Discussion of Agricultural Practices

September 2, 2018. Huxley, Iowa. Day 2 of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.

The forum this evening gets to the heart of First Nation-Farmer unity. Local progressive farmer Lee Tesdell described his work in improving agricultural practices (detailed at the end of this post) which was followed by a good discussion including Native American’s reactions to what he said.

Lee Tesdell

If you just want the simplified version of this discussion, Matt Lone Bear captures that in the following video, where Christine Nobiss explains that she feels Native agricultural practices are superior ways to grow food, especially regarding the quality of the soil and water.

Ed Fallon then asks the key question, how can more farmers be convinced to change to the improved agricultural practices Lee and Christine talk about?


Lee and I, and our brothers Jon Tesdell and Randy Kisling, attended Scattergood Friends School in the late 1960’s.  The School’s name has been changed to Scattergood Friends School and Farm, because this Quaker boarding high school in on a working farm near West Branch, Iowa, which plays a large role in the students’ education. Students rotate through various crews to do the work needed at the school. Some of the crews are dishes, pots and pans, laundry, various cleaning crews, bread baking, dinner prep, farm, etc. Various academic subjects involve working on the farm

I am not very familiar with farm subsidies and practices, so what follows is mainly from internet research. Most farmers focus on producing corn and soybeans because of government subsidies to farmers that help reduce the risk if crops don’t do well. Little of this corn and soybean production is used for food.

“Iowa leads the nation in ethanol production, with 39 percent (953 million bushels) of the corn grown in Iowa going to create nearly 30 percent of all American ethanol.”  Iowa Corn.

“Nitrate (NO3) is a naturally occurring form of nitrogen in soil. This form of nitrogen is created when nitrification, the conversion of ammonium into nitrate, occurs. Nitrate is used as food by plants for growth and production.”  https://homeguides.sfgate.com/normal-soil-nitrate-levels-80102.html

“Beneath agricultural lands, nitrate is the primary form of nitrogen. It is soluble in water and can easily pass through soil to the ground-water table. Nitrate can persist in ground water for decades and accumulate to high levels as more nitrogen is applied to the land surface every year.

Knowing where and what type of risks to ground water exist can alert water-resource managers and private users of the need to protect water supplies. Although nitrate generally is not an adult public-health threat, ingestion in drinking water by infants can cause low oxygen levels in the blood, a potentially fatal condition (Spalding and Exner, 1993)”  A National Look at Nitrate Contamination of Ground Water

“Des Moines Water Works officials said continued high nitrate levels in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers have forced Water Works to activate its nitrate removal facility in order to keep finished drinking water safe for consumption.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Des Moines Water Works is obligated to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for the maximum contaminate level in its finished drinking water.” https://www.kcci.com/article/500-000-iowans-now-paying-to-remove-this-from-drinking-water/6905782

Lee described a bio reactor he built on his farm to help denitrify the water draining from his fields. This 30 foot trough of wood chips located just before the water enters surface runoff reduces the nitrate content of the water.


Lee spoke about his Century Farm, “located on Alleman Creek in the 76,000 acre Fourmile Creek Watershed, Lincoln Township, Polk County, Iowa.” Most of the following is from the fact sheet he handed out. Lee installed solar panels on his farm quite a few years ago.

Farm Goal

Enhance soil health and water quality while we produce good grain yields and stay financially sound.


We are the southern tip of the Des Moines Lob which was last glaciated about 12,000 years ago; human occupation followed soon after. In Iowa, simple agriculture emerged about 5,000 years ago; human occupation followed soon after. In Iowa, simple agriculture emerged about 5,000 years and Native American peoples ere growing maize and other crops here by about 1,100 years ago. (Note, some of the Native Americans here indicated that the agriculture wasn’t really simple. For example, a number of kinds of maize were developed.)


  • Industrial grain production degrades our water quality, so we should do our part to solve the problem.
  • Farm management focused on the long term leads to improved water quality and soil health; short-term yield-based farming is harmful to the natural environment.
  • Operators and owners need to work together to implement science-based conservation practices.

Farm Drainage and Crops

  • Three modern drainage tiles: two on terraces and one on the waterway. Several older clay tiles.
  • Five acres of alfalfa/orchard grass hay. About ten acres of creek and buffer strips.

