To mark the 2017 International Women’s Day, Lauren Bon and the Metabolic Studio announces the 2017 CHORA Prize recipient – activist and Oglala Lakota Elder, Regina Brave.
Born January 31st, 1941, Regina Brave’s life-long commitment to social justice began in 1946 at the age of five, at the Holy Rosary Mission [now named Red Cloud Elementary School] in South Dakota. Run by Jesuit monks and Franciscan nuns, the school’s five-year old students learnt only English through their first year and if heard speaking in the Lakota tongue, were physically punished. From six-years of age, and continuing through her high school years, Regina Brave would spend time with arriving Oglala Lakota students, warning them about the nuns and helping them prevail against any mistreatment. In 1960, she joined the U.S. Navy, and was an Honor Guard for President John F. Kennedy before her honorable discharge in 1963. Regina Brave took on bunker duties in the Wounded Knee incident in 1973 – the catalyst for widespread awareness of the injustices suffered by Native Americans. Although not a member of the American Indian Movement [AIM], she joined the seventy-one-day occupation in protest at the failure to impeach a corrupt and oppressive Oglala tribal government leader. In 1978, Regina Brave coordinated the State of Colorado faction of the Longest Walk – a five-month march from San Francisco to Washington D.C. to protest against the severe and active threats to tribal lands and water rights and, specifically, six anti-Indian legislation bills of which one proposed the repeal of the three hundred and seventy-four treaties between the U.S. government and the Native American Nations. In 1986, Regina Brave brought her indomitable activism, under Public Law 93-531, to Big Mountain, Arizona, where violations of the indigenous rights of elderly Navajo and Hopi people were happening in the wake of the U.S. Government’s partitioning of tribal land for the purpose of strip mining coal. She inspired people to choose a non-violent stand and with this peaceful method, they succeeded in their goal to stop the government’s annexing of land. In 2011, she was a prominent figurehead at the gates of the White House, protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline project that proposed to carry oil from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to Texas refineries, despite the human health and environmental risks.
Regina Brave moved to the Yankton Reservation in 1981 in southeastern South Dakota and co-founded the resistance movement that fought the State for autonomy within and jurisdiction of the original tribal boundaries of the Yankton Reservation. What ensued was a thirty-one-year fight, which began with the circulation of informational leaflets on the jurisdictional issues, and went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 and its ruling in favor of the Yankton Sioux Tribe.
When Regina Brave’s nephew, Jake, told her that Standing Rock had put out the call for a peaceful, spiritual, non-violent protest for the halting of the Dakota Access Pipeline, she was immediately ready. She joined the "treaty stand" in passive resistance to the forcible eviction of the water protectors in the main Oceti Sakowin resistance camp and demand for the return of the full treaty territory of the Great Sioux Reservation to the Lakota people, Yanktonai Dakota and Arapaho Nations. Negotiated by Regina Brave’s great grandfather Ohitika, on behalf of the Oglala Lakota leader, Red Cloud, the Treaty of Fort Laramie was ratified in 1868. The U.S. government then seized the Black Hills region in 1877, breaking up the Great Sioux Reservation and dissipating Native American nationhood. It was not until 1980 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government had illegally taken the land. The Lakota Sioux refused compensation payment and continue to demand the return of the territory from the United States. On February 23rd, 2017, forty-seven people, including Regina Brave, were arrested and forcefully removed by an outside entity, from the tribal land established by the 1868 Treaty.
The 2016 CHORA Prize was awarded to filmmaker, poet and cultural interlocutor Jonas Mekas, to honor his originality and cultural expression, and acknowledge his creation of contexts for the creativity of others, and spaces for discourses that have not existed before. The CHORA Prize was awarded in 2014 to the Detroit activist and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs for her continued role as a grounding force for the activist community in the city of Detroit, creating new models for social cohesion and understanding crisis as an opportunity to create a more just and democratic society. The CHORA Prize was awarded to Drew Cameron in 2012 for the Combat Paper Project, an organization that conducts workshops around the country to teach military veterans how to make paper by hand from their old uniforms; and Felicity Powell for her exhibition Medals of Dishonour, held at the British Museum in 2009, and creatively revitalizing the time-honored craft of medal-making to commemorate social and environmental turmoil.
Regina Brave, 2011
Still from Lakota Matriach on Keystone XL
Courtesy of Tom Weis
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