Faith Spotted Eagle is a mother, grandmother and matriarch who protects and defends the sacred. She was born into this role, having her entire community flooded by the United States Army Corp of Engineers in building the Fort Randall Dam on the Missouri River.
Faith descends from the Oceti/Peta Sakowin and is a fluent speaker of her Ihanktonwan Dakota language. In 1994, Faith joined other grandmothers to establish the Brave Heart Society. The mission is to call home the spirit of their culture.
One of the first things the Brave Heart Society revived is the coming-of-age ceremony for teenage girls. This beautiful ceremony was forbidden by the US government and nearly lost. As one of the seven sacred rites given to the people by White Buffalo Calf Woman, the purpose of this ceremony is to teach young women to respect themselves and their bodies through guidance by elder women relatives.
Today, more than 150 girls from across the Seven Council Fires have gone through this ceremony.
“In traditional Yankton Sioux culture,” says Faith, “everyone had a role. One of the roles of the women who were part of the Brave Hearts was to retrieve the dead and wounded from the battlefield and to help the families. In much the same way, we are doing the same thing today with the modern-day Brave Hearts – bringing back our people from emotional death.
Faith has long been a front-line activist leader in many on-going efforts to protect the sacred: including Standing Rock, the historic convergence of Indigenous water protectors and allies determined to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline that gained worldwide attention in 2016; the on-going Keystone XL Pipeline’s intrusion into her treaty territory; and the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Canada’s Tar Sands Project.
“It’s not about winning,” she says. “It’s about living.”
Please join me in celebrating Legacy Leader Faith Spotted Eagle.