Water is Life: With Solidarity for Standing Rock


I am Kanien’kehá:ka . . . born of the Haudenosaunee, “People of the Flint” . . . of the Iroquois Confederacy.

I am a Mohawk, born in Akwesasne upon the land and the water where the “Partridge Drums” . . . . where the St. Lawrence River rubs-up against two foreign States. We are the protectors of the “Eastern Door” . . . a nation that has refused defeat or surrender to those who challenge our duty to safeguard sacred land and the water which defines it.


Though many aim to weaken our resolve . . . some to silence our voice . . . we endure as guardians, Warriors of Land & Water. An existential understanding, ours is an obligation born of pre-colonial tradition that flourished well before the arrival of those who snatched the United States and Canada from our land. We exist as the Original People of this continent in full harmony with the other Nations of this Our Mother Earth. Historically and contemporary. . . most recent at Oka . . . the Mohawk Nation stood firm and declared to the world that not one inch more would be lost to the pursuit of those who see life as but a test of how much can be taken in the empty chase of greed masquerading in the name of well being and need.


At Standing Rock, my sisters and brothers today make the same stand. Gathering in one mind, together with the knowledge that “Water is Life” and in this truth we are one human nation. In their name, in their honor, in their strength in all kind, I dedicate this work. It comes from mother earth. We all do.

Our Water in each form is sacred . . . without it we cannot exist.

She possess
the specific rhythm
of a poet
Close to grace
given to cumulus clouding of frenzy
Perhaps she is as subtle as a late night bloomer
A desert cacti
A winged bird of prey
Feeding on the smallest of creatures
Nesting in the hearts of men
of boys
of beginnings
Our Water,
She is of the earth
It can be said
It is the silk of sky she wears best
Riding the rainbows of the moon
The most delicate of hues washing her shadows
All the shades of white to marble her weightless flight
The whirlpool of her
mapping veins
blue as,
High noon July Sky
A northern river
Wide and deep as frozen yesterday
Our Water is Life,
She paints the horizon
We set sail
The four winds gathering nations
To carve
backward the motion of time
a feast of all memory
Her power
essential and sublime


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Joni Sarah White is a Mohawk from Akwesasne who’s paintings and sculptures have appeared throughout the world. A graduate of Dartmouth College and recipient of fellowships from both Hedgebrook and Chautauqua Institution. Additional work of hers can be seen at www.wethepeople.gallery

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