Yesterday I wrote about ceremony to stop the TMX pipeline. I intended to share some of my experiences related to ceremony to stop other pipelines. But I just received this news about the Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective and their efforts to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
As Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) construction continues near our Cheyenne River Nation, youth organizers are leading the resistance! Last Friday, a group of young activists calling themselves “Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective” held an action to bring attention to the ongoing threat of KXL. Some were arrested, but they’ve now been released, thanks to the support of our tribal chairman, Harold Frazier. Over the coming weeks, the Lakota People’s Law Project will help these brave young leaders continue organizing in the community to keep the pressure on.
As you may know, the Trump administration recently lost a battle at the Supreme Court over KXL: in July, the justices upheld a Montana court’s injunction against KXL construction based on potential violations of the Endangered Species Act. But TC Energy, the Canadian company building KXL, is working hard to get around environmental protections and secure permits. There’s a good chance they will eventually succeed — if we don’t stop them. Biden has said that he will shut the pipeline down if elected, but since we don’t know what will happen in November, we must keep fighting.
Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective is doing more than just organizing demonstrations. In recent days, it outed TC Energy for going, secretly, to several Cheyenne River Tribal Council members in a clandestine attempt to buy off the tribe. The oil company offered $22,000 annually to each tribal member to let the “zombie pipeline” pass through our treaty territory unmolested. But just as the Black Hills are not for sale, the Missouri River and the Ogallala Aquifer are not on offer to the highest bidder. KXL would put both at risk, and we won’t tolerate the destruction of our water systems.
Instead, we will collaborate with Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective and the Indigenous Environmental Network to ramp up resistance to TC Energy and KXL. Mancamp construction continues just off our western border. West-end districts on my reservation like Cherry Creek and Bridger, closest to KXL’s intended path, are most vulnerable. We’ll hold events in those communities to keep the people activated against Big Oil, and together, we will protect the Cheyenne River Nation.
Wopila tanka — thank you for your solidarity!
Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
KXL: Protesting at the Cheyenne River Nation
We’re organizing with the Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective and the Indigenous Environmental Network to oppose KXL after TC Energy approached several Cheyenne River Tribal Council members in an attempt to buy them off.
As the day awakens, this article transported me back to other times of celebrations to stop a pipeline. I’ve witnessed and felt the power of prayer as we’ve worked to protect Mother Earth and the water from the Black Snake.
I believe I will soon be led to tell my stories, but today wanted to write about the Secwepemc peoples’ recent ceremonies in opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline (TMX).
I found Kamloops, where this ceremony was held, is in British Columbia.
The pipeline is supposed to take crude oil from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.
One issue that caught my attention is the planned construction of the pipeline under the Thompson River. One of the main points of contention about the Dakota Access Pipeline was building it under the Missouri River.
A group of Secwepemc people held a canoe and kayak ceremony Saturday morning in Kamloops in opposition to the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project drilling under the Thompson River.
The journey began at Adams Lake and the group kayaked and canoed their way to the Mission Flats area for a potluck dinner and games.
“Families from our Secwepemc Nation came together for the No TMX Canoe and Kayak Journey today to be in ceremony and offer prayers and protection for our clean water and our wild salmon,” says Anushka Nagji, a Secwepemc activist.
“The Canadian Federal government’s TMX Pipeline and their ongoing occupation of our territories is encroaching on our consistent presence and land usage in this area, where we fish, gather medicines, hunt and get our families together since time immemorial. Short term gain in jobs is long term loss in the integrity and dignity of our territories and our children’s futures and we do not consent to that,” she adds.
Construction in this area has already been delayed by a week, and the group says they will continue to try and have it pushed back further by asserting sovereignty and usage in Secwepemc territory.
“A stop-work order must be issued as the pipeline construction is actively destroying pit house and significant cultural sites along the river on Mission Flats Road and in Kenna Cartwright Park,” adds Nagji. “As well as threatening the wild salmon returning home in a year when the salmon count is the lowest it has been in recorded history.”
The Secwepemc people say they observed the TMX Pipeline Corporation working overtime on Thursday, preparing to drill under the Thompson River without the consent of the Secwepemc Nation.
Reading about the potential impact on the wild salmon returning home reminded me of a video that included the words and music of Nahko Bear about Run4Salmon. The videos and lyrics of the three songs used in the video can be found below.
Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk and a collective of Indigenous women, activists, and allies are organizing the Run 4 Salmon, a 300-mile trek that follows the historical journey of the salmon from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the Winnemem (McCloud River) to raise awareness about the policies threatening our waters, our fish, and indigenous lifeways. It’s a dire time in California for wild chinook salmon (Nur) – climate change, giant dam projects and draining rivers for Big Ag irrigation threaten the survival of the keystone keepers of our waters. Salmon bring essential nutrients to the waterways, forests, and lands. However, since the Shasta Dam was built 75 years ago, the salmon have been unable to return to their home waters in the Winnemem’s ancestral watershed. Now, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe is working on a plan to bring the genetic descendants of their salmon from New Zealand back to their home waters.
This prayerful journey raises awareness about the importance of protecting our waters, restoring our salmon runs and revitalizing our indigenous lifeways.
“The Wolves Have Returned” Nahko and Medicine for the People (feat. Leah Song, Trevor Hall & Xavier Rudd)
[Nahko Bear:] I’m cutting the bad fruit off of my tree to Lighten my load and grow me tall Just like my dogma, this fire pit mantra Covered in ashes, now take me home Shedding my antlers and making up answers To the mystery of nature, so reach for the sun Spruce tips and cedars now free up them rivers The salmon will run, no dam can hold Uniting the nations, it’s gonna take some patience So unzip your sheepskin, the wolves have returned (Ah-ooooo) The wolves have returned (Ah-ooooo)
[Trevor Hall:] I call to the spirit, brother I hear it Union of all things, like words on the sky I read the totems, my ancestors wrote ’em Now I sit patient, as I wait on the tribe This runs through all things, like thunder and lightning Song everlasting, well always I learn Pull off the old skin, now we are kindred Open and listen, the wolves have returned (Ah-ooooo) The wolves have returned (Ah-ooooo)
[Xavier Rudd:] So channel the old ones, with each waking new sun Walk with your totem, conditions unsaid Walk from the mystery, a love where you feeling Rough up protection, a spear in your hand In light of our dreaming, never meant to be easy Sometimes there’ll be water, sometimes you’ll be dry Footprints in tandem, in this ancient sandstone Grandmothers reside, and I’ll be by your side Oh, I will be by your side Grandmother, I will be your side, oh
[Leah Song:] Part of creation is making a statement You can’t escape it, she’s coming for you If it was up to me, I’d teach that the lonely This is just part of the courage it takes Maybe it’s the music, it’s moving right through us All of the songs that will outlive me I’m running the song lines, I’m wrapping my prayer ties Preserving the old way, my wolf has returned (Ah-ooooo) My wolf has returned, oh (Ah-ooooo)
[Nahko Bear:] Go on and carry your flag, carry your flag, I got your back Go on and carry your flag, carry your flag, I got your back
[All:] Carry your flag, carry your flag Carry your flag, carry your flag Carry your flag, carry your flag Carry your flag, carry your flag Carry your flag, carry your flag Carry your flag, carry your flag Carry your flag, carry your flag Carry your flag
“Runner” Nahko and Medicine for the People
I am a runner Running from nothing All things behind me And all good things ahead I am another kind of lover Follow them dragonflies and lead me to the Sunrise in the morning Tides in the evening
Lay me down, yeah, lay me down And teach me one of them harder lessons Lay me down Yeah, lay me down And kiss me softly, kiss me softly In all of them places that you know me best
I can be loyal, return the honor And I’ll put my family first But you must earn your keep This love has no strings No leash, no clipped wings Stronger than most things It is noble by nature I want no promises Just some logged hours
Lay me down, oh lay me down And maybe an open mind will open mine Oh lay me down, lay me down And kiss me softly, kiss me softly In all of them places that you know me best
Kiss me softly, kiss me softly In all of them places that you know me best Yeah Kiss me softly, kiss me softly In all of them places that you know me best Yeah
From the Waipi’o Valley Peakin’ on tetons Follow the Klamath To the basin of my soul Shinin’ on shasta Those holy head waters Dear old Columbia, your gorgeous sparkling eyes Creators callin’, she’s got my number Lay me down, lay me down And where be my outlaws? Well, rest in reason Lay me down, yeah lay me down Cause old things never die You know as well as I We will return, we will return
“Directions” Nahko and Medicine for the People (feat. Joseph)
For the West For the North For the East For the South
Grandfather, I’m calling on you Need your guidance now Grandmother, I’m calling on you Need your guidance now
For the West (hmm) For the North (hmm) For the East (hmm) For the South (hmm)
Grandfather, I’m calling on you Need your guidance now Grandmother, I’m calling on you Need your guidance now
For the West (hmm) For the North (hmm) For the East (hmm) For the South (hmm)
Grandfather, I’m calling on you Need your guidance now Grandmother, I’m calling on you Need your guidance now
For the West (ooo) For the North (ooo) For the East (ooo) For the South (ooo)
Grandfather, I’m calling on you Need your guidance now Grandmother, I’m calling on you Need your guidance now
Featuring special guest Kerri Colfer, FCNL Congressional Advocate for Native American Policy. As we prepare to observe Indigenous People’s Day next month, Kerri will provide an update on the crisis of missing and murdered Native women and girls and opportunities to advance policy solutions in what remains of the 116th Congress.
