top of page

Mní wičhóni

By Jim Drevescraft, Volunteer Writer

Mní wičhóni is the Lakota expression that encapsulates their belief that water is a sacred part of nature and therefore all existence: “Water is Life.”

In the Old West, more people were killed in fights over water than anything else. I should say, the white settlers who appropriated the lands of Native Americans in the naturally semi-arid terrain of much of the Great Plains found themselves in the requirement for water to graze livestock and grow crops. Thus,water became a vital commodity. Of course, as native peoples were forced from their ancestral lands onto reservations that were often in areas with sub-par environmental conditions (e.g., the theft of the Black Hills from the Oglala Lakota: a sacred region to them called Paha Sapa to the area of the Pine Ridge Reservation today), Mní wičhóni became a matter of life and death.

Today on the Rez, One Spirit is helping the Lakota by aiding Bamm Brewer in his crusade to return the buffalo as a quality protein source and a chance for employment. The Meathouse is another “crown jewel” accomplishment we have made through generous donations and grants. We are also developing other food production opportunities with sustainable gardening in Allen, Manderson, and other communities. An orchard is being planted as well. Bamm’s buffalo herd continues to thrive, which allows healthy protein to be available to the oyate, and eventually will produce food for sale off the Rez, thus providing employment and profits to produce additional benefits.

All of these projects share one common need: water.

This year, on World Water Day (March 22), it seems like a good time to assess the water supplies for these vital projects. The grazing pastures for the buffalo herd are quite dry and in need of irrigation to grow more grasses, which will reduce the current $10K tab for hay to supplement the herd’s diet. Our other projects are also in need of water and, other than a few streams that may be polluted and thus unusable for growing garden crops, there is clearly a need for drilling wells to provide clean water. All of this understanding arises from a professional evaluation of the areas in question by Eric Fuchs of Understanding Ag, a professional consulting firm that is well regarded in this field.

At $5K-10K minimum just to drill a water well, without considering the equipment (e.g., pumps, piping, etc.) to operate one, there is a need for donations and grants to help One Spirit help the Lakota get the water supplies they need for the Meathouse, orchard, sustainable gardens, and further such projects as the budget will allow.

As it happens, this writer lives in a home on Arapahoe land that has its own well, so I am “well” aware of the costs (sorry for the pun: they’re my jam) around maintaining one’s own system. One becomes a financier, plumber, excavator, and general dogsbody to keep things running smoothly. The magic of just having the city water line eliminate concern over water is Fantasy Island up here in the Rockies. It makes me fully appreciate and support both the need for more well water availability on the Rez, and that it will not come for free.

Of course, that is where you, our wonderful supporters, can enter the effort to get the wells we need to move forward with plans for the herd and for the regenerative agriculture that will so deeply benefit the Oglala Lakota on the Pine Ridge Rez. The benefits of getting these wells drilled and operating will further the ability of the Lakota to help themselves produce healthy foods that are so hard to come by in what is, sadly, a food desert. It again allows One Spirit to realize our principle of Helping the Lakota Help Themselves.

We are wholly dependent on your support for this new effort. Think about how vital water is in your life, and how we sometimes take for granted that everyone has a tap that magically produces the water that, to our Lakota sisters and brothers, is sacred and is life itself.

For those of us who can afford it, be it from a tax refund or a search of the couch cushions, I thank you on behalf of the Oglala Lakota, whose water needs we must address.



bottom of page