Tara Houska: Standing Up at Standing Rock

August 10 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: Honor the Earth

There’s a heck of a lot we didn’t learn in history books. While my teachers thought memorizing the date of some white man’s birth was important, I was missing out on all the deeds done by striking women that make up our world today. One of those women was Elizabeth Peratrovich, who helped gain passage to the first anti-discrimination law in the United States. Another was Mary Golda Ross, who was the first Native American female engineer in a group of 40 engineers that made strides toward space travel. Now if that was the stuff on my history tests, maybe I would’ve seen more As.


I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know as much as I should about native communities. Our textbooks are riddled with brief stereotypes and anecdotes, lacking the substance we need to fully understand the breadth of America’s past—especially Native American culture. Data shows that as of late 2016, there are 573 federally recognized tribes, all of which are eligible for services and funding opportunities through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Tara Houska, National Campaign Director for Honor the Earth

If Melinda Gates notices you, you’re doing something right. Today’s Woman to Watch, Tara Houska, piqued Melinda’s interest so much that she awarded Tara with the Good Housekeeping 2017 Awesome Woman award.

The word “awesome” encompasses much of Tara’s work. She’s an attorney for tribal rights and the water protector of the Couchiching First Nation in Ontario. Oh yeah, and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders asked Tara to join his campaign as a Native American advisor, an opportunity Tara called “historic.”

Today, we’re focusing on her tireless advocacy as campaign director for the nonprofit Honor the Earth. The mission of Honor the Earth is as the name suggests: to support and bring awareness to native environmental issues. Honor the Earth doesn’t accomplish its goals just by sending out a few tweets or wearing a ribbon, but is action-driven. Tara’s job there is to build up financial resources and political strategies to sustain native communities.

It’s significant to note that since it was founded in 1993, Honor the Earth has remained, in fact, native-led. It’s regranted in excess of $2 million to more than 200 Native American communities. While the organization has done much during the last couple decades, it’s clear there’s a great deal to be done in the future.

Honor the Earth’s campaigns include fighting against four pipeline projects, two fracking developments and two coal projects that are threatening Crow, Cheyenne and Navajo terrain. The nonprofit’s most recognizable pipeline project is the Keystone XL pipeline. A lesser-known but equally important issue Tara tackles is sexual violence against women in these extraction zones, which the UN documents.

Tara’s experienced adversity on her journey to protect native land, but that hasn’t stopped her. After leaving Washington, D.C. in 2016, she went to fight North Dakota’s Dakota Access Pipeline. She ended up being arrested in the Standing Rock encampment, where she was staying, and was even thrown into a dog kennel.

It’s clear Tara doesn’t just provide passion or heart behind her work at Honor the Earth. She also takes action by knowing legal terms and being devoted to obtaining grant opportunities. By knowing the rights of the Native American people, she can advocate unwaveringly for their land and their families. Her perseverance in difficult situations is a shining example of what can be done when you commit your life to a cause you truly believe in.

Let’s face it: We only have one Earth, and we need to make sure our home remains beautiful not only for ourselves, but for several generations to come. Check out four ways to make your small business green by clicking here, or if you’re listening via podcast, head over to the newly renovated OnTheDotWoman.com!


The co-founder of Honor the Earth, Winona LaDuke, said:

“Power is in the earth. It is in your relationship to the earth.”

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