In a huge victory for Indian Country, both Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act passed in the House on Sept. 21. The bills, which already passed the Senate by unanimous consent in March, will help to address the rising numbers of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. Both bills will now go to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
Savanna’s Act (S.227) will establish better law enforcement practices by requiring federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to develop protocols for cases of missing or murdered Native Americans. The bill also provides training and technical assistance for implementing these new guidelines, and authorizes the Department of Justice to provide grants for compiling and annually reporting data related to missing and murdered Native Americans.
The Not Invisible Act (S. 982) requires the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to create a joint advisory committee on violence against American Indians and Alaska Natives. The committee, which will be made up of law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners, service providers, and survivors of domestic and sexual violence, will make recommendations to the DOI and DOJ to combat crime against Native Americans.
The passage of these bills in both chambers is an especially sweet victory for FCNL and tribal advocates. FCNL first began working on a similar version of Savanna’s Act when it was introduced in October 2017 in the 115th Congress by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND)
FCNL Congratulates House on Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act Passage By Timothy McHugh, September 22, 2020
Washington, DC – The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) applauded yesterday’s passage of both Savanna’s Act (H. R. 2733) and the Not Invisible Act of 2019 (H.R.2438) by the full House of Representatives.
Contact: Tim McHugh, Friends Committee on National Legislation, email@example.com; 202-903-2515
“At long last, Congress has passed bills to develop better law enforcement practices when it comes to crimes against American Indians and Alaska Natives. This begins the process of ensuring better public safety in tribal and urban Indian communities,” said Diane Randall, FCNL’s general secretary. “As a Quaker organization, we support legislation that honors the promises our country has made to Native Americans.”
Having previously passed the Senate, the bills will now go to the White House for the president’s signature.
“These bills improve two of the most problematic issues plaguing Native communities – coordination among law enforcement agencies and reporting practices,” said Kerri Colfer, FCNL’s Native American program congressional advocate. “A new crisis begins each time a Native woman goes missing. These crises are not limited to remote, rural tribal reservations. They affect Native Americans and their families living in all major American cities and states.”
Savanna’s Act (H.R. 2733) is named after Savanna LaFontaine Greywind, a pregnant Lakota woman who went missing only to be found brutally murdered in August 2017. Its goal is to improve the responses to missing and murdered Native women through coordination among tribal, federal, and local law enforcement agencies. It also requires data on missing and murdered Native people to be compiled and reported.
The Not Invisible Act (H.R. 2438) aims to address the crisis of missing and murdered Native people by creating an advisory committee on crime against American Indians and Alaska Natives to make recommendations to the Department of Justice and Department of Interior.
FCNL and several Native American organizations have been working to ensure both houses of Congress pass legislation to address the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women throughout the United States. Native women and girls face a murder rate 10 times the national average, and more than 4 in 5 Native women have experienced violence.
On November 20, 2018, a coalition of Native and non-Native people, representing several organizations, met with Carol Olson, Senator Chuck Grassley’s State Director at the Federal Building in Des Moines. Two of Senator Grassley’s staff from Washington, DC, joined us via a conference call. The meeting was a chance for us to get to know each other and find ways we can work with Senator Grassley and others to pass legislation to support Native American communities. Those who attended are shown in the photo below.