Conservation Practices : In-field and edge-of-field


  • No-till soybean/corn rotation since 1993
  • Cover crops since 2012. On August 30, 2017 we seeded cereal rye and tillage radishes into standing corn with a Hagie. Planted SB on April 28, 2018. On September 1, 2018 we aerially seeded rye, vetch, lentils, and rapeseed

Edge of Field

Waterway on south end (built and tiles in 2010.

Brome grass strips (50 feet on both sides) along Alleman Creek (seeded 2000, re-enrolled 2015).

Three east-side terraces designed by NRCS (build and tiled April 1991) and one west-side terrace (built and tiled in May 2010).

Woodchip bioreactor designed by NRCS installed by local contractor (November 2013). Since May 2014, with 4 years of data, we show that we have reduced the nitrates in this tile water by 53%. Note that our nitrate load is already low and some water may bypass the bioreactor in heavy flow times.

Saturate buffer on west of creek installed September 1,2017 on neighbor’s tile. First 7 data points show 93% denitrification.

Prairie strips on east side of creek incorporating the three existing terraces seeded November 25, 2017. Several native plant species identified summer 2018. Mowed three times during summer.




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Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Many of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity Marchers are involved with the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women.  Christine Nobiss, who is with us on this March, is one of the leaders of Seeding Sovereignty, one of the sponsors of this march.

From the Seeding Sovereignty website: “Over 90 percent of Native American women have experienced some sort of violence in their lifetime. 86% of those women are sexual assaulted by a non-tribal member. Tribal courts can’t try non-Native individuals, which means non-natives can commit crimes on Native American land—including sexual assault—with virtually zero consequence.”

At this year’s Women’s March, Christine Nobiss said, “This (Women’s) March is about many things, but primarily it is about empowering women. The reality is that Native American and Alaska Native women endure the highest rates of rape and assault in this country. Older statistics told us that one in three Native American women will be raped or experience sexual assault in their lifetime, but recently that statistic has been moved to 1 in 2…”   https://seedingsovereignty.org/mmiw/

Foxy Onefeather holds a painting about this crisis by Jackie Fawn during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.


Foxy Onefeather

“The story of this piece is of a sister being engulfed by the blacksnake, and its poison. She holds a candle that has burned for what seem like an endless time in the darkness. Protecting her spirit are two red butterflies that carry the prayers of the people for our murdered and missing. For our women and children we must rise. For our water and the connection that the earth and women share, we must rise. For their futures, we rise.” – Jackie Fawn

Christine Nobiss and Donnielle Wanatee spoke about missing and murdered Indigenous women at our gathering in Minneapolis this past February, protesting U.S. Bank’s continued funding of fossil fuel projects. The relationship between these two things is that many of the Native women assaulted, taken and/or murdered were assaulted by men working in the pipeline construction camps or oil fields.

One of the most powerful stories I heard during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March related to drones. One of the first people I got to know, and became good friends with, was Matt Lone Bear, a single father of four children. He was taking a lot of video during the March, so he and I were often in the same location, to take a particular shot of the March or our surroundings. (I didn’t try to duplicate his shot from lying on his back as seen below.)

Matt and I talked a lot about photography and videography. As happens during a march like this, you hear all kinds of stories from your new friends. Conversations were going on the entire time we walked. That’s one of the purposes of this march, to work toward understanding and unity, and the many hours we spent together each day helped a great deal with that.

On the second day of the March, a drone flew overhead while Matt and I were talking. I asked if he had ever taken video with a drone. It turns out he has a great deal of experience with drones. When I asked what he used drones for, he said to search for missing people. He had recently spent several months searching for someone close to him who had disappeared.  But that wasn’t the only person he has been involved in searching for. This is related to the huge problem with disappearing and murdered Native women briefly described above. I think he was actually taking a break from those emotionally draining searches by participating on this March. Talking to him since the March ended, I learned he is heading to another area to search for yet another missing person. Matt is planning to use his experience to develop a manual for others who plan to search for people. Prior to the use of drones, lines of people would walk to search.

I feel sad for my friend’s loss. Later that day, Matt was driving one of the vehicles after we arrived in Huxley, and came upon me as I was walking back from the store. He stopped and asked, “haven’t you had enough walking today?”

On a lighter note, I asked if any of his kids were interested in drones. He told me one of them won a drone in a contest.

Once during the March I heard someone say “Matt is one of my favorite people, he always has a smile on his face.”

