Fawn Douglas, NoDAPL (Mni Wiconi School Project), paint on canvas, 4’x 30’, 2016.
We felt the call for water protectors to rise, as we witnessed dogs attacking our brothers and sisters that summer of 2016. Many atrocities committed on the people protesting for a basic human right, the right to clean water. I organized Standing Rock informational meetings at the Las Vegas Paiute multi-purpose room on our reservation so that our community could plan our course of action to support. I expected 20 people to attend the first information session and my heart was stopped at the number of people filling the community center past capacity. Many were trying to find parking and supporters overflowed out the double doors into the parking lot. Hundreds attended the meeting, from many Indigenous groups, faiths, and backgrounds. I began to speak giving the most current update from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. We started the fundraiser to gather donations and would deliver them in early October by Indigenous Peoples’ Day. I loaded up the month’s collection and art supplies. Our goal was to bear witness, research what was happening at Standing Rock, review where was best to allocate our funds, provide an art project for the Mni Wiconi School, and to meet and interview the people of the Oceti Sakowin Camp. I was able to connect with the teachers of the school and present a group art project. Creating art was fun for the children who stayed behind, while their parents were on the frontlines of the fight. The teens assisted as children placed their gloved hands on the canvas and painted over them to make their mark. Positive handprints over the black snake on canvas showed unity, resistance, and that the people together will overcome adversity. The youth had importance in this movement. Their hands on this canvas meant something. They witnessed what was happening at Standing Rock, which planted the seeds to take their place as stewards of the land as they learned Mni Wiconi, Water is Life.