This coalition came together from two circumstances. One relates to the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March this September, where a group of about forty Native and non-Native people walked 94 miles, from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This March was organized by Bold Iowa, Indigenous Iowa and Seeding Sovereignty. The goal was the development of a community of Native and non-Native people who would get to know each other so they could work together on areas of common interest.
The other circumstance is the desire of the Friends Committee on National Legislative (FCNL) to build teams of people to develop ongoing relationships with the staff of their U.S. Senators and Representatives in their in-district offices. FCNL is a 75-year-old Quaker organization that has worked to support legislation for peace and justice issues. FCNL is non-partisan and has developed an extensive national network of Friends and others who support this work for peace and justice. Since the 1950’s Native American Affairs have been one of the main areas of focus of the organization.
There are two pieces of legislation in Congress now related to Native Affairs. One is the SURVIVE Act which is intended to get more funds from the Victims of Crime Act to Native communities. The second is Savanna’s Act, which allows tribal police forces to have jurisdiction over non-Native people on Native land, access to criminal databases and expanded collection of crime statistics. Senator Grassley was involved in the passage of the Victims of Crime Act.
During this meeting, Jeff Kisling talked about the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the SURVIVE Act. Christine Nobiss spoke about the racism and violence against Native women and Savanna’s Act. Everyone else then contributed to the discussions.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Indigenous Peoples’ Day Webinar
On October 14 at 1:00 p.m. EDT, FCNL will be organizing and moderating a webinar with the Interfaith Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence on legislative solutions to the crisis of violence in Indian Country. The webinar is part of a four-part series on how racism and misogyny impact survivors’ ability to seek safety and justice.
Our panel will feature speakers from the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, the National Congress of American Indians, and the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center. Register here.
Yesterday my Quaker Meeting, Bear Creek Friends of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), discussed the meeting’s long history of connection with Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke. This ceremony is held annually at the Kuehn Conservation Area, just a few miles from the meetinghouse in rural Iowa.
This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Prairie Awakening ceremony occurred virtually, with a series of videos. The following table has links to those and other videos related to Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke, most done by my friend Rodger Routh with Chris Adkins, Dallas County Conservation’s environmental education coordinator and longtime organizer of the event, narrating.
Having lived my adult life in Indianapolis, September 2017 was the first opportunity to attend. I had just retired to Iowa and was hoping to build up enough stamina to continue to live without a car, as I had done for about 40 years in Indianapolis.
I used the opportunity of traveling to the Prairie Awakening ceremony as a test. It is forty miles from home in Indianola to Bear Creek meeting. It is also about forty miles from the Iowa state Capitol building to Bear Creek Meeting. My bicycle and I were dropped off at the Capitol building in Des Moines, where I participated in a climate action on September 9, 2017.
Then I began the journey of bicycling from the Capitol to Bear Creek meeting. I hadn’t ridden that far, nor had I traveled that bike path before, so this was a test of my vision.
I did finally arrive at the Bear Creek meetinghouse that evening, around 5 pm, pretty much exhausted. There was one gigantic hill to climb near the end that practically had me crying. Well OK, I did cry. I was so grateful that Jackie Leckband had left water and food at the cottage next to the meetinghouse where I spent the night. https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/september-journey-day-1/
Unfortunately last year when we were gathered at Kuehn, just as the ceremony was about to begin, a big thunderstorm rained us out.
This year because of the pandemic, several videos were produced for a virtual ceremony. One of the things we did at yesterday morning’s pre meeting via Zoom was to watch and comment about those videos.
The years of Bear Creek Friend’s work with Prairie Awakening provides us with an excellent foundation to continue to build relationships with Native Peoples. Other ways we’ve built connections have been Paula Palmer’s workshops, “Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples”, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) panel discussion “Building Bridges with Native Peoples”, some Friends participating on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, support of the Wet’suwet’en Peoples efforts to stop construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in British Columbia, and with Decolonizing Quakers..
This is a slideshow of photos I took at the 2017 Prairie Awakening.
