Written by Sikowis (Christine Nobiss)
My name is Christine Nobiss and I am Plains Cree-Salteaux from the George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan. I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and I've been living in Iowa for 10 years. I have a masters degree in religious studies with a Native American focus and a minor in Native American studies from the University of Iowa and I’m founder and co-chair of Indigenous Iowa.
I want to start by saying that I am proud to be an Indigenous woman! And, thank you for being here. If you are here right now, then you are here to dismantle all of the antiquated and false inclinations that produce fear and hate in our hearts. And if you are here, you want to help protect Mother Earth for the sake of her children - which is all of humanity. When Mother Earth can no longer sustain us, we will simply cease to exist.
How do we do this? First, we need to recognize that social and environmental injustice are inextricably linked. Our societies are affected and shaped by our environments and, likewise, our environments are affected and shaped by our societies. When these two entities are out of balance, justice falls to the wayside and sickness in all its forms emerges. Thus, we have to combine our efforts--every organization, every union, every political party, every concerned human being on this planet needs to unite.
In modern history, worldwide colonization of Indigenous people and their lands has created the immense imbalance that we are living with today. The act of colonization is essentially about taking land from another group of people and in the process mitigating the population through extermination and/or assimilation. This process was justified through notions like manifest destiny, imperialism or the white man’s burden. I believe these notions arose out of theories of white supremacy and the Christian dogma that God gave man dominion over the earth.
This is why there is only one First Nation left in Iowa. The Meskwaki, with a population of 1400. Colonial-settlers felt it was their duty to put that land to better use because the vast gardens, grazing lands and roadways built by Indigenous people were not sufficient. So they were cleared out; Everywhere on this continent, our ancestors were cleared out. And now we suffer from the highest rates of substance abuse, violence, suicide, rape (mostly inflicted by white men) and so much more. This is what happens when you upset the balance between people and their land.
Currently, there are 14,000 Native Americans living in Iowa. We are from different Nations but let’s come together and decolonize the social landscape of this state. If you are indigenous and in the audience, let me hear your voice! Join us at Indigenous Iowa--everyone is welcome! It is time to bring Indigenous ideologies onto the world stage, share our concepts of community, and use that to transform the mindset of mainstream society. I know this is meant to happen because we are the seventh generation and we are here to change the course of humanity.
Already, Iowa has some of the most polluted waterways in the country due to excessive farming practices, golf courses, construction, illegal dumping, etcetera. And now, the Dakota Access Pipeline is running completely across our state. And it is no ordinary pipeline. It can carry around 500,000 barrels of crude a day and if it bursts it would be catastrophic. For this, I want to acknowledge the strong woman warriors that have led this movement and ask them to stay on guard because the new administration is coming to Native country--and to Iowa.
It is estimated that Native American land holds about 30 percent of the nation’s coal, 50 percent of potential uranium, and 20 percent of known oil and gas. This is bad news in the age of Trump. His Native American Coalition has already stated that he wants to privatize our land. He wants to deregulate federal control on reservations and allow private entities to entice poverty worn Nations with money in order to take their land. This is what Winona LaDuke calls predatory economics. This could undo our sovereignty; undo 500 years of resistance and 100 years of policy-making that has led us to a semblance of self-governance.
Frankly, I think the Trump administration would see as a win-win situation because I am positive they view the world through the paradigm of manifest destiny. When you're the ultimate narcissist the world is better off with you in it. For Trump, the white man's burden is essentially his worldview because, somehow everyone benefits when they are placed into their proper roles of a white supremacist hierarchy. And, like in the past 500 years, this new administration will enforce this hierarchy through the act of colonization because it is a process that has always been carried out by corporate giants who are backed by political interests. And this is exactly what this new administration is built upon. I don’t know if it’s possible for Trump to have chosen a cabinet that could reflect this more clearly. His intentions are deafening.
And this notion no longer applies to just Indigenous people, but to all who are living on resource rich land. For instance, in the northeast corner of Iowa there is sand that is highly suitable for fracking. And there are more pipelines, commercial farming practices, construction and golf courses in our foreseeable future. So, don't be surprised when corporate entities come here to take that land; But be ready and stand up to them. Get informed at a local level. Sign up for Iowa Utility Board notices. Be engaged in the governance of your community. Also, if we start investing in ourselves and move the economy in the direction of renewable and clean energy then we are one step further in addressing this issue of climate change and our future. Just like what our ancestors did to protect themselves, I believe that it is only through community engagement that we can fight this new administration’s warped ideas about society and also protect our mother to keep her healthy for the sake of us all.