Wiconi!” It’s this sensibility that is important to the present: water
is not a “resource,” it’s not a “utility,” it’s not negotiable. Rather, “it
is sacred.” I have heard these words many times. Without water,
there is no life. Simple. True. Resonant, down to our very cells.
Tonight, I spent time rewatching footage of both Diné and
Lakota e=orts to protect their water. It hurts to watch outright violence by law enforcement and, equally so, the casual dismissal of
urgent community voices by onlookers and passersby. Yet there’s
an inimitable strength in the people’s stance that gives me hope.
The Diné and Lakota people are not alone, mind you. These bat-
tles rage across the nation —in tribal and nontribal communities
alike. But I drank in these videos with amazement. I’m reminded
that at the center and inception of so many of these movements
are the youth —bright, resilient energy. Fire. In concentric circles
around them, I see our women. Our men. Elders. Allies. I have
considered why I feel devastated by our losses as much as I feel
bolstered and empowered. I sometimes think, If ten thousand
people camping at Standing Rock to protect the Missouri River
could not stop the siege of the Dakota Access Pipeline, then what
does it take? What more?
On March 5, 2017, six weeks after the current US president
signed an executive memorandum to resume construction of
the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines, the Whitney
Museum held an event, “Words for Water.” A gathering of artists, all of whom are Native women, presented written and musical pieces in honor of this land, its water, and the people working
to protect it. Artists included Natalie Diaz, Heid Erdrich, Louise
Erdrich, Jennifer Elise Foerster, Joy Harjo, Toni Jensen, Deborah
A. Miranda, Laura Ortman, and myself. Here, we o=er a selection
of works shared that night to a room tossed by waves of emotions
and questions. I do not have the answer to What more does it take?
except to say that I know, we all know, it will take more. And toward
this, our work continues.
— Layli Long Soldier