We are living in dangerous times. Man made crises related to the concepts of possession and separation. Of unjust and unsustainable economic and political systems that are failing here and elsewhere. Organized religions that have been used, some for centuries, for oppression. And don’t teach how to live Spirit led lives. Armed forces and militarized police serving a handful of the ultra-wealthy.
All contributing to the rape of Mother Earth. Unleashing ferocious and rapidly evolving environmental chaos.
Most dangerous of all is spiritual poverty. None of the above could have happened if not for the rejection of Spirit led lives. How few today demonstrate loving their neighbor as themselves?
Where are the peacemakers?
I have been deeply concerned about the values and practices of this country, this White, dominant society. Feeling like a stranger in a strange land. I couldn’t own an automobile knowing the devastating results of a car culture. Cars as weapons of mass destruction. https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/?s=cars+weapon+mass+destruction.
I refused to be inducted into the armed forces. Was not interested in the accumulation of possessions and wealth.
Realizing I didn’t fit into the White society I was born into, I searched for those who shared my values and beliefs. Who live Spirit led lives.
As a Quaker I was fortunate to live in communities that did try to live Spirit led lives. I learned the tools and experienced the power of prayer. Witnessed the examples of those who rejected war, those who tried to live simply. I was blessed to travel to Costa Rica in 2010 where a number of US Quakers migrated in the early 1950’s to escape the militarization in the US. Costa Rica has not had a standing army since 1948. There are peacemakers there. More stories of peacemakers here: Young Quaker Men Who Faced War and Conscription.
I still belong to the Quaker faith community. But we have significant problems. Most have continued to use automobiles and to fly. Too many have not recognized and begun to heal what was done to Indigenous peoples, black people and other people of color (BIPOC). Don’t understand that those traumas are passed from generation to generation. Continue to impact those living now, both the oppressed and the oppressors. I know I am not blameless. But I seek to be led by the Spirit to do this work in my own life.
For the reasons this article began with, I feel an urgency to find alternatives to our current White dominant society, because it is collapsing. Whether our political system survives for a little longer will be determined by this election. There are unsettling questions about the peaceful transfer of power. But even if Democrats come into power, the fundamental problems remain.
This White, capitalist system can not long survive.
Though the work of other white environmental activists is incredibly important, this world still applauds, supports, encourages, and emulates ”whiteness” and the culture created out of the doctrine of discovery.
I’ve been working on this diagram to help me visualize these systems. Hoping it will make it clearer what I am trying to say. White colonization and capitalism have brought us to global environmental chaos. And the collapse of capitalism results in broken political and economic systems. All enhanced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the fundamental, underlying problem we face today is Spiritual poverty, that is the problem we must bring attention to, both for ourselves and reaching out to others.
When the Spirit began to guide me to Indigenous peoples, I understood that was to learn how to live with environmental integrity, and that was part of it. It took me longer to realize care for Mother Earth was not a separate thing, but an integral part of the Circle of caring for each other, human and non human, for the water, earth and sky. All connected by the Spirit, the Spirit being all.
As I’ve been listening to the Spirit, a new vision is gradually emerging. As the White dominate culture implodes, those who have preserved Indigenous practices, ways of living, can teach us how to live in the ancient ways. Help us remember what we once knew.
We are in this climate crisis together….but not all of us will be affected by this change in the same way. It is well known that Indigenous communities and communities of color everywhere are the most immediate recipients of climate change disaster. Greta Thunberg just arrived on the shores of the USA. Though her work and the work of other white environmental activists is incredibly important, this world still applauds, supports, encourages, and emulates ”whiteness” and the culture created out of the doctrine of discovery.
Imagine if the same amount of people made the same big deal about Indigenous youth from any of the tribal nations that are protecting 80% of the world’s biodiversity. What about Autumn Peltier, Wikwemikong First Nation, who began her advocacy for the environment and clean water at age 8? Why are US environmentalists and philanthropists falling over themselves for a Swedish activist when our people have been teaching our children these ways for hundreds of years? Our children have not only stood at the front lines repeatedly but have DIED PROTECTING our territories and our ways. We have some of the most dedicated youth in the world fighting in our own backyards against environmental disaster and climate change. Indigenous Peoples are not activists or environmentalists. Our work at the frontlines is motivated by deep ancestral ties to sacred landscapes and from first-hand effects of environmental racism.
