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Meaning of Mni Wičhoni


by Shanelle Henry | Journalism

A young, indigenous woman speaks about the meaning of Mni Wičhoni. Starting with her introduction, she says, “O han mitakuyapi čanté wašté nape chiuzapi. Wakíyan čanté tasunka milahanska Emačiyapi. Hopi na Oglala Lakota wikoškalaka hemača ye. Pine Ridge South Dakota hematańhań.

Translated into English, she says, “All my relations I shake your hand with a good heart. My name is Wakyan Chanté (Thunder-Heart) Tasuńka Milahanska (American horse). I am from the sunclan of Old Orabi, Hopi Arizona and the Thunder nation of Oglala Lakota tribe of Pine Ridge, South Dakota.”

For many tribes an introduction is usually the most appropriate thing to do before talking to someone new.

The Camp of the Sacred Stones demonstrations continue at the site of Dakota Access Pipeline construction. Image located at Indian Country, Today Media

The Camp of the Sacred Stones demonstrations continue at the site of Dakota Access Pipeline construction. Image located at Indian Country, Today Media

Passing on beliefs of their Native American culture, protestors like Chanté have been standing up for Mother Earth for a lengthy amount of time in demonstrations against building the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) near Standing Rock, North Dakota. Sadly, many people are unaware of the DAPL situation because it’s on native land.

Chante, a firm believer of Mni Wičhoni, meaning Water is Life, said, “I feel that many people who are foreign to this land may not understand the importance of our water and the reason of this protest.”

Numerous oil companies have come together to support the pipeline. However Chante views this differently. “Some think the pipeline will be successful in terms of business and the export of crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. But they need to understand that it’s not “if,” but “when” a pipeline breaks, you can no longer drink the water and use the land.”

Chante is also a supporter of AIM (American Indian Movement) which is one of the most powerful Native American movements. AIM has fought many battles, but they have only won a few.

Chante believes the government has a role in this, but how? “Once the government gets a chance they’ll go for it. They don’t like that we have a voice and we tend to speak it louder than others. They’ll shut us up any way they can. For many years the U.S government has tried numerous times to wipe us out completely. Has it ever worked? It lowered us by a huge amount, they took away tribes from their original lands and isolated them into reservations, sent the children to boarding schools which has done numerous of damage.”

Holding back tears Chante continues, “Their thought of ‘Kill the Indian; Save the Man’ was excruciating, but they did not kill our souls. We are still here carrying on the traditions and teachings that survived all those years. Even today many of us are still learning the language and ceremonies that our ancestors have practiced for thousands of years. We are still here, all 600 federally recognized tribes in the United States.”

The belief of life after death is more accurate than we think. This new generation of native people continues the traditions. There are many tribes in or on their way to stand with Standing Rock. “This is history in making,” said Chante. “Especially for tribes who have been enemies are now united. Some of the oldest tribes in the world are coming to Standing Rock in support and solidarity with the Dakota/ Lakota /Nekota nations.”

A Lakota shaman named the DAPL “the black snake,” meaning a slithering lie that crosses paths and destroys anything or anyone in its way. Standing firmly alongside Standing Rock, Chante agrees. She said, “We are not protestors we are protectors. Please take in consideration of going yourself or even donating supplies to the Sacred Stone Camp.”

Two thirds of people familiar with the Standing Rock demonstrations have answered yes to standing alongside their efforts. Chante believes this won’t be a hard fight, if only we stand together as people who need water to live.

Her chin up, she said, “I think everyone should think about the generations after us and what they could do to keep this environment clean and safe. It’s not just a Native American issue; this affects us all. We can defeat the black snake, if we stand together as one.”

LCHS Journalism and Newspaper is accepting donations of coats, blankets, work gloves and other items in support of the demonstrators. Bring donated items to room C-33 through October 5th.



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