - joining $5 trillion in divestment worldwide. None too soon, as the Arctic faces a heat wave and forest fires. And fires rage from California to Washington. 


One of Many Irish Wind Farms

In the face of rising liabilities of climate change-related disasters, many investors are moving towards renewable energy and a commitment to a green economy. Some tribes want to move that way as well, both in practice and in investment.    

Red Lake Nation is moving ahead decisively with solar. The first phase of solar was installed on tribal buildings in late May, with two new expansion phases planned. The tribe estimates that savings will be nearly $2 million annually.  

Meanwhile, on the ground, twenty youth riders and a couple of stalwart horsewomen continue on a 200-mile ride along the proposed Enbridge Line 3 route in Minnesota. This is the sixth year of the spiritual ride against the current of the oil sponsored by Honor the Earth.

Beginning at Rice Lake Refuge, the riders rode on the formerly proposed  “Enbridge Preferred Route” which would have impacted Sandy Lake dramatically.  The most recent PUC rulings have eliminated this route, but a more northern route is not yet clarified.

Horse Riders also rode over Line 61 in the 2017 Love Water Not Oil Tour

The riders intend to ride and pray on the newly proposed route, reaffirming a commitment to water as sacred. This year, the riders have also helped out local farmers, providing some much needed Water Protector labor to gardens and some other small projects

 Many of the riders are from Crow Creek, Standing Rock, and Rosebud.  They came into their name Sungwatogok or Fearless Horse Society at Standing Rock, the name bestowed by the renowned horse teacher John Eagle.

The youth, ranging from l6 to 30 have ridden on numerous spiritual rides (Big Foot, Dakota 38, Fort Laramie Treaty Ride and others), including last year’s Honor the Earth ride.  This year, youth from Pine Point and East Lake take a more prominent place on the ride, learning from older riders about Dakota horse songs, culture and a way of life with horses. Horse songs are similar to jingle dress songs and are also offered for healing and praise. The ride will include visits to Rice Lake and more ceremonial teachings on horses in the upcoming weeks.

Over the longer term, more tribes are looking to move away from fossil fuels and to the next economy. Red Lake plans to provide 10 to 20 megawatts of electricity to be sold to the grid. “The development of these projects are designed to address our basic needs and understandings,” Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr., said. “They include the preservation and conservation of our environment, providing an energy source which is compatible with our beliefs of living in harmony with nature, the diversification of our economy and investments, improving the quality of life, training for our labor force, and employment; jobs for our people.”

Horses, hemp, and solar panels provide an insight into that beautiful world, and to be sure, there are many who are ready for these changes.




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