I was completely surprised when he told me he is also a cage fighter, and evidently a very good one from what I learned of his reputation. The back of his shirt in the photo above is related to cage fighting.

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First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March-Day 2

We were a bit slow getting started, mainly because of the storm during the night. Most of us were up two or three hours during the most intense parts of the storm. Some people went to the machine shed to sleep. The next morning one person found their tent in the field nearby.

I was really glad to find myself refreshed despite the short night. Our bodies do a good job of rejuvenating. After an awesome breakfast by Lyssa, including French toast with strawberry/blueberry topping (most of us could’t resist second helpings), we prepared to leave for a 9 mile trek today to Huxley, Iowa. It seemed good psychology to have a shorter segment after yesterday’s 13 miles. I never thought I find myself thinking “we’re only walking 9 miles today.”

As you can see, a lot of us marchers are also media folks. Several even have drones to take pictures and video.

The sun is shining! Although the clouds were threatening the whole day, we didn’t get any rain. We did see creeks flooding over their banks from the recent rains. One thing we learned later in the week was how significantly the disturbance of the earth during the construction of the pipeline affected the drainage of rain water by the soil.

From the Griffieon Farm to Huxley, Iowa.

Sam, our sag wagon driver and scout discovered our intended camping spot at Huxley was underwater. Thankfully, when she was able to contact someone associated with the Fjeldberg Lutheran Church in Huxley, they offered us sanctuary which we are very grateful for. We scattered our sleeping bags throughout the rooms in church. Some of the rooms ended up being co-ed, which led to jokes like “I slept with ______ last night.” But I think that was another good example of building trust and community.


Fjeldberg Lutheran Church in Huxley


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Alton and Foxy Onefeather Married

Two of the friends I made during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March are Alton Onefeather and Foxy Jackson, now Foxy Onefeather since their marriage yesterday. Congratulations! When we learned of their upcoming wedding, we marchers collected money as a gift to them. Fintan’s artwork decorated the envelope.

Some of what I learned about Foxy and Alton follows.

Alton was talking about the strong bond that forms between a child and an animal. He spoke fondly of a horse from his youth. When he and his friends went to ride their horses, his was the only one who came up to him every time. He talked about how easy is was to ride the horse that was in tune with where he wanted to go. “I really miss that horse.”

He made a raincoat out of a plastic bag for their dog Oceti when we marched in the rain.

I had a delightful conversation with Foxy. She had an abusive childhood. She grew up in a very diverse area in California and said she had never experienced racism until she moved to the Midwest. When she went into a restaurant, she was told they were full, when there was a room full of empty tables. Eventually she was told she could stay if she ate quickly. Another time she was entering a restaurant with her child as a white woman was leaving. The woman pushed her own children behind her, and told Foxy she needed to leave. When Foxy asked why, the woman said she was scaring her children. Afterward she took her child to a park and explained what had happened was because of the wrong beliefs of the white woman, and that it was not anything about Foxy’s child.

Another story relates to bullying. When she noticed some kids bullying a gay kid, she intervened and asked what damage the gay boy was doing to them? The bullies said, “nothing”. Then she said he was minding his own business, and they (bullies) should mind theirs.

She said she didn’t often have much money. She does make some by selling jewelry she makes. Her mother once gave her some abalone that she could use to make jewelry to sell. Foxy made the jewelry but gave it all away. When on the phone her mother asked if she had sold any of the jewelry, yet? After a pause, her mother said “you gifted it, didn’t you?” She told me Alton Onefeather makes dreamcatchers to make money, but he, also, usually gifts them all away.

Foxy also told me about a book, The Tribe. Looking it up on line, I think this is the book: https://www.amazon.com/Tribe-Homecoming-Belonging-Sebastian-Junger-ebook/dp/B01BCJDSNI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1536154493&sr=8-2&keywords=the+tribe

This book has a number of exercises to help people new to a diverse setting learn to know each other. Foxy said one example included assigned seating to mix people up, rather than the usually tendency of people of each culture creating their own group. Another example is for pairs of kids/adults to draw a picture of their partner. They then take turns introducing their partner to the group. When it came time for the group to break apart, they don’t want to leave their new friends.

Alton told me about some of his experiences in construction, and how he would serve as foreman for a crew to build houses. He also spoke of fighting forest fires. He said some fireman called themselves ‘hotshots’, but they gave themselves that designation and weren’t necessarily better trained than anyone else.

