Non-profit

Great Plains Action Society (GPAS)

Website:

www.greatplainsaction.org/

Location:

Iowa City, IA

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Formation:

2015

Type:

Indigenous and environmental activism

Executive Director:

Sikowis Nobiss

Great Plains Action Society (GPAS) is a left-of-center Native American interests and environmentalist activism group. This project began its formation through small-scale activism in 2014 and was officially founded in 2015 around opposition to oil pipelines that would pass through or near Native American tribal lands. Its early activism focused on the attempt to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was temporarily ordered to close in July 2020 in a ruling that was later overturned. 1

GPAS partners with the Malikah organization, which provides sex-trafficking prevention, financial literacy, and self-defense classes to some of its employees through its “Set Me Free” project. GPAS is a member of the Action Network. 2

New Year New Iowa

The “New Year New Iowa” initiative is an open-letter campaign by Great Plains Action Society designed to engender policy and attitude changes by putting pressure on political and private figures. One letter was addressed to Amanda and Joe Ripperger, owners of the Sports Page Bar and Grill in Indianola, Iowa, demanding the removal of the “Redman” image from a wall featuring different team mascots. The Rippergers replied privately, apologizing for any harm caused, but declined to remove the mascot and asserting that the depiction was not intended to be disrespectful. GPAS rejected this explanation, published the Ripperger’s letter and responded with another open letter which stated that “good or bad intentions alone do not determine the wrongness or rightness of an action.” 3

Another letter to Iowa representatives, written in the wake of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, called for the legal codification of abortion, stating “we reject any and all efforts by the White-Christian settler-colonial heteropatriarchy to impose authority over our Indigenous bodies.” The site also includes letters addressing other left-leaning issue areas such as gay pride month, climate “justice,” and “environmental racism.” 4

No CO2 Pipelines

Great Plains Action Society opposes carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS) technology and started the #NOCO2Piplelines project specifically to fight against the building of CO2 pipelines in Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota. Although CCS technology is viewed by some as a way to reduce carbon emissions, this very fact causes GPAS to oppose it, labelling it “greenwashing,” or serving the energy industry’s interests by only appearing to facilitate cleaner fuel production and use while in reality seeking government subsidies. GPAS also expressed concerns over government abuse of eminent domain laws, excessive use of water in relation to pipeline operation, and possible contamination due to rupture of the lines. 5

GPAS criticized Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) as “corrupt” and “fascist” after she successfully opposed Bill 2160. This legislation would have changed the definition of “public use” to make it more difficult for the government to take privately owned land through eminent domain. 6

Critical Race Theory

On June 8, 2021, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed a bill banning the teaching of critical race theory to students and in government training curricula, referring to it as “discriminatory indoctrination.” Great Plains Action Society founded the “Unban Critical Antiracism Education (Critical Race Theory)” initiative as a response to this legislation, as part of its “Youth Collective at Great Plains Action Society.” The initiative seeks to reinstate (and propagate nationally) critical race theory education, focusing on the idea that the United States “was built upon racism and the oppression of BIPOC communities.” 7 8

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Initiative

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Initiative (#MMRI) is a project of Great Plains Action Society that organizes protests and marches and hosts a “National Day of Awareness” in Sioux City, Iowa annually on May 5. The project seeks to address incidences of sex trafficking, murder, and rape in indigenous communities. It also operates the Legacy Fund, designed to support the families of indigenous victims. 9

MMRI also highlights the death in police custody of 30-year-old Zachary Bear Heels. Bear Heels, a schizophrenic who had not taken his medication, was kicked off a Greyhound bus while travelling cross-country after exhibiting erratic behavior. After Omaha, Nebraska residents noticed him acting strangely, the police were called, and Bear Heels was tased repeatedly, dying during the altercation. 10

Leadership

Sikowis (Christine) Nobiss, founder and executive director of Great Plains Action Society, began her career in activism at age 19, working at the New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council of Fredericton, Canada. She began organizing Great Plains Action Society in 2014, officially founding it in 2015. She is also the founder of anti-pipeline group Little Creek Camp and was an activist with indigenous rights group Seeding Sovereignty. In 2019, Nobiss gave a presentation to the United Nations about the impact that large mineral and construction projects had on indigenous communities, claiming that such projects resulted in victimization at the hands of workers temporarily housed in proximity to those communities. 11

References

  1. Frazin, Rachel. “Court Orders Dakota Access Pipeline to Shut Down.” The Hill. July 6, 2020. Accessed September 12, 2022. https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/505981-court-orders-dakota-access-pipeline-to-shut-down/
  2. “Great Plains Action Society.” Action Network. Accessed September 12, 2022. https://actionnetwork.org/groups/great-plains-action-society
  3. “Open Letter Campaign: Racist Imagery.” GPAS. Accessed September 12, 2022. https://www.greatplainsaction.org/single-post/open-letter-campaign-racist-imagery
  4. “Open Letter Re: Abortion Rights.” GPAS. Accessed September 12, 2022. https://www.greatplainsaction.org/single-post/open-letter-re-abortion-rights
  5.  “No CO2 Pipelines.” GPAS. Accessed September 12, 2022. https://www.greatplainsaction.org/ccs
  6. “Iowa’s Senator Taylor Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Stop Carbon Pipelines.” Food and Water Watch. February 1, 2022. Accessed September 12, 2022.  https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/2022/02/01/iowas-senator-taylor-introduces-bipartisan-legislation-to-stop-carbon-pipelines/?fbclid=IwAR0sBDbl8NMSfH_n154iadNdUwwmjW-juqoaxuoVqSZkIFv0g7DcAS1QF1k
  7. “Unban CRT.” GPAS. Accessed September 12, 2022. https://www.greatplainsaction.org/unbancrt
  8. Richardson, Ian. “Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Signs Law Targeting Critical Race Theory.” Des Moines Register. June 8, 2021. Accessed September 12, 2022. https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2021/06/08/governor-kim-reynolds-signs-law-targeting-critical-race-theory-iowa-schools-diversity-training/7489896002/
  9. “MMIR Events.” GPAS. Accessed September 12, 2022. https://www.greatplainsaction.org/mmir-events-page
  10. Kevin Abourezk. “They’re on Trial Too: Fired Officer Blames Native Man’s Family for Death.” Indanz. December 10, 2018. Accessed September 12, 2022. https://www.indianz.com/News/2018/12/10/theyre-on-trial-too-fired-officer-blames.asp
  11. Briggs, Billy. “Oil Workers Accused of Attacking Indigenous Women and Children in US and Canada.” The Ferret. November 16, 2021. Accessed September 12, 2022.  https://theferret.scot/oil-workers-attack-indigenous-peoples-us-and-canada/
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Great Plains Action Society (GPAS)


Iowa City, IA