In Oklahoma alone there are thousands of miles of fresh water that run through the territories of 37 tribes and non-tribal communities on its way to neighboring states. That water is under threat from many sources including fossil fuels, mining, dewatering, industrial agriculture and other toxic industries.

There are many solutions to the water crisis, but all of them require us to come together regionally as water protectors and share those solutions. Over the next 2+ years, we will be gathering in community and ceremony to protect the Rights of Rivers, coming together to reciprocate strategies and resiliency.

The 1st Convening of the Four Winds

Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma Passing the Rights of Rivers

On Mother’s Day in 2021, the Pa’thata Women’s Society of the Ponca tribe of OK held a Water Ceremony on Ponca powwow grounds to recognize the Rights of Rivers that flow from upstream from Nebraska, through Ponca lands, and down through the state and beyond. These rivers flow through the territories of dozens of tribes. In July of 2022, the Ponca Business Council unanimously adopted the “Immutable Rights of Rivers” into tribal law, vowing to protect , Ní’skà, (the Arkansas River) and Ni’ží’dè, (the Salt Fork River) that give life to all living things.But these waters, like so many on Turtle Island are threatened. The environmental impacts of fossil fuels played a big part in the Ponca tribes’ decision to adopt laws recognizing ecosystem rights. The tribe lives in a fossil fuel epicenter of fracking, pipelines, petrochemical plants, and refineries. No Ponca family is untouched by industry-related illnesses and deaths. Ponca Chairman Oliver Littlecook says, “Politicians and Big Oil call it ‘economic progress’. The Ponca call it ‘environmental genocide’. We can do better for our communities without sacrificing the water.”

We gathered on Ponca Territory September 22-23rd to initiate the first of four gatherings and inspire water protectors from Oklahoma and beyond to pass Rights of Nature in their territories. 

Gathering to Defend the Rights of Rivers

We gathered on Ponca Territory September 22-23rd to initiate the first of four gatherings and inspire water protectors from Oklahoma and beyond to pass Rights of Nature in their territories. We grounded in water ceremony followed by Non-violent Direct Action training. The following day we did a Prayer March at Conoco Phillips led by Indigenous Women Defending Mother Earth Treaty. We ended the second day with more panels on Strengthening Tribal Sovereignty to uphold Natural Laws, Rights of Nature, Indigenous Just Transition & Jobs, MMIW, Fossil Fuels and Oklahoma tribes. 

The 2nd Convening of the Four Winds

Gathering in the Heart of Cherokee Territory

Thank you to our hosts the Eagle and Condor Indigenous Peoples Alliance led by JoKay Dowell (Cherokee & Quapah) and Camp SevenStar.  We gathered in community for the 2nd Convening to explore how we can defend the Rights of Rivers & strengthen Indigenous Sovereignty in Tahlequah, Oklahoma April 22nd -23rd.

Again, we grounded in Water Ceremony led by Casey Camp-Horinek followed by powerful panels on Rights of Nature, Wounded Knee, Fossil Fuels in Indian Country and MMIW Awareness.  We were honored to welcome Wounded Knee Veterans Richard Ray Whitman, Craig Camp Sr., and Jimbo Simons to talk about their time occupying Wounded Knee and how it has impacted future generations.

 Day 2 was all about Non-Violent Direct Action Training, on land and water — led by Heather Milton Lightening and Darius Coombs. Heather joined us with over 20 years of International NVDA training as well as a founding member of Native Youth Movement-that empowered youth politically and socially to make change in their communities; based in Winnipeg, MB in 1995. Darius continues the legacy of teaching the Mashpee Wampanoag youth how to create mishoons and canoe, bringing his experience to lead our trainings.  We will be gathering two more times on the equinox and solstice. To make the future gatherings possible go to:

When is the next Convening of the Four Winds?

The next gathering will be held toward the end of this year 2024. 

To get updates please sign-up for our newsletter or follow us on social media. If you’d like to contribute to helping the next event happening you can make a monthly or one-time donation. These funds go directly to the gathering and scholarships that help water protectors attend.  

The Water Connects us All

“Water is sacred and our survival depends on our ability to place human activities within the Earth’s ability to absorb what we do. This is just another step in protecting the sacred waters which are the life sources of all things on Mother Earth…

We have so much to learn from our waters, everything upstream impacts everything downstream, we are all connected. “

Casey Camp-Horinek
Ponca elder who serves as the Tribe’s Environmental Am who presented the Rights of Rivers as well as the Rights of Nature laws to the Ponca Business Committee.

Listening to the Waters Speak - Water Testimony Series

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