In 2004, a group of grandmothers in Lakota country—an area comprised of nine Indian reservations in North and South Dakota—asked us to investigate and help them prevent South Dakota's Department of Social Services from removing their grandchildren from their families. The investigation uncovered that drugging and routine patterns of physical and mental abuse of Native children in foster care were leading to high levels of youth suicide.
These atrocities, a direct violation the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) — a federal law enacted in 1978 — inspired the formation of the Lakota People’s Law Project (LPLP). It was time to put a stop to the cycles of injustice leading to the slow genocide of the Lakota.
Our first program, the ongoing Lakota Child Rescue Project, launched in 2005 to assist the return of Lakota children to their families, tribes, and communities. The goal broadened to include a tribal foster care program funded with direct Title IV-E funds from the federal government, bypassing the state of South Dakota.
In 2016, the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) threatened the Lakota’s sacred lands and water, so we expanded our mission. The injustices perpetrated against the Lakota during the peaceful and prayerful resistance to DAPL highlighted a blatant pattern of contempt and disregard for the Lakota and their sovereignty.
In 2017, in the wake of the Standing Rock protests, we undertook the successful defense of Lakota water protector and LPLP attorney Chase Iron Eyes, who had been arrested for allegedly trespassing on his tribe's own ancestral lands and instigating a "riot."
The term "riot" is now key to an ongoing attack on American civil liberties. States around the nation are passing laws meant to chill and criminalize the protest of pipelines, which constantly ignore treaty boundaries and have the potential to despoil sacred lands. The Lakota People's Law Project is committed to protecting the First Amendment rights of Native peoples and their allies.
We also work closely with tribal nations and nonprofit compatriots to amplify Indigenous voices, provide renewable solutions in place of fossil fuel consumption, protect the voting rights of Native people, and provide on-the-ground support when and where it is needed most. That includes working with organizers to advance LGTBQ2S rights in Indian Country and help with challenges around COVID-19.
LPLP aims to assist in the reclamation of Indigenous lands and to stop all threats to the Lakota culture. We understand that Native peoples possess inherent sovereignty and the right to autonomous rule and self-determination.
The Lakota flourished for centuries before Europeans arrived on these lands, and their tradition of living in relation to all things is more important today than ever. We are committed to working with the Lakota toward the revitalization of their people and culture. Learn more about our campaigns and discover how you can get involved!