Let me begin by saying I know I am ignorant about Native Americans. As I quickly learned as I began to learn about racial injustice, we don’t know what it is that we don’t know. In the process of trying to figure that out, we often say and do things that are insensitive, hurtful and just plain wrong. You can read and talk with people who do know about these things, but that only goes so far. And you don’t have enough knowledge, yet, to be able to evaluate which of those things are correct, since we are drowning in information these days. Finding a trusted teacher is best, but sometimes hard to find.
So your choices are to not engage, or do your best to learn. There are several reasons why this is something I’ve begun to try to learn about recently. Since some reading this don’t know me, environmental concerns have been a lifelong focus in my life. I was raised on farms in Iowa, and exposed to the majesty of our world by camping trips to our national parks, in particular Rocky Mountain National Park. I also came to Indianapolis in 1970, prior to catalytic converters, so I experienced riding my bicycle through thick clouds of noxious smog. I was horrified by the mental image of the Rocky Mountains hidden by smog. It was clear that all of these cars were going to destroy our air quality. Catalytic converters made it easy for people to ignore the damage they were causing. Although I did own cars for several years, about forty years ago I decided I couldn’t do that any more, and have lived without one since.
I was continually frustrated in trying to convince others of these dangers. Finally, the Keystone XL Pipeline decision, and the organizing efforts of the Keystone Pledge of Resistance offered a way to get this into the public conversation. I became deeply involved in that campaign, trained as an Action Leader, and helping to lead our efforts here in Indianapolis.
Finally getting back to Native Americans, I learned at the beginning that First Nations in Canada where the tar sands extraction occurs, which is what the Keystone pipeline was about, were on the front lines of calling out the dangers of that, and on the front lines of trying to stop it. Native Americans in the U.S. were also involved, including training hundreds in nonviolent direct action, and performing those actions. That, and the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, and the Keystone Pledge of Resistance, helped President Obama make the decision to not approve the pipeline.
Today, of course, the danger is the Dakota Access pipeline, which is basically an alternative to the Keystone Pipeline. Although the mainstream media has ignored it, there has been a great gathering of Native American tribes in North Dakota, where water protectors, not protestors, are trying to stop the pipeline, which is especially dangerous because it is planned to be built under the Missouri River. It is well documented (but again, not reported by the mainstream media), that pipelines frequently leak. A leak into the Missouri River could well contaminate the entire river, and the water supply for all of the cities, towns and farms along its route, with disastrous consequences.
Thanks to the efforts of my new friends at the White Pine Wilderness Academy, Joshua Taflinger, Brandi Herron, and Matt Shull, Indianapolis has been organizing efforts to support those opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. They have connections with Native Americans in Indiana, which is how I am beginning to learn. As I’ve written, I have been very moved by the presence of Native Americans at the rallies we have held here to try to raise awareness about the pipeline. For those who don’t know me, photography is another of my passions, so there are a lot of photos from these rallies online here. http://bit.ly/NODAPLIndy
There is a lot more I want to share about this (and those who know me know I will), but this is probably enough for today.