Alton pointed out various plants to us during the March.

He said he and Foxy planned to travel by bus to California (where Foxy is from) and elsewhere after they were married, partly to look for jobs. They don’t have a car, which I was delighted to hear since I’ve worked for years to try to get people to get rid of their cars.

I am really glad to have this selfie photo Alton took of us at the end of the March in Fort Dodge.

Alton Jeff

Jeff Kisling and Alton Onefeather




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First night’s forum at the Griffieon Farm

We (finally) arrived at our first destination, the farm of Craig and LaVon Griffieon on the north side of Ankeny. When we arrived the tipi had been setup. We setup our tents and prepared for dinner and the evening forum.  Not long after we setup, thunderstorms began. Rain was predicted for every day of the March, and so far that’s what we got. Fortunately the last couple of days ended up being dry.

I took a very quick shower in our portable shower/toilet trailer. Somehow the solar part hadn’t warmed the water. Tables were setup in the large machine shed. Unfortunately I missed the first part of the presentation after dinner (almost missed the food, too) because I was working on photos and a blog post.

The Griffieon’s have for years been in a struggle against the city of Ankeny’s efforts to rezone their farm as city property. When I was sharing my experiences about the March with my Quaker meeting, Bear Creek, people there were familiar with the Griffieons and their fight to keep their farm.

After the Griffieon’s shared their story, Regina Tsosie spoke. First she embraced and thanked Craig and LaVon for their hospitality. Then she spoke about the parallels of the attempts to take their farm with the theft of Native lands in the United States.

This theme was expressed a number of times during the March, how the court case we were marching for about the wrongful use of eminent domain related to the illegal taking of land from farmers for the Dakota Access Pipeline was ironic, because the modern day ownership of the land was land that had been stolen from Native Americans.

The other concept of the March, Climate Unity, is about changing current U.S. agricultural practices that have many harmful environmental effects, to move back toward Native practices that are much healthier for the land and water. These evening forums were ways we learned to think about Native and current agricultural practices and discuss ways to begin to unify, so we can work together to improve agricultural practices today.

Regina expressed sympathy for the Griffieon’s situation, and said all of us would be willing to do what we could to help and support them. Regina said she hoped they would not lose their land.

Severe thunderstorms began during the evening forum and continued through the night. A tornado was sighted about 20 miles away from us. At one point the wind was so strong that the side of my tent was pushed inward toward the floor. I was trying to decide whether to leave the tent and go into the machine shed. I didn’t really want to go out into the storm, and was afraid if I did the tent might blow away, so I stayed.

Ed Fallon wrote “I’m a veteran tent-dweller, yet have never seen my tent pummeled so mercilessly by the driving rain that hit us in the middle of the night. It was as if buckets of water were being hurled against the sides of the tent. I worried that the nearby ditch between our tents and the road would fill with water and wash over the field where we camped. That didn’t happen, but if our first night’s rainfall had been as bad as some storms that Iowa has seen in recent years, that field could have indeed been swamped.”

The next morning we trudged through the rain soaked yard to get our tents into the gear truck. The following images seem symbolic of First Nation-Farmer Unity, as Craig Griffieon brought his tractor to where the tipi was being taken down so the poles could be put on the tractor, to be carried to the gear truck.

Matt Lone Bear’s video nicely shows our camp at the Griffieon Farm and second day’s journey to Huxley.




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First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March Begins

The First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March began on September 1, 2018. I’m looking back on that now, September 20-21, 2018. I had no idea then how trans-formative the March would be, in many different ways.

I think most of us had many questions and concerns about what was about to happen. Most of the people who gradually gathered at Union Park the night before the March began seemed to know some people, but many were strangers to each other. So there were questions about what backgrounds these people came from and what their personalities were. Would we get along or would there be frictions? There were obviously cultural differences between the Native Americans and those who weren’t.

Some of us weren’t experienced campers and had to learn how to put up and take down our tents, prepare for sleep, re-pack and keep everything organized. I was challenged right away with putting up and then taking down my tent in wind and rain, and being in the tent during a severe thunderstorm. Once I found the tent was staying dry and wouldn’t blow away during that first storm, I enjoyed hearing the rain beat down and the thunder and lightning, even though it was 3 a.m.

