National Museum of the American Indian forces Native American women to remove “Water is Life” flag

The National Museum of the American Indian asked several women to remove their jackets that had flags reading “Water is Life” and “Mni Wiconi.”

  • Thousands of Native Americans went to DC for the Native Nations Rise March

  • Jolie Varela and at least one other woman were asked to remove their jackets inside the National Museum of the American Indian

  • The jackets had flags on the back that used the battle cries from the stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past year, you know about the stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. “Water is Life” and “Mni Wiconi” became the battle cries for water protectors in the area, and around the world.

The stand against Dakota Access also became the largest gathering of indigenous tribes that the world has ever seen. Tribes poured into the area to stand in unity against the American government’s disregard for Native American treaties by allowing an oil company to desecrate sacred land.

Needless to say, what has occurred over the last year will go down as a dark chapter in Native American history.

Native Nations Rise March

Native Americans came to DC from all around America to participate in the Native Nations Rise March. The march, led by the Standing Rock Sioux, began west of Union Station, went through downtown, and past Trump Hotel.

Once in front of Trump Hotel, a tipi was erected while the people chanted, “Donald Trump has got to go!” and “Shame!” Thousands attended to march against Trump’s executive order in January to move forward with both the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL.

With thousands in town for yesterday’s march, there were sure to be those who wanted to do some site seeing. With thousands of Native Americans in the area, it should come as no surprise that the National Museum of the American Indian received higher than average traffic.

Water is Life

On Saturday, Pennie Opal Plant posted to her Facebook page a video and two photos taken just after Jolie Varela had been asked to take off her jacket that had Water is Life flag on the back. The flag reads, “Mni Wiconi,” and “Water is Life.” The caption with the post read as follows.

Outrageous! These women were told that they could not wear their water protector flags pinned to their clothes at the National Museum of the American Indian in DC. We sang the Women’s Warrior Song with fists up and voices ringing out. They put their water protector flags back on and were fine after that. The Treaty exhibit is very informative…highly recommend it.

In the video, Varela states that they came to the museum for lunch after a closing ceremony at the tipi camp. After arriving at the museum, she was asked to remove her jacket. Other witnesses spoke about the incident, and towards the end of the video a second woman states she too was asked to remove her jacket bearing the Water is Life flag.

Varela was hurt and in shock that the museum would ask a Native American to remove her jacket for bearing such a symbolic icon to so many Native Americans. The women asked to remove their jackets decided to sing the “Women’s Warrior Song,” before putting their jackets back on and walking through the museum.

We were not able to reach anybody from the National Museum of the American Indian for comment.

Native American Discrimination

It is everyday discrimination such as this the Native Americans have been trying to bring attention to over the months from North Dakota, and around the country.

This discrimination does not just apply to trips to the museum. Native Americans are the most likely ethnic group to be killed by police during a stop. Reservations are kept in poverty by the American government, and their land is in constant strife due to the federal government.

Being told to remove the jackets inside a Native American museum is just a cold reminder of what it can be like to be a Native American in America.



About Meko Haze

Meko Haze is an independent journalist by day... and an independent journalist by night.

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