Let’s look at the Indigenous Peoples that have survived genocide and continue to carry on their ways—ways which can save the world. Let’s look to our tribal nations for an Indigenous-led regenerative economy created through traditional ecological knowledge. An effective way we can protect, preserve and restore the climate is by seeing and taking the word of people who fight colonial oppression by tenaciously holding onto traditions that tell a different story about this planet.
Let’s get funds to Indigenous Peoples first. We have answers.
In these dangerous times we need Spiritual leaders to help us remember the story of the Peacemaker.
Over a thousand years ago on the shores of Onondaga Lake, in present day central New York, democracy was born.
The Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca people had been warring against each other. There was great bloodshed and death surrounding us. These people of the five nations had forgotten their ways and their actions saddened the Creator. The Creator decided to send a messenger to the people so that the five nations could live in peace. The messenger is referred to as the Peacemaker.
I was really affected this evening as I took photos of the Youth Alliance for People’s Justice event at the PappaJohn Sculpture Garden in downtown Des Moines.
This was a Climate Strike and Voter Registration Event.
I know many people don’t see the value in gatherings like this. Wonder whether they have any affect on people who would have influence regarding what they are trying to call attention to. This one did include working on voter registration.
But there is another point to gatherings like this, the effect on those gathered. Trying to call attention to injustice often feels very lonely. It means a lot to have others join you, doing the work together, and helps build a movement.
There were several occasions I can think of when I was literally alone. I had to ask someone to take this photo, since I didn’t have anyone accompanying me for this about the dangers of oil trains carrying bitumen from the tar sands fields.
Another time, I asked a woman who always sat on the circle in downtown Indianapolis, knitting, to take this photo for me. This was when I/we were working on defunding the Dakota Access pipeline. I had thought a few of my coconspirators would show up, and hold the sign while I went into the Chase Bank (behind me) to tell them why I was closing my account, and close it. Since no one else showed up, unplanned, I took the sign into the bank with me. If you’re interested to know more, I wrote the whole story here: Defunding Experience. Well, that describes what happened that day. But there is a follow-up story about my return visit to the bank: Return to Chase Bank.
Then there was the time I walked through a crowd of hundreds of people carrying the sign below, “Quakers Know Black Lives Matter.” I had forgotten it was the weekend of the Black Expo. I very nearly turned around then. But didn’t.
As I watched and listened to the young people in Des Moines today, I was transported back in time. It was like I was observing a younger version of myself, 50 years younger. I can hardly imagine returning to my youth.
I do remember how difficult it can be to get others to join you (as noted above). And the awkwardness of speaking in front of a crowd. The nervousness.
I’m feeling hope, pride, and encouraged by these young people and the work they are doing.
In these days of multiple, ongoing crises, it is easy to loose our focus. To be distracted by the chaos. We must work harder to strengthen our connections with and care for all living things. How many love their neighbor as themselves these days?
Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving address says “we have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People.”
There are many reasons why I’ve been led to make connections with Native peoples. Being “led” means I received Spiritual messages to do this. Its not like God speaks in words, but rather nudges us along a path. My grandmother, Lorene Standing, used to say God’s will is revealed in a series of small steps. Each step reinforces the ones before. Things begin to happen that reinforce these steps. This may occur over a short time, or years.
Interestingly, Dallas Chief Eagle spoke about this for quite a while around the bonfire at the end of the Prairie Awakening celebration. He told us to empty our mind. When thoughts enter, say “no”. To be completely still. He then had us do this together. Afterward he asked the children what they felt, and they said “good, “peaceful” and “happy”. He said to practice this, and that we would also learn to recognize the spirit in others. [This story is from a blog post I wrote, Reflections on September Journey]
The following outlines how my Spiritual environmental journey led me to Indigenous peoples.
One of the most meaningful events of my life was walking on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March during the first week of September, 2018. This website has many blog posts, photos and videos about the March. https://firstnationfarmer.com/
One of the main goals of what one of us called our Sacred Journey, was for this small group of native and non native people to get to know, and begin to trust each other as we walked 94 miles over eight days along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline in central Iowa. That was extremely successful, for me anyway. I am so blessed to have native friends now. There have been numerous occasions since when we have worked together.
Which finally gets to the point of this post, about an event happening tonight that many of my friends are involved with, “Native Voices for Votes, an Evening of speaking, singing, and drumming to uplift the BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) vote in Iowa and Nebraska.”
