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“Water is Life, Water is Sacred”: Standing Rock’s Bobbi Jean Three Legs Speaks Out Against Trump

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As Donald Trump signs a presidential memorandum to revive the Dakota Access pipeline, we speak to Standing Rock activist Bobbi Jean Three Legs. Last year, she and Joseph White Eyes led a group of youth water runners on a 2,000-mile trek from Sacred Stone Camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to Washington, D.C., where they delivered a petition against the Dakota Access pipeline to the Army Corps of Engineers headquarters.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The Standing Rock Sioux issued a statement on Facebook, reading, quote, “Today, Trump announced an executive order on DAPL; it not only violates the law, but it violates tribal treaties. Nothing will deter us from our fight for clean water. We will be taking legal action, and will take this fight head on. We urge you to fight and stand tall besides us. The EIS statement”—environmental impact statement—”is still in process, so please submit your comments to the link below. This helps us compound our claim that the pipeline poses grave environmental risks. Please also call your congressional representatives and let them know that the people do not stand behind today’s decision. Stand together as one and we will not fall.” That’s the statement of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

We’re joined here in Park City by Bobbi Jean Three Legs. She is a water protector who led other young people in a hundreds of miles—well, how long was the run that you participated in, Bobbi Jean, that went from, oh, North Dakota to Washington, D.C.?

BOBBI JEAN THREE LEGS: Yes, it was about a 2,000-mile relay run. My brother Joseph White Eyes and I led about 40 youth from the ages of 30—from the ages of 13 to 30.

AMY GOODMAN: And when you heard this news about the presidential memorandum, the executive action, issued by President Trump yesterday, what were your thoughts?

BOBBI JEAN THREE LEGS: That he is waking up a lot of people, that a lot of people are really paying attention to the climate change now, that we’re never going to back down.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you afraid?

BOBBI JEAN THREE LEGS: Yes. I’m mostly afraid for the future generations, because this is going to affect them the most. I have a two-year-old daughter at home, and I can’t imagine what life is going to be like when she’s in her mid-forties or fifties. I can’t imagine what my great-grandchildren or anybody’s future grandchildren or those not born yet will be going through when they come into this world.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re wearing a T-shirt. Can you tell us what it says?

BOBBI JEAN THREE LEGS: It says ”Mni Wiconi.” It means “Water is life. Water is sacred.” Water is our first medicine for many tribes around indigenous communities. And it all goes back to being a mother. Your baby is first coming from water, so it’s very sacred. And your babies are in water for nine months before they even breathe their first breath of air.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you tell Chloe about water?

BOBBI JEAN THREE LEGS: Like, we’ll just say—I’ll just say, ”Mni Wiconi,” to her, and she’ll just like say, “Water is life.” She, like—she’s paying attention. She’s only two.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, you participated in a protest here in Park City, protesting Chase and Chase Sapphire, because Chase Manhattan Bank has invested in the Dakota Access pipeline. You were there with many people, some who had been hit by rubber bullets.

BOBBI JEAN THREE LEGS: Yes, just barely even like three days before that. It’s still going on. There’s still police brutality going on. People are still getting maced. They’re getting shot. Our sister, Red Fawn, is still in jail. There’s over 600 people that have been arrested so far, and it just—it keeps going up. Right now I’m just asking all the youth around the country to stand up. I’m asking everyone around the world to stand up with us, wherever you are. Just make your own—you know, make your own gathering. Make your own posters. Go live. Anything that—any support would be really appreciated.

AMY GOODMAN: Where have you been going to college?

BOBBI JEAN THREE LEGS: The last college I was going to was United Tribes Technical College.

AMY GOODMAN: In Bismarck, North Dakota?

BOBBI JEAN THREE LEGS: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: So what is your understanding of what’s happened? We go from President Obama saying—not granting an easement to allow the pipeline to go under the Missouri River—

BOBBI JEAN THREE LEGS: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —which provides water, what, down to 10 million people below this area, including—well, you’re from—you’re Standing Rock Sioux, but from the South Dakota side.

BOBBI JEAN THREE LEGS: Yes. When this pipeline breaks—because all man-made things break eventually, whether it’s going to be a hundred years from now or less—we don’t have water intakes on our water—or, we don’t have filters on our water intake system, so it’s only going to take five minutes to get into Cannonball, North Dakota’s water intake, a hour to Wakpala, Mobridge, where I live, and two hours for Cheyenne River. And it just goes all the way down the river. And this isn’t just a Native American issue; this is a human race issue. And there’s about 17 million people that drink from the Missouri River. And pretty much this is the biggest water source in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve been involved with the protests since before April 1st, the day that LaDonna Brave Bull Allard opened her own property to the Sacred Stone Resistance Camp, encouraged people to come. You were among the first.

BOBBI JEAN THREE LEGS: I’ve seen—I’ve seen these five groups that were pretty much like the beginning of this movement—Joye Braun, Jonathan Edwards, Honorata Defender, and there was a couple other ones. I think my brother Joseph was there. And when I got to see them come in and open up Sacred Stone Camp, it was my first part of being a sa’am [phon.]. And it just—I felt like I belonged there. And I believe that everybody that’s camped out there now feels the same way. And I’m so thankful for them being there, because, without them, this pipeline probably would have already been built a long time ago.

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