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“We Are at a Crossroads in Our Culture:” An Interview with Lakota Activist Troy Amlee

Troy Amlee, also known as White Horse Warrior of the White Horse Riders Warrior Society, is a Lakota activist living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is Lakota/Dakota part Santee, Teton, and Hunkpapa from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, and also half Norweigan. He works on a number of issues surrounding Indian country and beyond, including stopping the Enbridge Pipeline with Idle No More, Language and Culture Revitalization with the Non Profit Organization Zintkala Luta, Diabetes prevention with the Urban Gardens he has set up in the Twin Cities with Anita Gates and Richard Lafortune, and Cop Watch with the Activist groups OccupyMN, and AIM.

Turning Wheel Media: How did you first get involved in activist work?

I had first gotten a sense of Activism back when my uncle Beau Little Sky passed away in October of 2011. At his funeral were all of these Tokala men, or Warrior Society men that seemed to have a sense of the world they stand in, a sense of purpose, spiritually aware as well. I was inspired by the people that was at Beau’s side at the time, but I was inspired most of all by my uncle himself to follow in his footsteps as a leader. At the end of the funeral I had the AIM flag and was holding it over his grave as they lowered him down to take his journey into the spirit world. So I figured AIM was the best place to start. In Minneapolis there is an AIM of Twin Cities movement led by the Chairman Mike Forcia, so I got a hold of him. He invited me to a meeting, and since then on I got acquainted with the activists running this chapter pretty well through doing Cop Watch/Aim Patrol, and Helping out at State Representative Karen Clark’s farm (part of the Women’s Environmental Institute) for the first time.

Troy during his first protest with members of AIM Twin Cities in 2011.

Turning Wheel Media: You have a special affinity for working with Native youth. What are some of the challenges facing Native youth, and what do you do to support young folks on their journey into adulthood?

It’s easy for me for the most part to tell you about the challenges Native youth face because I have encountered these problems myself. Back before I had received my Indian/sacred name I had addictions. I was lost with no path in life, just wandering aimlessly getting high a lot. When I had received my name, that’s when my whole life turned around. When you get a name you either choose to live up to your name and walk the path you are given, or you can choose to not do it at all, but with the consequences that come with it. So I took it upon myself to be sober and live up to the name I was given which is Akicita Sunka Wakan Ska, White Horse Warrior. I must re-establish a warrior society that was prominent a long time ago. My great great grandfather was the last of their kind. I mentor a lot of youth that are into hip-hop music, and as I’m teaching them how to write rhymes, I hint at what’s morally right to speak about in their music and what we need more of in this world. So I say to the Native youth to bring some tobacco to an elder that is known to be a spiritual advisor and ask for a name. Have a purpose in this life that contributes greatly to your society and community. Our languages are diminishing, so learn them and speak them well, practice your culture and ways of living, the philosophies we have been taught from the seven teachings, apply them to your lives. We are at a crossroads in our culture and present time as Native Americans, either we go the red road, or the road that leads to materialism.

Turning Wheel Media: You have led and/or worked on multiple food justice projects here in the Twin Cities over the past few years. Can you speak a little bit about those efforts?

I can speak about those efforts, of which you were involved in actually Nathan, and if I might add you did an awesome job leading the way too. I brought a proposal to the OccupyMN branch-off group the Whealthy Human Village in the Winter/Springtime of 2012 that we should involve our time in the farm at WEI because it centralized what we were about and would move us in the right direction towards supporting other causes for the environment. We stuck together the whole growing season, logging hours, plotting our land, planting seeds, pulling weeds, eating the produce we had worked so hard for at the meetings we held every week taking notes of our progress. We ended up growing 500 pounds of produce giving most, if not all of it, away to local Native organizations for use in their programs, and to the community itself. This year in 2013, I am working on 2 urban gardens in Minneapolis with Zintkala Luta, the non-profit I’m a board member of which focuses on revitalizing the language and culture. The gardens I hope will grow and expand into multiple gardens and possibly purchasing a vacant lot to grow on in the future. The Food Justice Projects are a means of combating diabetes in my mind. You are what you eat.

Troy with interviewer Nathan Thompson and other members of the Whealthy Human Village Food Justice Project in 2012.

Turning Wheel Media: Given the dominance of corporate agriculture, and the increasing dangers to the land posed by oil pipelines, fracking, and mining, what do you think needs to happen next in order to create a more just and eco-centric society?

What needs to happen next, is drastic changes. Changes in lifestyle, changes in state of mind, changes in awareness of what the pipelines are actually doing to the Earth. There have been reports of animals mutating such as fish in the lakes, frogs in the swamps and even the deer we hunt for food on certain reservations. Mostly because of ruptured pipelines and leaks seeping into our waters polluting what we drink and eat. There has also been reports of cancer developing because of this issue not surprisingly enough. We need more groups like Idle No More and OccupyMN that are trying to solve this problem. If you want to get involved in the pipeline fight, contact the people that set up camp at a local pipeline site in Red Lake, Minnesota. They’ll point you in the right direction.

Turning Wheel Media: How does your spirituality inform your activism and other work in the world?

My spirituality I can talk about in-depth with someone that understands and is aware of what the spirit is capable of such as yourself [Nathan]. A person can channel knowledge, understanding, and guidance through faith and love. Love is the most powerful emotion, not just in-terms of a relationship, but in the terms of how a person carries out his daily activities in life every day. When a person cares you can see it in their eyes, like a constant glow, or there aura is warm and open. That’s how I carry out my life, through Native belief in The Creator, protecting Mother Earth, and creating a future for our children. I have the tendency to want to heal others and everything. So when an opportunity comes up when a person is not feeling their best I have an urge to comfort that person. Or when there is an issue environmentally I want spring into action for that cause. It’s just the way I am.

Digging and building at the Women’s Environmental Institute farm.

Turning Wheel Media: You’re also a musician, and have a new album coming out. Can you tell us more about that, and what your vision is for the music you are creating?

Yes, I have an Album about to be released by my group Savage Instinct which is called New Campaign. There is a couple of videos on Youtube if you look under “Savage Instinct New Campaign” or “Savage Instinct More Than A Monsta” you’ll find some examples. My vision for the music I am creating is me becoming more aware of my surroundings, realizing that the world isn’t what it seems, and that we should be more conscience of that. So I speak about various issues I advocate for in this Album. It’s all self produced by me and my brother Logan Amlee.

Turning Wheel Media: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to thank you, I didn’t fully realize where I am at in my life. I think we all need a time to reflect once in a while and look into the mirror. Pilamaya Yelo.

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