In September, Deb Konechne and S. Gutierrez conducted a number of interviews with opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
J. Sitting Bear is a Lakota mother and grandmother from the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota and now lives in Rapid City. She was a continuous presence in the kitchen that feeds the multitudes of protectors at the Oceti Sakowin encampment along the Cannonball River, where thousands traveled to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. J. Sitting Bear and her daughter traveled to Standing Rock near the beginning of the encampment and have worked tirelessly from early morning until night to prepare meals and to help with security since they arrived at the site.
J. Sitting Bear has lived a life of activism. At 16 years old, she was at the Wounded Knee uprising on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Now 59, she has a legacy of standing up for the rights of native people in multiple forms, including fighting against police brutality and killings of native people in South Dakota.
J. Sitting Bear:
“If there’s one thing in the world I could pay for and to have it go away, it’s this racism. Because of this racism… it’s just like, like cracking of the ice… you know the racism tears in and it all goes out in veins. And the more it goes out the worse it’s getting. And that just breaks my heart to see that. My chante (heart) is sick when I think of it, it really hurts, because those are all of our brothers and sisters out there.
“That’s why I’m here, I just want to be here for my people. Like I said, if it comes to it, I can lay down my life. I would give my blood, I would let my blood flow. If just one person you know doesn’t get hurt by these people [DAPL],or if just one part of the pipeline gets stopped, that’s worth it. It’s our people…and it’s not only just our people. People think it’s just us natives fighting. But it’s for all people – the farmers and ranchers have their cows, they live off the land by selling crops… that’s gonna affect them too. So it’s just so emotional for me to be here. When I heard of this starting, I told my daughter we gotta go, gotta go and she says, you’re going? And I said ya.
“I guess my life is going to be this until my time comes. I will continue to be at these things, these protests standing up for my people. If I have to crawl, I’ll get there. As long as I have a mouth, I can still speak. I’m here to help people, I give my all.”