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We Are Water Protectors
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom is a phenomenal book for children that tells the story of the Indigenous “Seven Fires Prophesy,” which tells of a “black snake” that comes after the land and the sacred water. As the story continues, it becomes clear that the black snake they spoke of came in the form of oil pipelines, which often cross Native lands. When the pipeline leaks, the black snake of crude oil poisons the water. This effects the local agriculture, fish, and even Indigenous access to clean drinking water.
It is the rallying cry of the small child telling this story to stand together against the black snake for the protection of Mother Earth and all her inhabitants. With her chorus, she declares “we stand with our songs and our drums. We are still here.”
The overarching theme is, of course, standing up to Big Oil, and using the small girl as the main story teller was a brilliant reminder from the author that the children’s voices matter, and the children understand. Repeating the refrain “We are still here” reminds readers to remember the Indigenous peoples who often have their land stolen (again) to build these pipelines, and the very real devastation that impacts our fellow humans when the land is disrupted and the water poisoned.
We talked about a lot with this book. I gave them a brief history of the Dakota Access Pipeline, fresh in my mind after working on the Radical Agenda planner (The DAPL is the Monthly Learning Moment topic for April 2023). We discussed the history of Native lands being stolen and treaties being broken, and how Indigenous people have been treated as “less” for hundreds of years, including the current healthcare and environmental disparities.
The back of the book has additional information about the Standing Rock Sioux and the protests of 2016. I was able to tell my oldest how he attended a local protest/fundraiser at our favorite coffee shop in Grinnell, Iowa, while the Standing Rock Sioux were being violently attacked for trying to protect their land. He was only barely a toddler when that happened, but the look on his face when he found out he “helped” was priceless.
In order to change and correct the course of history, we have to include our young people. When we raise them from the cradle to stand up for others, to involve themselves in protecting other humans who are not being protected, we will create a generation of empathetic world changers and earth protectors – because as we see in this book, the two are very much connected.
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