Iowa and Nebraska Friends,
Please join @greatplainsactionsociety and @fieldteam6 for “Native Voices for Votes,” a cultivation event to highlight the voices of the Indigenous communities living in Iowa and Nebraska! The online event will include musician Regina Tsosie (Diné), drummer Kristofor Marrufo (Winnebago) as well as speakers @sikowis, aka, Christine Nobiss (Plains Cree/Saulteaux) and @trishacaxsep (Winnebago) and other speakers and performers. “Native Voices for Votes” will take place on Thursday September 24th from 7-8 pm CT. RSVP by purchasing a General Admission ticket at: bit.ly/NativeVotes
My friend, Regina Tsosie, will be on the “Native Voices for Votes” program tonight. Here she sings as we begin the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March (2018).
The first time I read this quote by Richard Wagamese I saw its truth, felt it brighten my Inner Light.
All that we are is story
From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship — we change the world one story at a time.
Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955-March 10, 2017) Ojibwe from Wabeseemoong Independent Nations, Canada
Believing “we change the world one story at a time” has influenced my approach to peace and justice work. I now tend to put what I think and do into the form of a story. Hence all these blog posts. I also treat what others share with me in the context of stories. “What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together.”
Now when I find myself being led to do something, I also find myself thinking, I should do this because it will be a good story.
It is often difficult for me to express Spiritual matters in particular, in words. I think of “ineffable”, which is the inability to express in words. Stories can be a way to express a Spiritual matter indirectly. As an illustration of the underlying Spiritual message. A kind of pantomime. The Bible, and other religious works, are collections of stories.
While someone might just tell their story, the idea of stories is related to the sharing of stories with each other. This is especially true when people, or groups have different attitudes or beliefs. Sharing stories is an opportunity for each side to express their view more clearly.
The act of listening, deeply, to the story being shared with you, is important. You might learn, or be changed by the story if you are open to that possibility as you listen. And it is meaningful to the storyteller, knowing they are being listened to. Which might make them more willing to consider your story.
Sharing our stories with those who agree with us is good entertainment, and perhaps teaching/learning. But if we believe “we change the world one story at a time”, we need to be sharing our stories with those who disagree with us. Arlie Hochschild expresses this as “crossing the empathy wall.”
An empathy wall is an obstacle to deep understanding of another person, one that can make us feel indifferent or even hostile to those who hold different beliefs or whose childhood is rooted in different circumstances
Arlie Hochschild, author of Strangers in Their Own Land
“Everyone has a deep story,” says Arlie Hochschild. “Our job is to respect and try to understand these stories.”
Often I wake up thinking about something moving that a person told me in a recent interview and figuring out what I’m learning from it or how to write about it. And I’m connecting that to a little “lookout” in my mind that tells me what’s on the horizon.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
I was 12, and had been freshly plucked from an American middle class girlhood in Kensington, Maryland to move with my parents to Tel Aviv, Israel where my dad had just been posted in the US embassy.One weekend my father drove my mother and I in a large American car to visit the “old city” — the Arab sector– of Jerusalem to see it and shop in the bizarre. On arriving, my dad parked the car in a parking lot. Getting out of the back of the car, I saw along the edge of the edge of the lot, approaching us child beggars, one blind, another. nearly bald. A third was crippled and moved on a little cart with wheels. While I was looking around in shock, a man paid to watch the foreigner’s cars, approached me and said in English, “are you Americans? Why does America give alot of money to Israel but none to us?” It was said in a minute, but my life has never been quite the same since.
An Act of Kindness You’ll Never Forget?
I was on the playground, age 12, alone, not speaking the language of the kids in my new school. A girl my age smiled at me and tagged me on the shoulder. I didn’t understand and I didn’t respond. She waited, smiled, and came back to tag me again. She was inviting me to a game of tag.
The increasing environmental chaos has forced even the mainstream media to talk about ‘climate change’. But they’re very careful not to say anything that would frighten their viewers too much. Don’t talk about the web of interrelated problems that give a realistic view of the danger we are in. Don’t talk about the accelerating breadth and rate of change, and how the future, near and far, will look.