Although I planned to process photos and write a least a short blog post each day, I found there often wasn’t much free time to do so. I took an average of about 100 photos a day, and didn’t want to get too far behind in processing them. I would edit the photos first, then write the blog post, where the photos helped tell the story. There were some late nights and early mornings doing that. Finding a place to use the laptop and having Internet access was sometimes a challenge. One of the first questions many of us asked at each new site was whether there was Internet service, and what the WiFi password was.

It was interesting to see the reactions, including my own, to not having any Internet or cell phone service when we were at Pilot Mound. The reactions did not include complaining. I began to notice this as the week went on and was really impressed by the lack of complaints. We all took everything in stride. The attitude was that we were here to complete this journey together, difficulties were expected, and complaining wouldn’t help. When I researched smudging with burning sage, I learned the purpose was to remove negative energy and attract positive energy. It worked. The burning sage was offered to each of us and one way we shared and learned about each other. Similarly there were chances to help put up or take down the tipi. I’d never seen that done before.

Keeping the battery of the laptop and phone charged was a challenge as well, though the portable solar system helped. I also had a portable battery pack along. It was disconcerting to awaken a time or two when the phone was dead and not know what time it was.

I imagine I wasn’t the only one who wondered if I had the stamina to walk at least 10 miles a day, day after day, or if I would get blisters. Many of us, including me, did. I also worried about developing migraine headaches, which are often triggered by dehydration and/or inadequate sleep, both of which seemed likely to happen on the March. I was really grateful I didn’t have a single headache during the March. We all seemed to be conscious of the need to drink a lot of water.

After taking down our tents and getting our gear into the gear truck that first night, a quick breakfast, and packing a lunch, we carpooled to the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) for the press conference announcing the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. Then we carpooled back to Union Park, and walked a short distance to Birdland Park, on the Des Moines River. The reporter for the Des Moines Register and news crew from WHO TV (NBC) who had been at the IUB came to the park, too. https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2018/09/01/group-march-100-miles-protest-dakota-access-pipeline/1173974002/

We gathered in a circle. Ed made some remarks about beginning the March, then Ako Abdul-Samad gave a wonderful blessing. Manape LaMere sang. He has a very powerful voice. That, and the song Regina Tsosie sang earlier at the IUB, and the Native dress began my introduction to the lives of the Native Americans I would be with for the next eight days.


Finally, the March began, going on the trails along the swollen Des Moines River and then into Des Moines and Ankeny neighborhoods.

The sun came out after a couple of hours. With the high humidity from evaporating rain water, the heat index climbed to around 90 degrees.

As we walked, we naturally paired off, and began to get to know each other, asking questions and sharing stories. At first these were short, tentative conversations. But as we got used to the flow of this, with the many hours we spent together, these conversations became longer and deeper. And over the days of marching, we began to build on what we had previously learned from each person, getting to know each other better, more deeply. After each stop different groupings of people naturally paired up to talk and listen to each other. With around 12-20 people marching at a time, each of us eventually talked with every other person, and the conversations lasted longer, were deeper and often more animated. We became comfortable enough to inject humor, but also to broach more intense subjects. A few days into the March, my new friend Matt Lone Bear said, “this is a great walk because people actually talk with each other.” These conversations, and walking and working together helped us develop friendships and community.

The first day of 13.3 miles combined with the heat and humidity was challenging. I wonder how many others were sharing my thoughts about how rough this week might turn out to be.



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First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March-Support People and Systems

Not having participated on a multi-day walk, I wasn’t aware of how much work and planning was involved. The organizing partners are listed at the end of this post. My impression (and I apologize if I left anyone out) was the main people involved were Ed Fallon, Kathy Byrnes and Shari Hrdina, Bold Iowa, Christine Nobiss, Indigenous Iowa, Seeding Sovereignty and Donnielle Wanatee.  Sarah Spain was the logistics organizer and was always busy keeping everything organized and moving smoothly.

Fintan Mason created the logo for the March, and the video about this year’s march.

We benefited from the presence of Manape Lamere, Alton Onefeather, and Lakasha Yooxot Likipt in many ways. They provided safety and security during the entire walk. They were often asking each of us how we were doing as we walked, and good at offering encouragement. Manape also sang several times, and spoke to us during our last evening gathering around the bonfire.

Trisha Entringer lead a discussion about decolonization that last evening.

