It’s hard to believe, but a year ago the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests were a hot button topic here in North Dakota and even internationally. Thousands of people flocked to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The media was a buzz and social media was inundated with pictures, video, and stories of the controversy. And through it all, one person was the face of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe– Tribal Chairman David Archambault.
But a lot has changed as of September 27th. Long-time Tribal Council member and former Wildlife Ranger Mike Faith defeated the well-known David Archambault in September’s election. Not only did Faith win, but he did so with about 62% of the vote. A humbling – if not embarrassing – result for Archambault, who gained international recognition with his role in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests.
Yesterday, the Bismarck Tribune published an article covering some of Faith’s vision for the Standing Rock Indian Reservation moving forward. And I must admit, there are definitely positive ideas coming from him for the future of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
For example, while recognizing the opioid problem among his people, Mike Faith said this:
“The elders, the grandmas saying enough is enough. And the young people are hearing them and know (drugs) are not welcome.”
Then the Bismarck Tribune reported this:
“But he is also calling on the people of Standing Rock to work for this change among themselves . In his first months in office, he has trips planned to each community to ask how the council can help the communities help themselves .” (Emphasis Added)
These are very important points. Native American tradition has historically had a deep respect for the elders in the tribe. Having the elders say “enough is enough” to an upcoming generation of Native American children could potentially reap positive benefits as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe moves forward.
In addition to this, Mike Faith’s call for the people of Standing Rock to work for change among themselves – and to find ways to “help the communities help themselves” – is especially encouraging. This becomes a very powerful message when Faith puts it in the context of the importance of employment.
Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater once wrote:
“…the Conservative has learned that the economic and spiritual aspects of man’s nature are inextricably intertwined. He cannot be economically free, or even economically efficient, if he is enslaved politically; conversely, man’s political freedom is illusory if he is dependent for his economic needs on the State.”
Based off of other comments in the Tribune’s article, I would imagine that Mike Faith is not going to advocate removing Standing Rock from State assistance just yet– something he doesn’t have the power to do anyhow. But it certainly appears he has some understanding of the importance of self-determination on the reservation.
One of the aspects of the fallout that occurred as a result of the pipeline protests was the North Dakota Legislature cancelling it’s traditional “Tribal-State Relationship address” a year ago. This address is historically given during the first week of the Legislative Session.
When the 2019 Legislative Session rolls around, I certainly hope that the North Dakota Legislature will see fit to resume the tradition of having the Tribal-State Relationship address. Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Mike Faith has a message of hope that is rooted in the idea of his people evoking change from within, instead of without. And I think that message would be worth listening to.
1. http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/new-tribal-chairman-aims-to-empower-members/article_3618c79c-36dc-5cf6-b48b-622ad8ecae6d.html#tracking-source=home-top-story-2 2. http://www.theblaze.com/news/2014/07/24/the-10-most-popular-quotes-from-barry-goldwaters-conscience-of-a-conservative 3. https://www.theminutemanblog.com/single-post/2017/09/28/A-New-Day-for-Standing-Rock-Faith-Ousts-Archambault-as-Tribal-Chairman