Ski for Fire

Ski for Fire logo


A 250 mile journey across the frozen Minnesota wilderness to help the Lakota stay warm.
Pine Ridge Reservation is the poorest place in America. Many homes still rely on wood burning stoves as their sole source of heat and cooking fuel during the winter.

Howling winds, subzero temperatures, poor insulation and often no electricity—these Lakota families scramble to stoke their stoves with whatever they can to survive.

One Spirit hires Lakota workers, provides them with saws, log-splitters, warm clothing and safety equipment, then pays them to deliver truckloads of free firewood to families and Elders in need.

One Spirit’s Wood Program is just one of several programs that provides Lakota resources to meet the needs of their own people in the manner they see fit.
Ski for Fire is an expedition to remind us that the American experiment has left many Native peoples impoverished and cold.
The expedition follows an ancient water route used by Indigenous peoples including the ancestors of the Lakota and Dakota people.
The route, an east-to-west traverse of Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, remains relatively untouched in winter. Extreme cold, dangerous ice, rapids, and strong winds have long challenged the winter traveller.
The stewards of this land today—the Ojibwe bands of Couchiching, Lac La Croix, Bois Forte, and Grand Portage—continue to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice, despite centuries of colonial attempts to destroy their culture and connections to the land.

And while today these communities are building economies in balance with their ancient traditions, they continue to fight for their ancestral birthright on lands now under government and private ownership.

The Ojibwe are still here and this is still their land.
I’m a settler American of Norwegian ancestry. My family left Norway five generations ago in search of land. These were impoverished but proud peasant farmers rooted in the soil of their homeland who saw no future in an overpopulated country scattered with rocks unfit for their age-old agrarian culture.

My family built a prosperous new life in the Red River Valley, a region cradled between North Dakota and Minnesota, filled with the most fertile soil in the world. I grew up where my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Olson, homesteaded in 1877. It took us five generations to admit we live on stolen land.

When the
Treaty of Old Crossing was signed in 1863, it forced the Ojibwe and Dakota peoples from their ancestral homelands where my family later settled. The Natives that signed the treaty never intended to sell what was, even then, an exceptionally bountiful land filled with buffalo and other game upon which they depended.
The Treaty of Old Crossing has been called one of the greatest land heists in the history of this continent. But it's not a singular event. Euro-American demand for land forced misleading or fraudulent treaties onto Native peoples everywhere.

We can’t separate the poverty of Native peoples today from the lands that were stolen from them. With their ancestral economies destroyed, Native peoples were forced to either assimilate into a strange new social world built right on top of their very own lands by a foreign occupying power—America—or retreat to small, remote reservations cut off from any economic development.

And yet, like all Americans, my family has profited from these very same lands. How can I look at my life—the opportunities afforded to me, my health, my education, any material success—and then look to my Native neighbors today, often impoverished and full of despair, and not decry an injustice of monumental proportion?
We must meet the immediate needs of Native peoples struggling under severe poverty. But firewood won’t fix the real problem.

Justice will only come through Indigenous-led efforts to reclaim power over their own lives and their own lands. We must stand with initiatives like
NDN Collective and Honor the Earth, honor our treaties, and demand tribal sovereignty.

Join me and learn the truth about cultural genocide and our role as settlers in the theft of Native lands—and how this still impacts all of us today.

This is their land, and until we come as relatives and not as settlers, we will always be uninvited guests.
Native Land
Whose land do you live on?

Why Treaties Matter
Solemn promises we ignore

What Does Justice Look Like?:
The Struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland

Most important book you will read

We Have the Right to Exist:
A Translation of Aboriginal Indigenous Thought

A fundamentally different worldview

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States
Definitive story of settler colonization
Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life
Inside hidden “America”

This Land
Struggle for sovereignty

This American Life: Little War on the Prairie
Minnesota “created” through genocide and theft

Norwegian migration and displaced indigenous peoples
Immigrant futures required Native genocide

Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native
Erase to replace — and take the land