Another person who stepped up to help in a big way was Samantha Kuhn. Sam volunteered to drive the sag wagon at first, and continued to do so for the rest of the March. The sag wagon carried extra equipment such as backpacks that marchers might need along the route but didn’t want to carry on their backs. This was really useful for me, allowing me to have Sam carry my laptop in her car, so that I had easy access to it for processing photos and writing blog posts. Sam also played a major role by finding alternative places for rest stops, and for us to spend the night when the places we had planned to use were flooded by the intense rainfalls we experienced during the March.

Before the March began, shelves had to be built in the rented equipment truck to carry our gear (tents, sleeping bags, etc). Unfortunately about midway through the walk those shelves collapsed. But they were rebuilt and ready for us by the end of that day. The steps up into the truck also had to be built. The gear truck also contained two large containers of drinking water.

The portable solar panel array and batteries accompanied us to supply electricity wherever we camped which was greatly appreciated. There were a lot of cell phones and some laptops in use during the March, with many of us sharing what was happening on the March via social media and blog posts. A media room was setup for us at the Boone Country Fairground stop.

We all appreciated the portable compost toilet and solar shower shed that was parked at every rest stop along the way. Here are the instructions for using the toilet:

At our last stop the collected compost was buried in a trench in the ground.

One of the most appreciated parts of the March was the absolutely wonderful food prepared by Lyssa Wade, https://www.veggiethumper.com/. Her great food went a long way to sustaining us during the hours of marching. Lyssa was up hours before us, preparing breakfast. Lyssa writes:

Why I’m marching: I’m providing the food for this march because conscious cuisine is central to moving beyond the climate crisis and getting people to question what’s in their food and where it comes from.

About me: I run a food bus/truck called “Veggie Thumper.” I raise consciousness through food awareness by providing access to high-quality vegan and vegetarian cuisine. I’m an avid gardener and love to hula-hoop in the backyard in the middle of the night.

Another person who was a great resource was Miriam Kashia, who took care of all our foot blisters. I appreciated her help with a blister I developed. Miriam has a lot of walking experience, having walked 3,000 miles across the United States in 2014 on the Great March for Climate Action, which was also organized by Ed Fallon. Miriam and I walked 12 miles from Scattergood Friends School and Farm to Iowa City in 2013, as part of a climate conference held by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).

The daily burning of sage and smudging was appreciated.

We were also really grateful for the farmers and churches along the way that provided places to spend the night.  And for those who came to speak with us each evening, including my Scattergood School roommate, Lee Tesdell.

Lee Tesdell

At least three times the tipi was put up. This was a visual symbol of the presence of Native Americans and helped promote the concept of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.

Organizing partners


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First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March and Faith

Before this story finally gets to the March itself, I wanted to try to express some of the ways faith played a role in our journey. I’m sure there were many people, of many faiths who supported us. For example, Gary Clague’s pastor, Debbie Griffin, joined us on the March.

I’d like to share some of the ways we marchers were supported by my friends and Quaker faith community. Although I write from a Quaker faith perspective, I don’t intend to imply that Quakers are any more faithful than others. It’s just that is my faith community and experience. That community (Iowa Quakers) gets tired of hearing me saying we have to stop using fossil fuels, but that’s been one of my main areas of concern for most of my life. And Friends have worked find ways to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

It became clear to me as I went out into the world on my own that we could not continue to keep burning fossil fuels, especially from our personal automobiles, without causing severe environmental damage. So although I did have a couple of cars early in life, in the mid 1970’s I was led to believe that I had to give up having a car myself.

During this March, Quakers in my local meeting, Bear Creek, often sent email messages of encouragement, and held us in their prayers.

One of my Quaker friends, Liz Oppenheimer, who lives in Minneapolis, invited people to offer spiritual support for our March in a couple of ways. One was via a telephone conference call every morning we were marching, from 8:30 to 9:00 am. The other way Liz created for others to support us was by creating a Facebook group called “Meeting for Worship: Iowa’s Climate Unity March”. Following are a few of the messages shared on that Facebook page:

I see that Jeff has posted some of his recent writing about the march and its issues. My request is that we return to Jeff’s initial questions— sharing our reactions to the idea behind this march, as well as to the issues of pipelines, indigenous rights, misuse of eminent domain, etc.

As we share our own wonderings, questions, and struggle, I hope we can better accompany Jeff, Peter Clay, and other marchers.

