Finding beauty in horses, hemp and solar panels

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By Winona LaDuke

Let’s be honest, sometimes 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 featured the Indigo Girls, Corey Medina, Lyz Jakkola, Annie Humphrey and Chastity Brown, playing to a large crowd that supports 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 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. And none to soon, as the Arctic faces a heat wave and forest fires are raging from California to Washington state.

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 horse women continue a 200 mile ride along the proposed Enbridge Line 3 route. This is the sixth year of the spiritual ride against the current of the oil, and is 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 Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rulings have eliminated this route, but a more northern route is not yet clarified. 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 the Crow Creek, Standing Rock, and Rosebud Reservations (all in South Dakota). They came into their name 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 two weeks.

Over the longer term, more tribes are looking to move away from fossil fuels and to the next economy. The Red Lake Ojibwe Tribe 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 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.