SEATTLE – Debora Juarez acknowledges, that while the Standing Rock Sioux reservation may be miles away from Seattle, it is still close to home.
"I think people, the media, still see Indian Country as a marginal piece," said the first-term Seattle Councilwoman, as she sits in her City Hall office Thursday.
It's an office, which is covered with local Native American art.
"My Blackfeet drum stick is there," Juarez said with a smile, as she points in another direction. "That cedar basket is from different tribes."
Juarez is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation.
It helps explain her recent, passionate fight about the proposed pipeline in North Dakota. The hard-as-nails former attorney and judge admits she “let her guard down” while discussing the issue at a council briefing on Monday.
Juarez, along with Council President Bruce Harrell, co-sponsored legislation condemning the Pipeline, and almost teared up while discussing it. The resolution reads:
“This resolution states the City’s support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) across the Tribe’s ancestral lands and waters. The resolution also calls upon the United States and the Army Corps of Engineers to consult with and obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, prior to taking any federal action regarding the DAPL that would harm or destroy the Tribe’s ancestral lands and waters and sacred sites. Finally, the resolution proclaims that the City of Seattle will commemorate and support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to the DAPL on October 10, 2016 (Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the City of Seattle).”
“I don't know why people would want a pipeline running next to their property,” Juarez said Thursday. “That if it blows up, they're all going to be sick and not have clean water. That still perplexes me."
But she said, the pipeline doesn't take into consideration Native American principles and beliefs.
"I think sometimes people don't understand that Native American religion isn't about being in a building. It's about the air and water, those things are really real to us, and that's why we fight so hard to protect it," said Juarez. "Sacred is places of rivers, mountains, valleys prairies, they are not historical markers. There are not like Arlington Cemetery or the Holy Land if you will. These are places where nourishment and life come from."
"If something tomorrow were to happen to Arlington Cemetery, we'd all still be okay. If the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers were polluted, we're not going to be okay,” she added.
The White House put a temporary stop on the project last week, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will sign the legislation on Friday, with four local tribal chiefs in attendance. Juarez will be front and center.
"I lived this life. This is something credible, organic, something that I know," said Juarez, as she looked at the walls of her office and the artwork that covers them. "This is important to me.”
Copyright 2016 KING