George Fox suggested to us that if we answer that of god in others that we can then walk cheerfully over the earth. As I think about Jeff and Peter and the new sisters and brothers they will meet as they march, I realize that this sentiment works the other way also. As they walk over the earth they will then be able to answer to that of god in others.

This morning on the conference call for worship, we heard a vocal prayer of gratitude to Peter Clay, Jeff Kisling, and the other marchers and organizers of the march. We also heard the joyous hymn “Trees of the Field.” 
After other Friends had left the call, and literally as my finger was about to hit the Hang Up button on my phone just past 9:00 am, another Friend joined the call. It was Jeff!! 
He wants us to know that the marchers and organizers know we are holding them all in prayer and they are very appreciative of our support in this way. When I replied “It’s such a small thing we do,” Jeff reminded me “No, no it’s not.” 
We are so blessed to be connected this way, no matter what form our march and our journey takes. And to those of you who are carving out time each day to hold the Climate Unity March in prayer, regardless of when, where, or how, all of us thank you.

Each morning of the March we gathered in a circle to hear about the route and address any questions. I shared this Quaker support with my fellow Marchers during our circle gathering, who expressed appreciation for this.

How we live our lives reflects (or should reflect) our beliefs. Quakers try to be attentive to what the Spirit is saying to them at all times, though we often lose our focus. But one of the reasons I treasured my early experiences with Native Americans in Indianapolis as we worked to raise awareness about, and to defund the Dakota Access Pipeline, was because I felt an immediate, deep spiritual connection. And from what I could see and learn, Native Americans’ lives do reflect their beliefs. There were occasions when I was able to experience how Indigenous people around the world support the water protectors.

Some of the most powerful experiences I had during the March were times when prayers were offered. Besides those blessings that were given at the beginning of the March, we also stopped for prayers every time we crossed the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The path of the March was plotted for us to travel along the pipeline route from Des Moines to Fort Dodge. I was always impressed with Donnielle Wanatee’s prayers during our journey. And the songs Manape LaMere sang. And the prayer Ako Abdul-Samad offered at the beginning of the March. I was honored to be given the opportunity to give prayers at the pipeline crossing just before we reached Pilot Mound. I briefly described Quaker worship, then our circle, holding hands, worshiped in silence for a little while.

One of the most difficult things I have learned, and that I have to keep re-learning, is that faith is not hoping what you want will occur, rather seeking what the Spirit is asking of you. The Spirit asked me to begin this journey, so I did. What happened next was in God’s hands. Perhaps I might have been given a message, likely through my aching, physical body, that I might not finish the March. I am grateful that in the end I was able to finish. Not only to physically complete the March, but also to have had all that time to participate in the close community we built together during the March.

We grow physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually when we push our limits. I believe we all have a lot of untapped potential. We don’t know what a limit is until we push up against it. If we push past it, all the better. It wasn’t a limit after all. How many times do we mistakenly believe in untested limits? How often do those turn out not to be limits at all?

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First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March-Public Utilities Board Press Conference

September 1, 2018.  After a night of thunderstorms, we took down our tents in wind and rain, and loaded our duffle bags into the gear truck. I was frantically typing away to try to get a quick blog post published. The first step is to upload the photos from my camera to the computer, and then edit the photos, which are then available to insert into the blog post.

We then carpooled to the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) for a press conference to announce the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.  One of the primary goals of the March is to call attention to the IUB’s improper approval of eminent domain to force Iowa landowners to allow construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on their property. The lawsuit by the Sierra Club and landowners against the IUB will be heard in the Iowa Supreme Court September 12.

The Iowa State Patrol kept an eye on us.

Ed Fallon, Bold Iowa, organizer of the March, speaks at the press conference:

Then Regina Tsosie sings a song:

A reporter for the Des Moines Register was at this press conference, and also came to Birdland Park for the beginning of the March. Here is a link to the Register’s story: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2018/09/01/group-march-100-miles-protest-dakota-access-pipeline/1173974002/

Reporters from WHO TV, the local NBC news station, were also at the press conference.

Jon Krieg, AFSC, and his wife Pattie McKee joined us at the press conference. Jon hadn’t planned on joining the March, but decided to walk with us this first day. Besides Jon, Peter Clay and I were the Quakers on the March. Later in the week my friend and roommate when we were at Scattergood Friends School, Lee Tesdell, spoke to us about his innovative agricultural practices.

