Wanapin sapa win (Dawnee LeBeau)

Wanapin Sapa Win (Dawnee LeBeau) is an independent visual storyteller, an avid gardener, coordinator, and small business owner of Kikta’.  She is a 2020 cohort member with First People’s Fund and the South Dakota Change Network.  She met with us earlier this summer to share their experience so far as a part of our Indigenous Justice Cohort led by Candi Brings Plenty. She grew up in Wanbli Paha/Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. Win’s pronouns are she, her, and hers.

What is one thing you’re looking forward to this week?

I am looking forward to sharing space in my garden with my children. 

What is one thing you hope to accomplish through the ACLU of South Dakota’s Indigenous Justice Cohort?

Through the ACLU’s Indigenous Justice Cohort, I plan to advocate for sharing Indigenous Lakota history, resources for community members to uplift them in stepping into leadership roles, and advocating for safe spaces for our community. I hope to encourage community members through education, advocacy, and action. 

What drives you to continue the work you’re doing in your community?

My wakanyeja and the injustices that I have been witness to are who and what are what moves me to participate in the work I do in my community. The history of our elders and Indigenous oyate push me toward purposeful movements which will help to improve our community. 

What is your favorite way to get involved in your community?

My favorite way to get involved in my community is by showing up to organize and coordinate actions or public services to create positive impact. 

Do you have any advice for someone who might be interested in getting more politically involved in their community?

For anyone that might want to get more politically involved, I would suggest learning the history of our oyate, participate in spaces that will educate us how to to organize effectively and advocate for the issues with compassion first. Through understanding our history, we can learn of the perseverance of our relatives. 

I would also encourage offering your time to a cause that you’re passionate about. 

Such as:

  • Creating safe spaces 
  • Educating your peers  
  • Forming an amplified Lakota language program in your schools 
  • Pushing for established cultural programs
  • Gardening programs in your neighborhoods
  • Climate change movements
  • Voting rights movements
  • Adequate health care services for your community
  • Quality public and mental health services
  • Protection of land and water 

What is one thing you would you tell your elected leaders to change in order to strengthen your community?

I would like to see our system create amplified space for all community members and our Indigenous Lakota culture. This would include education, history, direct action, accountability of representation, a firm agenda from candidates previous to being placed in leadership roles, safe space for the youth toward education of the government system in place (as they will one day advocate in these positions). 

How has COVID-19 affected your advocacy work and how have you adapted?

COVID-19 has made it challenging to participate in any physical actions during this time. Health safety is prominent right now. Thankfully our advocacy work can be continued virtually through online petitions, virtual banner drops, factual resource sharing, and divesting or investing time to causes that are being virtually-led. Organizers are still coordinating digitally during these sensitive times and will continue to do so.