Back in September 2016, when the standoff at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline was in its early stages, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a spiritual leader of the Lakota Sioux, held a ceremony where he deputized the youth there as akicita, or “special protectors of the people.”
The rare gesture of honor and trust from elders to the young lit a fire. Soon after, Native youth organized themselves as the International Indigenous Youth Council, and they took the lead in nonviolent actions opposing the pipeline. From Standing Rock, the council expanded to form chapters of protectors of the Earth and Indigenous culture across the country, which they call part of Turtle Island, the name given to the land in many Native American creation stories.
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