After the press conference we carpooled back to Birdland Park for prayers and to begin the March.

Union park



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First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March – Preparation

As I’ve recently written my interest in participating in the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March seemed a logic next step for a series of life experiences related to environmental activism and beginning connections with Native Americans.

Having just retired from my career at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, I had the time to walk for eight days. But at 66 years of age, I wondered if I would be physically up to the task. I have been a runner all my life. But I was fortunate a friend of mine, Stan Sanders, urged me to practice walking prior to the March and that turned out to be wise advice. I’m not sure I would have been able to complete the March without those days of training. As he knew, and I quickly found out, walking is more difficult than running. That is probably partly because it takes so much longer to cover the same distance by walking than running.

Then there was the really long packing list that was, thankfully, provided. Not having done much camping in recent years, I had to acquire most of the things on that list. I eventually came up with a tent, sleeping bag, mess kit, wool socks, walking shoes, etc. Everything had to fit into 2 duffel bags (which I had trouble finding–turns out they were in the luggage section in the store).

I set up the tent indoors for practice. I had troubling finding the instructions, eventually discovering they had been sown into the bag that held the tent. Once I found that I was impressed with how easy it was to set up and tear down the tent. I got a lot of practice during the March, often in somewhat difficult circumstances, including in the wind and/or rain, and sometimes in the dark.

Friday evening, August 31, we gathered at Union Park in Des Moines the evening before the March began. Mom, who drove me to the campsite, helped me set the tent up. About an hour later we discovered we had set up in the wrong place and had to move our tents. I learned you could just pick the tent up and carry it to the new location with the help of another person. This was one of the first chances we had to begin to know each other, and come together as a community. Miriam also helped by giving me some material to tie onto the lines of the tent, which weren’t very visible and several of us tripped over.

Over the course of the evening people trickled into the park and set up their tents. Most of us didn’t know each other at this point. I knew Ed Fallon, Peter Clay (another Quaker), and Miriam. Miriam and I had met in 2013 when we walked 12 miles from Scattergood Friends School to Iowa City as part of a Climate Conference. Miriam also walked across the United States on the Great March for Climate Action in 2014, that Ed Fallon had also organized.

In preparation for this March, I read what I could find online about plans for this March, and about the Climate Justice Unity March last year. I discovered that the pipeline company had spread lies about that March, and there was a situation involving harassment of the Marchers that even included some gunshots. That turned out to be a wonderful story about the power of nonviolence as shown in this video:

We gathered in the park’s shelter and introduced ourselves to the gathered group. Then had our first meal together. We learned about the gear truck, a large rented box truck with shelves that had been built against one side to hold our gear between campsites. We also learned about the solar panel/battery system that would provide electricity at our stops. Last but not least, we learned about the “shit, shower and shave” shed on wheels that had two compost toilets and two solar showers.

We were then addressed by Manape Lamere, one of the five headsmen at Standing Rock. I imagine because of those incidents during last year’s March, arrangements had been made for Manape, Alton Onefeather, and Lakasha Yooxot Likipt, to provide security for us as we marched. Manape reviewed the code of nonviolence that we had agreed to. He said we should not engage with anyone who was antagonistic during the March, instead to let him deal with the situation. It was a comfort to know about this and we all appreciated the efforts of the security team. Manape drove a truck near us, monitoring traffic, weather and obstructions coming our way. The three communicated with walkie-talkies.

Manape told us they were providing security and safety so that we could accomplish our sacred journey.

Many of the Native Americans who would be marching with us were at Iowa Citizens For Community Improvement creating the art, signs and banners, for the March (example below).

Another lesson I learned was to have everything setup for the night while it is still light out. Our meeting ended around 9:15 by which time it was completely dark. I spent a lot of time searching through the two duffel bags for things.

The weather forecast was for rain every day of the week. Fortunately it cleared up at the end of the week, but the first several days were a true weather challenge. It had been raining off and on during this first evening.  The weather radar showed large areas of strong storms approaching. I fell asleep right away, but was awakened by thunder, lightning and pouring rain about 3 am. I was pleasantly surprised at how well my little two man tent weathered the storm and remained dry inside. I used my cell phone to record the sound of the rain and thunder.

We got up around 6 am, and I had my first experience taking the tent down in wind and rain. It looked like this was going to be an interesting week.


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