Letter: Bears Ears holds cultural significance for tribes

To the editor:

My name is Lisa DeVille I am an enrolled member of Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation and President of Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights. Rolling back Bears Ears or any national monument will jeopardize irreplaceable historical, cultural and natural heritage.

The Indigenous peoples (also known as Native Americans or Indians) creations stories come from Mother Earth. The instructions, to protect Mother Earth were giving to us since the beginning of time.

I live with oil and gas and witnessed the environmental and health impacts. We’re in the next wave of assimilation, our land has been mortgaged out to those who don’t know its value or how important it is to our people. We have left our future, our children’s futures, and the question of a healthy environment in your hands and what do we have left? We have continuously been forced to assimilate to live how their society thinks is the only way. Everything has been taken repeatedly, every promise broken. And we have to accept it. Our lands have been taken, mined, and extracted of resources that will never be available again because of white man’s GREED. It’s destroying us.

White people in the capitol, who don’t live anywhere near the devastation that we have to deal with on a daily basis, are making decisions that don’t affect them. Yet they profit from selling out the people they claim to represent. We were forced to relocate here, and it is the only lands that we have left that ties us to our ancestors. The intruders can leave whenever they want, we don’t have that option. We will have to deal with the aftermath of the irreparable environmental destruction. These white people are only here to profit off our oil, which is another flood of the same invaders who came to our lands centuries ago.

These people have no ties to this community, their roots aren’t here. They came from Europe and settled here. They have no respect for our Mother Earth. They don’t know any better because their history proves their trail of destruction. They blinded our people with lies and greed. They told us how safe it is to extract oil and to build their pipelines. We do not know if our water is safe to drink, if the air is safe to breathe, if our land is healthy to sustain life. We are surrounded by flares while our people die in the winter. We live next to the encroachers on our lands. We see pipelines running through the lands as if they are veins of our Mother Earth. The poison isn’t going to end.

“A review of the ethnographic literature demonstrates that Bears Ears was a sacred area for several Tribes, and that it has been encoded as an important landmark in tribal narratives.” According to the National Park Service, many tribes have potential cultural affiliation with Bears Ears National Monument.

Traditional ceremonial activities which demonstrate the sacred nature of Bears Ears to tribes include: personal rituals: prayer offerings (bundles and cloths), sweat lodge ceremonies, vision quests, funerals. group rituals: sun dance, sacred narratives: origin legends, legends of culture heroes and legends of the origins of ceremonies and sacred objects.

Today we are seeking to: (1) continue our religious practice as we have traditionally (2) maintain the land that has ancestral significance and provides deep ties to our culture that has been severely affected by colonization and American expansion, (3) preserve the land in its natural state and maintaining its deep, religious connections, and finally, (4) protect and preserve the soil — it is the foundation of healthy land and water.

Please don’t make the mistake of focusing only on the land itself. Give equal thought to who will use the land, live on it, learn about it, or help to protect it for the future generations. Land that does not involve people on an ongoing basis becomes “out of sight and out of mind” — and subject to abuse.

Thank you for your time!

Lisa DeVille Mandaree, ND

President, Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights

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