2019 Fellow

Judith LeBlanc

I am a member of the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma and director of the Native Organizers Alliance (NOA), a national Native training and organizing network. In the last four years as NOA director, we have built relationships with tribes, traditional societies and grassroots community groups in key Native communities and reservations through Native community organizing trainings and strategic campaign planning and support.

At the core of my work is the belief that organizing a grassroots, durable network of Native leaders and organizers who share a common theory of change rooted in traditional values and sacred practices is the critical foundation to achieve tribal sovereignty and racial equity for all. As we say in Indian Country, being “a good relative” is rooted in total awareness of the environment, past and future, and acting in harmony with all in the natural world and humanity, in the present.

I am currently on the board of IllumiNative, and founding board member of NDN. I served for two years on the Advisory Board of Reclaiming Native Truth.

Project Description

Standing Rock and the movement to prevent the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline, reminded us all of the power of collective action and the importance of traditional practices as a guide for Native community and alliance building in the 21st Century.

Native Organizers Alliance (NOA) is partnering with the Brave Heart Society of the Yankton Sioux Tribe to support the creation of a new model of co-management of the Missouri River Basin. The model connects two core elements of transformational environmental justice organizing: the role of Native grassroots community and the potential power of tribal elected governments to exercise their sovereign right to co-manage the land, water and air in accordance with traditional teachings and values. The project is called, Mni Wizipan Wakan, the Sacred Bundle.

As part of Mni Wizipan Wakan, NOA is creating organizing trainings rooted in an understanding of relationality, kinship and other traditional practices. Strategic campaign planning and the trainings use popular education techniques to strengthen a theory of change premised on knowledge growing out of practice to strengthen and protect traditional culture while responding to 21st Century conditions.

Mni Wizipan Wakan is unfolding in the midst of the threat of the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline by TransCanada. NOA is supporting the Brave Heart Society and the tribal, spiritual and grassroots leadership, farmers and ranchers who are leading the struggle to protect the land and water. At a troubling political moment in federal management, Mni Wizipan Wakan, is taking the responsibility to create community based movements for new emerging ways of governance grounded in traditional knowledge and practices, to go beyond the outmoded forms of federal management that prioritizes corporate plunder of Mother Earth.