BY CHERYL CEDAR FACE
MHA TIMES REPORTER
DUPREE, S.D. — Fort Berthold-native Kandi Mossett joined individuals from across the country to participate in training sessions for Moccasins on the Ground, an organization dedicated to environmental protection. The event took place in Dupree, S.D., the weekend of Feb. 21-22,
Moccasins on the Ground is a part of the Owe Waku’s Sacred Water Protection Project, and involves three-day training sessions held in various locations. The sessions included training on barricading heavy equipment, effective use of the media, and information on street medical care. Above all, the training consists of establishing a strong network of individuals dedicated to protecting their homelands.
Mossett, who grew up in New Town, has long been an advocate for environmental protection. She works for the Indigenous Environmental Network among other action groups. She regularly presents at Moccasins on the Ground trainings, along with Debra White Plume of Owe Waku, Nina Waste, co-founder of Idle No More, and Dallas Goldtooth of the 1491s. The training sessions revolve around educating the public on specific environmental concerns such as the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as the impact that practices such as fracking have on water and air quality.
“People will say they’ll come when the protest starts, but not be involved in the planning,” said White Plume. “You can form a base with only 10 members, and with knowledge, you have yourself an action group.”
For Mossett, environmental concerns hit close to home. She educates many on the dangers that the Bakken oil fields pose to the environment, and to the people who live in the region. “Since 2008, there’s been 47 truck-related deaths on Fort Berthold,” said Mossett. “And it will be at least 20 years before we are completely aware of the effects that the oil business has on peoples’ health.”
While Mossett lives in Montana, she remains concerned for the well-being of relatives still living on the Fort Berthold. “People sometimes say, ‘you live in Montana, you don’t have to deal with everything every day,’ but they forget that all my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews are all home drinking that water.”
Mossett says that in order for change to occur, tribal members need to focus on decolonization and speaking out against the harmful effects of the oil industry in North Dakota. “I used to think if I just talked about it, something would get done,” said Mossett. “But more people need to think about what we’re going to do beyond the oil boom.”
“We should be thinking of our kids, we should be thinking of the air we’re breathing, the water we’re drinking,” she said. “We have OPEC countries looking at New Town, N.D. because it affects their bottom line. People need to know about this. People need to know how huge this is.”
Mossett believes that increased awareness is essential in preventing further damage to land and health. “People do not understand the gravity of the situation, and that’s why we need more community forums.”
While Mossett participates in action groups, her main priority is the well-being of her homeland and tribal members who still live on the reservation. “I hate being labeled as an environmentalist or an activist. I’m just me. I grew up there.”
The safety of tribal homelands was also the ultimate priority of the Moccasins on the Ground training sessions as a whole. While there were numerous tribes represented at the training, the protection of ancestral land was of paramount importance.
“We have a long lineage of indigenous resistance that we are all a part of,” said Goldtooth. “We need to work together.”