I was searching for a way to describe what WE experienced during OUR Buffalo Rebellion Climate Summit this weekend. A moment reminiscent of the times of the civil rights and anti-war movements which brought together thousands of people and created change. This weekend a coalition of people and organizations came together to rise to the challenges of rapidly evolving environmental devastation and collapse of the systems of capitalism and white supremacy.
As I wondered whether to write “what WE experienced” versus “what I experienced” I realized this was emblematic of what the Buffalo Rebellion is about. Dare WE hope? In its simplest expression, we need to change from “I” to “We” in all we do.
Those of us who have been working to protect Mother Earth are more aware than the general public of the breadth and depth of damage being done. More alarmed, more discouraged after years of work with little apparent progress.
The COVID pandemic made us more isolated and made it difficult to safely do our organizing work. Although our Des Moines Mutual Aid community never stopped distributing free food every week. We strictly enforced wearing masks and gloves and attempted to maintain social distancing by limiting the number of volunteers.
As an example of how long some of us have been working to protect our environment, fifty years ago I was led to refuse to own a car. I’m not aware of that changing other people’s lives.
In 2013 the Keystone XL pipeline struggles began to bring some people and organizations together. One group was known as the Cowboy-Indian Alliance.
What little I learned about native cultures showed peoples who lived with far more integrity than I was able to. When I first became engaged with fossil fuel and pipeline resistance in 2013, I began to hear stories of Indigenous peoples working to protect the water. The Cowboy-Indian Alliance came together to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. I was honored to be given this poster from the 2014 Harvest the Hope concert.
[See: The Cowboy and Indian Alliance.]
It was clear to me and others that nonnative folks needed not only to join with Indigenous peoples but be led by them. How to make that happen?
Indigenous Iowa and Bold Iowa organized the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March in 2018, with the intent of providing a small group of native and nonnative people the time to get to know each other, so we could begin to work on issues of common interest and concern. We walked and camped for eight days along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, Iowa, ninety-four miles.
[see stories and photos from that sacred journey here: First Nation Famer Climate Unity March]
A number of us worked on various projects together since, strengthening our friendships. A number of those on that March are involved in the new coalition, the Buffalo Rebellion. That includes Sikowis Nobiss, Mahmud Fitil, Trisha Entringer, Donnielle Wanatee, Miriam Kashia, Peter Clay and me.
I plan to write a lot about the Buffalo Rebellion but wanted to begin with this introduction.
I believe the answer to the question posed by this post, Dare WE hope? is yes.