A new illustrated children’s book tells a story that serves as a rallying cry for safeguarding the earth’s water from threats like the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The main character in “We Are Water Protectors” is a young Native American girl who comes face to face with the “black snake,” a metaphor for an unnamed menacing oil pipeline.
It was the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the response to its proposed construction by Indigenous communities that inspired author Carole Lindstrom to write the book.
DAPL is a 1,172-mile-long underground oil pipeline that begins in northwest North Dakota and continues through South Dakota and Iowa to an oil terminal near Patoka, Illinois.
In early 2016, youth from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and surrounding Native American communities began to organize and protest its impending construction because of its threats to the environment and water sources located on Native lands.
Despite a worldwide outcry from Indigenous communities and allies, the pipeline was completed in 2017 and oil is now flowing through it.
Leading up to the Standing Rock protests, Lindstrom had been living in South Africa. At the time, she said she’d felt a bit disconnected from what was going on back in the states, but she moved to her current home in Maryland in 2016.
“That was when Standing Rock happened. I felt so connected to my people,” Lindstrom said.
Lindstrom is of Anishinaabe/Métis descent and is tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe in North Dakota.
She said the protests moved her toward a reconnection with her Indigenousness and also was the spark for the book.
“We all feel the same way about the world, the environment, the animals, the land. I came out of my shell,” Lindstrom said. “I have a lot of friends that are still [at Standing Rock]. I see what’s happening. So many water protectors are still imprisoned. It boggles my mind and hurts my heart that they are put in prison for trying to protect water peacefully.”
Lindstrom’s first illustrated children’s book was “Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle,” inspired by the fiddle and its importance to the Metis culture. It was published in 2013.
For “Water Protectors” her publisher would connect her with illustrator Michaela Goade.
Goade, who has richly illustrated each page of the book, is an artist and graphic designer from Juneau, Alaska, where she was also raised. She is of Tlingit descent and is tribally enrolled with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.
Goade said her childhood was spent in the forests and on the beaches of southeast Alaska. She said her artistic style is rooted in the depth and beauty of those landscapes.
Lindstrom said the “Water Protectors” resonates well with children in the fourth-to-eighth grades.
She said the book is great for parents or teachers who are looking for a way to start a conversation with youngsters about more socially and environmentally oriented issues that tend to be complex.
Lindstrom said while she hopes the “Water Protectors” provokes a positive message, it’s hard for her to understand why people don’t share the same philosophy Native Peoples do about the importance of taking care of the planet.
“It’s part of who we are, being stewards of the land. It’s inside of us,” she said.
“We Are Water Protectors” goes on sale March 17, 2020. The book includes an “Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge” that readers can sign and date. For preordering information, go to carolelindstrom.com.