Water, Sovereignty, & Social Justice: March 11

The Bread and Roses Center of the Department of Women’s Studies, the Department of American Indian Studies, the Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, and San Diego State University’s Common Experience present:

Water, Sovereignty, and Social Justice:
Honoring International Women's Day
March 11, 2014 – 7:00 to 9:00 pm
Theatre of SDSU's Aztec Student Union

Please join us for a panel with Native water rights lawyer Susan Williams (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate) as the keynote, a partial screening of a film highlighting women's involvement in the Peace and Dignity Journey 2012 by Sharah Nieto and Adriana Blanco, and local activist Elizabeth Pantoja who participated in the Midwest route of this indigenous solidarity run to/from Alaska and Tierra del Fuego dedicated to Water.

There is a long history of working to address Indigenous tribal rights to water: protecting allwaters that support physical and cultural continuation; sustaining traditional practices, resources and access; understanding and respecting tribal ecological knowledge; applying tribal knowledge and native science to ensure successful water and land stewardship; and supporting habitat and ecological health. Indeed, in 2012, the Peace and Dignity Journey from both tips of the northern and southern continent (Chickaloon, Alaska and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina) to Guatemala was reverentially dedicated to Water and raising consciousness about our social responsibility to protect it as a resource for everyone. As leaders, lawyers, teachers, healers, mothers, and cultural carriers, women are often at the forefront of these discussions and movements.

Please join us for a panel with Susan Williams (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate) who will give the keynote, titled Protection of Federal Indian Reserved Water Rights from an Indian Woman Lawyer's Perspective,a and local activist Elizabeth Pantoja who participated in the Peace and Dignity Journey dedicated to Water in 2012. We will also partially screen a film highlighting women's involvement in this Indigenous solidarity run produced by Sharah Nieto.


Susan Williams is an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and is a graduate of Radcliffe College of Harvard University (B.A., Economics, Magna Cum Laude) and of Harvard Law School. Up until recently, she practiced law in New Mexico representing numerous Indian tribes on their water rights and other matters. She recently became the General Counsel for Hopi in Arizona. Indeed, she has represented Indian tribal governmental and commercial entities for more than thirty years. Upon graduation from Harvard Law School, she joined Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Kampelman, where she worked in the Indian Banking and Law Department. Her experience also includes serving as the first Executive Director of the Navajo Tax Commission in Window Rock and as its Chairperson in the late 70s. In addition to being a lecturer on Indian law and water rights at Harvard and Stanford Law Schools throughout the years, Ms. Williams has served, and continues to serve, on several boards and advisory committees on state-tribal relations, resource development and environmental protection. In 1989, she successfully argued the Big Horn case before the U.S. Supreme Court and has been a lead lobbyist in several successful Indian legislative efforts. Ms. Williams has impacted legislative amendments, including the one to treat Indian Tribes as states in the Safe DrinkingWater Act, Clean Water and Indian Tribal Government Tax Status Act.


I am Elizabeth Pantoja, daughter of two strong migrant parents. I am a brown red earth womyn of Nahua, Purepecha, and Wixarica ascendancy. Raised in southbay San Diego, I am currently living in Tlamanalco Tucson, Arizona.
In 2012, the San Diego Peace and Dignity Committee sent three representatives from San Diego to run for our precious waters. I was one of them. We ran as Chaskies (messenger runners) every day, in an eight month Indigenous Ceremonial run known as the Peace and Dignity Journeys. We, and many more, helped carry the voice of many Indigenous nations and communities from Alaska, Tawantinsuyo (South America), Borinken (Puerto Rico), and Kiskeya (Dominican Republic) all the way to Guatemala. This was our effort to make their/our voices heard, our call to protect, save, restore, preserve, defend land, culture, existence and especially our precious WATERS from annihilation.

Desiring to contribute to raising awareness of the Peace and Dignity Journeys, teachers Sharah Nieto and Adriana Blanco documented Indigenous communities' stories and songs and interviews with participants of the transcontinental run in 2012. As they describe for their grass roots kickstarter campaign: “Every four years, since 1992, Peace and Dignity Journey participants begin their voyage across the continent. Runners start simultaneously from both ends of the continent in Chickaloon, Alaska and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina traversing the Western Hemisphere by foot, from community to community and, joining together for a final gathering in Guatemala. The 2012 run [was] dedicated to water, reminding those who have forgotten that water is an important and shared resource for all.” We will partially screen the film Sharah Nieto edited from the collective footage of several participants, titled "Peace and Dignity Journey 2012."

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