Every spring, Indian people practice a sacred ritual called yulgari or “lulling in the water.” In it, a river is bathed in pure water, so that as many people as possible are permitted to bathe in it. The cleansing ceremony symbolizes the blessing of the water to all people.
The first time Nicholas Rosswurm visited his family in the Oglala Sioux reservation at the Little Big Horn National Forest, a group of people swam around his small boat. “They were just all over me. My dad’s head, my whole body,” he recalled. Rosswurm was raised near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in a close-knit Oglala community, and he was used to welcoming strangers to their bison and prairie dogs. But this time was different: “When I first saw those people in the river, it was like suddenly, all of a sudden I was like, oh, everybody’s thirsty,” he said. He and his brother left the boat that day, and they both swore never to return. It was easier to understand, he figured, to go without.
For several years, Rosswurm and his family have been organizing an effort to preserve the Little Big Horn Waterway. The waterway connects the tribes of the Little Big Horn to the Sioux and other tribes in Nebraska, as well as stretches of the Missouri River downstream to North Dakota. That is where American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard and Williams and Clark Pipeline Partners President and CEO Steven Fisher want to build their Keystone XL Pipeline.
“I’ve been with this company for almost 29 years. I’ve never seen such a large number of tribes coming together against something that has a direct link to their energy sovereignty,” Fisher said in an interview with Native Sun News. “Native people have been able to protect our sacred water for more than a thousand years,” Fisher added. “We believe that Americans have been able to have a thriving and rich middle class and a healthy environment, just like Indians in the Rocky Mountains. They can do it too.”
On March 8, Rosswurm and his family followed the Little Big Horn National Forest billycarts for more than 11 miles to convince people to support the tribes’ water protection efforts. At the river, indigenous people practiced yulgari, a traditional Sesquicentennial ceremony that is open to all.
“We can turn this toxic into water,” Rosswurm said to Native Sun News. “If we don’t find the resources and the money to fix our river, every single person will die of cancer,” he said.
The tribes have also published a letter in the Neosho Lakota, Pawnee and Sinte-Kapelan Nations Journal calling on the NEPA Review Board to put the Keystone XL Pipeline on the inactive list of categorical exclusion projects for emergency environmental impacts and listing the pipe as an endangered species. For environmental organizations, the pipeline’s proposed route is particularly troubling, as this puts it through sensitive and densely-populated places, including some tribal lands.
Read the full story at Native Sun News.
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