I was schooled a couple of weeks ago by a young man from the Taos Pueblo on how long it takes to get sacred lands back from the US government.
Now, keep in mind, the Taoseños were never actually evicted from their home, the Taos Pueblo is the longest continually occupied city in North America. So they had a strong bargaining position.
Teddy Roosevelt was laying claim to land to be part of his National Forest program and claimed their sacred Blue Lake as part of the national forest. This is the source of the river that runs through their pueblo and provides their water.
This young man said every year, from two to four times a year, the Elders sent a delegation to Washington to petition for the return of their Blue Lake and sacred lands. For sixty four years. Things about that a moment. Sixty four years before the land and lake was returned to them. That is determination. That is persistence.
Now think if they, like so many other First Peoples, had also lost their homeland. At some point, you would realize there was no reclaiming all that had once been yours. All you could hope for was some small part of what had once been, barely enough to live on. And considering, all the broken promises and all the land stolen, you would decide to live in the small parcel you were allotted. And if what you had considered sacred land, where ancestors were buried, was part of a tract of undeveloped land, with no fences around it, and no guards, wouldn’t you still consider it at least partly yours? After all, you kept the stories and legends alive and visited the land sometimes and still felt the bond. You didn’t need scientists and archaeologists to tell you it was sacred, you knew it in your heart.
And this is where the oil company has decided the pipeline is going. And US Army Corp of engineers has agreed. It was rerouted from a route that would have brought it too close to the river that supplies Bismarck with its water. So the city is more important than the Indians who live in the way of the alternate route.
Like all people are not equal.
Like Indians don’t count.
Like sacred ground only exists in the minds of the ones who remember.
Like oil pipelines never leak.