By Brett Larson, December 5, 2014
Harvey GoodSky Jr., 24, and his brother Algin, 17, weren’t planning to spend 10 days on horseback this summer. Harvey had only been on a horse twice, and Algin only once. “We didn’t have much riding experience,” Harvey said, “but that didn’t stop us from jumping on and saying ‘Let’s go!’”
The “Love Water, Not Oil” ride was organized by Honor the Earth to protest the Enbridge Sandpiper Pipeline, which would run through the GoodSky brothers’ home region of Minisinaakwaang (East Lake) in the Mille Lacs Band’s District II.
The day the ride started, Algin was let out of school to see what was going on. He asked his mom, Tania Aubid, if he and Harvey could ride along for the day, but he didn’t expect her to say they could.
As they were putting the horses away that evening, Winona LaDuke, one of the organizers, said, “We’re going to bring you guys with us.”
Harvey wasn’t sure what she meant. “Where?”
“To White Earth!” she replied. LaDuke and Michael Dahl, another organizer, liked the brothers’ positive energy so much that they wanted them to come along.
Harvey wasn’t sure what they saw in him, but he felt something pushing him to say yes. “I didn’t bring much to the table,” he said. As an afterthought he added, “I can sing I guess.”
And sing he did, both in the saddle and at evening events along the way. “As much as my voice permitted me, I would sing,” Harvey said. Harvey plays a hand drum and sings songs by Pete Gahbow and Skip Churchill of the Little Otter Singers. “I also have one I composed,” he added.
The brothers sang at Pine River, at Bemidji, and at an arts festival at Zerkel on the White Earth Reservation. At the festival Harvey Jr. and Algin performed a few songs for the headlining artists, who were so amazed with their performance that they stopped painting to take pictures.
Harvey said they work hard at their singing and try to do it “the right way.”
At night they camped at campgrounds, but one night they were turned away. Harvey thinks it was because of their ethnicity. It was 7 p.m., and the riders and horses were tired, but they all had to pack up and find another place to sleep.
Another memorable experience was when a herd of hundreds of horses came thundering over a hill to greet them. The riders’ horses talked back and forth with their penned up counterparts for a while.
By the end of the 10-day ride, LaDuke and Dahl wanted the brothers to stick around, but Algin had to get back to school.
Algin hopes to pursue a career in the performing arts, and the ride helped him to connect with people who may help him along the way.
“The ride gave me a look at things to come in the future,” Algin said. “It also gave me a strong insight on independence.” He said it made him think about the kind of world our ancestors wanted to leave us and how the current generation can protect the water, land and animals.
Algin wants to be a musician or actor and a positive role model for young boys. “They need people to look up to who aren’t into smoking and drinking,” he said. “It’s all about love. Without love, we have nothing.”
The experience was clearly life changing for Harvey as well. His eyes light up and his smile widens as he talks about it. “I’m just glad I’m doing stuff like this instead of being another statistic,” he said, “another young Native man getting in trouble.”
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