ROSEBUD – For decades, the Sicangu Lakota Treaty Council has advocated for the treaty rights of the Lakota Nation. And it will continue this legacy this week in the highest echelons of the Federal Government as a participant in the White House Summit on Building Climate Resilient Communities September 28, 2023.
The Summit, which will explore effective climate resilience strategies that are locally tailored and community-driven, aims to help build communities that are not only resilient to the impacts of a changing climate, but also safer, more equitable, and economically stronger. Phil Two Eagle, the executive director of the Sicangu Lakota Treaty Council, was invited to attend this Summit based on his climate leadership convening the Lakota Nation to develop adaptation plans that will help them respond to imminent environmental challenges.
“The Oceti Sakowin Oyate (the People of the Seven Council Fires) have thrived across a large portion of North America for millennia. Our livelihoods have depended on the care and wise management of the land, and many of us carry these values with us to this day,” Two Eagle said. “It is natural that we mobilize our community to address the changing climate for the benefit of our people, and all our relations.”
According to the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties which formally and legally recognized the Lakota Nation as a sovereign people separate from the United States, and as such is granted “nation-to-nation” status, meaning that the successors of the chiefs who signed the treaties are to liaise directly with the heads of the US Federal Government. While this treaty stipulation has been frequently violated, along with many others, the invitation to the White House Summit is a step closer to establishing nation-to-nation relations.
Under the climate leadership of Two Eagle and others, the Lakota Nation is taking concrete actions to address climate threats, including the building of a climate monitoring and data center. However, their capacity to fully respond to climate emergencies is limited by the Federal Government’s continued violation of treaty rights.
One recent example of US Federal Government treaty violations that reduce Lakota capacity to effectively address climate change is that of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This pipeline, approved by the US Federal Government, cuts through treaty lands as determined by the 1868 treaty, puts local communities and their scarce water supply at risk, and contributes to global carbon emissions.
“The pipeline is only one example among many that illustrates why the Oceti Sakowin require the fulfillment of our treaty rights and complete sovereignty of our territory. When empires occupy a place, they do not care for it because they do not live there. They exploit it and the people who dwell there,” Two Eagle explained. “But because this land is our home, we care for it.”
The pipeline is just one example among many that demonstrates that for the Lakota Nation, climate resilience is not possible without greater recognition of their inherent sovereignty. For this reason, Two Eagle is working with an environmental nonprofit, WILD.org, to convene the 12th World Wilderness Congress (WILD12), a global gathering in the Black Hills in August 2024 to draw greater attention to the relationship between Indigenous sovereignty and beneficial outcomes for the climate and biodiversity.
For more information about WILD12, please visit wild12.org or to set up interviews please contact: Phil Two Eagle (email@example.com), Executive Organizer, Adam Hanson (firstname.lastname@example.org), Deputy Executive Organizer, Amy Lewis (email@example.com), Executive Organizer.