Similarly, the devastation of COVID-19 brings a whole new path of destruction to our families and communities. Has shown the failure of the capitalist economy.
And more recently, the terrifying rise of police states and authoritarianism in this country and around the world.
Is it all too much, too late to fix? Increasingly, it looks like the answer to many of these things is ‘yes’.
True or not, we have choices about what to do now. How to mitigate the damage. How we can leave the best possible world for our children.
For how many decades have we said, or heard, we must change [BLANK] now? And when has [BLANK] ever changed?
The pursuit of consumerism and an obsession with productivity have led us to deny the value of life itself : that of plants, that of animals, and that of a great number of human beings. Pollution, climate change, and the destruction of our remaining natural zones has brought the world to a breaking point.
Martin Luther King, Jr, said we need to “undergo a radical revolution of values”, “from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.” Only through such a revolution, he declared, would we be able to overcome “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.”
The future will be determined by our values. How do we live more consistently with our values? How do we encourage others to examine their own values? Why haven’t we been successful in bringing about a radical revolution of values?
“The direction and harmony of these global changes depend on upon the values that are inspiring the change. When these values are life- preserving and life-enhancing, we will move forward to a new, just global civilization. If these values continue to be about short-term, materialistic gains solely, we will continue to experience a deepening cycle of death and destruction.
It is becoming clearer and clearer, with every passing day, that walking a prayerful, peaceful spiritual path is the only way forward to a just, sustainable, and harmonious world.”
I was blessed to hear Arkan Lushwala speak about “Indigenous Ways of Restoring the World” during a call sponsored by the Pachamama Alliance. “Arkan Lushwala is a rare indigenous bridge of the global north and south, carrying spiritual traditions from the Andes in his native Peru as well as being adopted and initiated by the Lakota people of North America.”
“everywhere people ask, “what can we do?” The question, what can we do, is the second question. The first question is “what can we be?” Because what you can do is a consequence of who you are. Once you know what you can be, you know what you can do”
Arkan says we are facing life threatening situations related to environmental damage. We are facing such severe challenges that we cannot solve them only by ourselves.
We must move beyond thinking and talking. Action now is essential.
Action is spiritual.
We need to practice trying to reach our sacred space. We need a higher universal intelligence to help solve these problems.
We must open a sacred space for prayer so we may be open to the warrior spirit.
The importance of prayer.
We pray as a form of connecting to other forms of communication
We need to be aware of what is happening in the moment, elevate ourselves, move closer to the sacred
I first have to reach deep into my own heart
You start praying while you are also listening. I become aware of, remembering, what I pray about at that moment. We need to rely on our own ancient indigenous memory. Stop being isolated. Fully become part of the earth and water and plants and air. This is an immense source of knowledge about these problems.
I am in front of the sacred fire of all who are listening. Let’s say that I am thinking now. I am remembering. The notion of intelligence and to understand refers to memory. Intelligence means learning, but also achieving that state in your mind when you are remembering. The air that we are breathing carries the memories of the ages, the movement of energy. Deepest intelligence in our culture is memory. There are always memories of the ages in all that surrounds us.
The state of being, the prayer, makes us open to receiving. If we are really open, and not blocking ourselves, and connected to what is around us, with our eyes, breath, sensations, and feeling that arrive in our heart, through our antenna, if we are open in this way while we are doing something, our action is being infused with guidance or instructions. There is something there that is watching what you are doing and helping guide you. Sometimes we need the help of the elders or others to understand these experiences.
We ask for help. When we put ourselves in that elevated space, that makes it much easier for us to receive help. Help is always there but we often miss the messages.
If I am open and receptive to other frequencies and the higher state of my being, I’ll have much more help in my work.
The correct way is not to take credit, but the joy is the moment itself, by feeling integrated to life while you are doing the action.
When we sit with others in a circle, when we all change the state of our being together, we move up to the sacred together. Working with others in community, much, much more can be accomplished.
If a person expresses an experience that is from a sacred space of high resonance, I am activated by that. It resonates in my own heart and mind and spirit, and it triggers my memory, too. by the presence of something sacred.
We sit in a circle and witness someone remembering. We receive the same spirit together. Our individual self and agenda slips away. Joining our hearts. Mother Earth is the One, all of us become the One together. A lot of wisdom comes south. We are all impressed by the presence of something sacred.