Lakota People's Law Project

Justice for the Lakota People

The Lakota People's Law Project

Image Courtesy of: Native News Online

Lakota People’s Law Project (LPLP) was founded in 2004, upon repeated violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act. After enduring the forced removals of children from their homes, a group of grandmothers in Lakota country asked the LPLP to investigate, and help prevent further illegal action by the South Dakota's Department of Social Services. The investigation unfortunately uncovered patterns of physical and mental abuse, drugging, and neglect. This forced placement of Native children in cruel foster care was leading to high levels of youth suicide. Such atrocities resulted in the inception of the Lakota’s People’s Law Project, now a flourishing center enacting multiple campaigns for justice in Lakota Country. 

Per their mission statement, the Lakota People’s Law Project is an organization partnered specifically with the Lakota people to preserve and secure indigenous culture, autonomy, and self-determination.

In 2016, the LPLP became a force to be reckoned with after the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) threatened to destroy the Lakota people’s sacred lands and water. Nation-wide, states are enacting laws meant to pacify or criminalize indigenous activists and the protest of pipelines. Not only does this actively ignore indigenous lands rights and treaty boundaries, but there is a terrifying potential that sacred land and water will be polluted. Amidst all of this, Tokata Iron Eyes has been crucial to the Lakota People’s Law Project campaign to stop the DAPL.

As young as twelve years old, Tokata Iron Eyes joined the fight to ensure the sacred waters of Lakota country were not polluted. One of the focal points of this fight is the need to ensure clean drinking water for indigenous people. Indeed, this is a massive issue on many reservations, where Native people experience disproportionate inaccessibility to clean drinking water.

Image courtesy of NPR

In the fall of 2016, Tokata teamed up with the renown activist Greta Thunberg to speak at the Red Cloud Indian School, Iron Eyes’s home campus, where the two young women implored the resident youth to take to climate activism. Since the pipeline was approved, Tokata has spent her energy drawing attention to this injustice and the urgent need to act. Imploring people to take action, Tokata says,“We are at the edge of a cliff in regards to our timeline to save this planet, and the Indigenous people will be the ones to lead the movement off of the edge.”

In the fight for climate justice, The Lakota People's Law Project is primed to assist young activists like Tokata in the fight to reclaim, defend, and care for indigenous lands. In our current age of impending climate disaster, it is absolutely vital to listen to, learn from, and respect Indigenous voices — especially those young voices who will continue to shape the future of the lands on which we all live.

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