I AM A WATER PROTECTOR!
My name is Maria Rose, I am named after my grandmother Mary, who was a victim of genocide where my father was a survivor. My grandmother’s sister, the only person left from our lineage, adopted my father.
I come from the DENE nation, in the Northwest Territories of Northern Canada. I am a advocate for protecting mother earth. I run earth-skills camps, Nature-Mentoring, and a champion to preserve the ways of nature.
I did many things at STANDING ROCK. Standing in prayer was my main focus. Each step I kiss to our Mother Earth. I took care of the woman sweatlodge. I brought food and water to the elders and did many momentary prayers everyday. I was there for a month, until… I got sick. Sick from the rat poison they were spraying. So, my friend Gilles (Who I assisted in using his Swiss Army Truck to get people unstuck in their many cars) — took me to the Casino Hotel for two nights in deep December. (Like many, we let people take showers in the room that we shared).
On the second morning we were sitting with two reporters named John. Gilles left to the room and an older woman came to sit with us. Amazingly, she was also Dene and knew my father. By chance, she was going back to North West Territory and took me home for the first time in my life!
I got to meet my distant families, my tribe, my Northern home. I lived there for 6 months. During that time, I return to Standing Rock for a month. With others, I helped bring an entire WILD BUFFALO, that we hunted together with the Nez Perce tribal members in the treaty lands of beautiful Yellowstone. Gilles and I, were the only ones who were present in the hunt. I saw her get shot, I looked her in the eyes, I prayed, I gave thanks, I honored her life giving force, to the well respected water protectors. We processed her, she was huge. We skinned her carefully, with head skin still attached. We honored her, every moment and brought her to Standing Rock — to the water protectors.
Buffalo face the storms, they always walk forward. We wanted to gift that spirit to the water protector, the elders, those who remain and stand, even though the eviction was put in place. We drove not knowing we were going to be able to get in. In fact, we were the last allowed in.
We gifted two brain-tanned buffalo robes to two well respected front line water protectors. We gifted many jars of meat that we processed during Buffalo Bridge and gifted fresh meat to the many kitchens.
It was one of the biggest gifts of my life, to see grandmothers cry holding Wild Buffalo organs, something they haven’t had since childhood. I knew from those moments onward, the rejuvenation of the next seventh generations, was happening. Honoring elders, and all beings.
We left two days before the evacuation, driving all the way back to the Nez Perce reservation for more ceremonies. When I finally returned home… Two weeks later, the Southern pipe arrived. It is written, the rejuvenation of the next seventh generations is to happen when the pipe arrives North… by chance, I was at the ceremony.
I knew, even though I wasn’t on the front lines, I was still there. I was on the prayer lines, with everyone else at Standing Rock . Walking in prayer, witnessing the rising and reclaiming everyday; Our home. Our rights. Our sovereignty.
I was accepted on the Youth Advisory Board of Canada, to protect water and help raise awareness in communities, to stand up for our, water. WATER IS LIFE!
Maria Rose Sikyeah
Honored by: Tommy Torok