I was born with my fist up,” Yonasda Lonewolf affirms.
Daughter of the late, Wauneta Lonewolf of the Ogalala Lakota tribe South Dakota, Yonasda, like her mother, is an activist, speaker and community organizer. In addition, her mother was a public relations speaker and former public relations director for Muhammad Ali in the 1970s. She was among the thousands of Indians and supporters to participate in The Longest Walk from Alcatraz Island to Washington D.C. from February to July 1978. The spiritual walk was in protest of the government’s threat of the tribal sovereignty and 11 anti-Indian legislation that would affect water rights and treaties.
“My mother was pregnant with me so I was the only girl born during The Longest Walk. She ended up having me in Washington D.C. once we got there,” Lonewolf shares with EBONY.com. “I was born into this movement, I was born with my fist up out of the womb. My mother was a person who fought and spoke the truth on behalf of unity. She really wanted unity among all nationalities.”
Lonewolf, 38, is an African American and Native American woman, who uses her voice and visibility to bring attention to important issues that impact both cultures with a sharp focus on police brutality. She has been instrumental in organizing events such as Hip Hop 4 Haiti, Hip Hop 4 Flint, and was invited to be the speaker at the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri.
“Anytime I see any type of injustice, I am there because I just really feel that we are at a time right now where it’s good vs. evil. You have to choose which side of history you want to be on. I want to be the warrior like my ancestors were,” she said. For her powerful voice, work and presence, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota reached out to Lonewolf to help bring awareness to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), an underground oil pipeline that would be routed from North Dakota through Illinois, and could affect the reservation’s water supply. She arrived at Standing Rock in September to protest in solidarity with water protectors. The final construction permit has since been denied by the Obama Administration.
Ebony.com spoke with the Lonewolf about her experience in Standing Rock and the message behind her activism.
EBONY.com: How have the protests against DAPL impacted you?
Yonasda Lonewolf: This really hits home for me because Standing Rock is my sister tribe and the land that the DAPL is on, the treaty land, is owned by my people. The Lakota people. So, I love that Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of the other nations are standing up to say, “You’re going to honor our treaty.”
EBONY: What were some situations that you’ve witnessed in Standing Rock?
YL: If you ever go to Standing Rock reservation, it is so beautiful. It is a long river and it’s so beautiful to see. Then right up the hill, you see all of this construction happening. All of them leveling out [this] beautiful land into mud, into dirt! It’s just so horrific to see. It doesn’t look like it’s appropriate.
EBONY.com: How was the energy around Camp Ociti Sakowin when Trump won?
YL: One thing that one of the tribal elders that I speak to all the time says, “You know, it’s probably good that Trump got elected because it wakes us all up. We’re about to change the world even quicker now than ever before because we don’t want him in office.” I always said, the only time that God is about to bless you is when there is a change in your life. You have to be able to acknowledge and accept change.
EBONY.com: You once said, “It’s not easy walking two roads within two great nationals of the black and red.” What are your feelings on seeing both of your cultures currently fighting injustices?
YL: When I look at myself being Black and Native, it’s so frustrating at times when I’m at these Black leadership conferences and the same problems they’re saying we have, the same stuff happens in the Native community. We are in a fight right now where we cannot segregate our issues anymore. Black lives do matter, Native lives do matter! These individual people of color lives matter but in order for us to really make a change for it to really be effective, we have to unify. We need to start speaking together as such and stop segregating ourselves as our common oppressor has taught us to.
Learn more about Standing Rock in this EBONY essay; and follow Yonasda’s movement.
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