Reflections on First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March

Quakers in my Yearly Meeting, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), have instituted Spiritual Sharing Small Groups for Friends who are interested in participating. There have been several cycles of these groupings. I was led to participate in the current groupings, hoping to find some help with a Spiritual crisis I’m in.

There are four of us in my group, and we meeting every Tuesday night. There isn’t a specific format for these meetings. We each take turns introducing the night’s discussion. Tonight is my turn and I’m looking forward to sharing an experience that changed my life, and relates to my Spiritual crisis.

I plan to talk about the sacred journey I was led to make, the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. I created a WordPress website with many photos, videos and stories from the March at this link:

First Nation-Farmer Unity

As the name implies, this was a march to unify a small community of native and non-native people. Our group was around thirty native and non-native people. Unify in the sense of getting to know, and begin to build trust among us. It was clear to me, and many of my non Indigenous friends, that native views and practices are essential to heal Mother Earth.

We began to get to know each other as we walked together for hours down nearly empty rural gravel roads. This sacred journey began in Des Moines, and ended ninety four miles and eight days later in Fort Dodge. This was literally an act of faith. I was not at all sure I could walk all the way, but was very grateful I made it. Fortunately it was suggested that we pack an extra pair of shoes, because my first pair were worn out about halfway.

We walked and camped along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline. The truck that carried our tents from place to place had a huge banner that said “Stop Eminent Domain Abuse”. Eminent domain was used to force landowners to allow the pipeline to be built through their land despite their wishes otherwise.

Eminent domain is in the news again, as companies are pushing for the construction of carbon pipelines. My friends Sikowis Nobiss and Mahmud Fitil, both of whom walk on the March, organized this gathering at the headquarters of Summit Carbon a couple of months ago and invited me to take photos. Just one example of how those of us on the March have worked together since.

Spiritual Crisis

As I see and learn more about white supremacy and its toxic effects on peoples and Mother Earth, I find it difficult to consider myself a Christian. The weaponized version of a religion. The Crusades. The Doctrines of Discovery that not only purported to gave white people the permission to take over lands around the earth, but also to subjugate and kill the Indigenous peoples.

And the incomprehensible history and consequences of the forced assimilation of native children. The multigenerational traumas. The physical, mental, and sexual abuses and thousands of deaths.

Something important happens when we gather in pursuit of a common goal. First we form rituals that help us relate to and negotiate each other, everything from a civic tradition that allows anyone with a voice to be respectfully heard, to sharing food and music in the local town hall every Friday night, to a labour system that fairly distributes the burden of work. Then, those rituals that stand the test of time become embedded in daily life. The ritual activities themselves and the good they produce help a community identity take root. As identity strengthens, so too does our sense of connectedness — our sense of affection, responsibility and obligation — to one another. When this happens, we then share a greater capacity for coherence and cooperation. And where we share greater capacity for coherence and cooperation there is also greater resilience: the ability to mobilise skills and resources to support the emergence of collective intelligence in response to crisis, enable rapid adaptation and ensure the continuity of the most important functions and structures of the community. This coherent togetherness and the collective intelligence that emerges out of it is the source of human strength and ingenuity. Within it lies our ability to transition from one evolutionary niche to another, even against the odds.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium, June 18, 2019

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

We are our stories, stories that can be both prison and the crowbar to break open the door of that prison; we make stories to save ourselves or to trap ourselves or others, stories that lift us up or smash us against the stone wall of our own limits and fears. Liberation is always in part a storytelling process: breaking stories, breaking silences, making new stories.  

Rebecca Solnit, ‘Silence Is Broken’, in ‘The Mother of All Questions’

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