Public comments at Iowa Utilities Board

I was glad to see a number of friends, and others I don’t know, at yesterday’s monthly Iowa Utilities Board Meeting (IUB). Some traveled some distance. From Iowa City, for example.

And yet, it is discouraging to see so few people engaged with things like this carbon pipeline resistance. Additionally, it is crazy to see the US Supreme court gut the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect almost anything. And the Biden administration doing all it can to stimulate oil production.

There was the expected Iowa State Patrol presence at the IUB, both outside and in the hearing room.

I was struck by the symbolism of the board versus the crowd. The board members on a dais, everyone dressed in suits. The participants dressed casually. Seated a long way from the board members.

Video monitors were all over the place. Initially displaying the agenda. But then during open comments, showing the time clicking down from three minutes, the limit for each person to comment. You could feel the reluctance of the board members to hear the comments. And yet, the instructions from the board to individual participants were polite.

I wish I could have stayed longer, but all the comment I heard were articulate expressions of strong opposition to the carbon pipelines. One county supervisor said he was convinced that the approval was a foregone conclusion, and these hearings were a sham. A farmer described how the pipeline would not only destroy his tile system but impact the farms upstream from his.


Reject Learned Helplessness. Be at the IUB tomorrow.

If you’ve been involved in any sort of activism, you know the frustration of the lack of participation by others.

One of my deepest frustrations has been related to the existential threat of environmental collapse. Fifty years ago, I moved to Indianapolis, and was horrified by the foul air, smog you could actually see, and barely breathe. I was led to live without owning a car from that point. And to try to get others to do whatever they could to stop the accelerating environmental devastation. Fifty years later, you can see where we are. In hindsight, we can imagine what might have happened if we had invested in mass transit back then.

I recently learned the term Learned helplessness from “The Vicious Cycle of American Collapse. How Social Collapse Happens-And Why Americans Feel So Powerless to Stop It” by umair haque, Eudaimonia, July 6, 2022

Tomorrow is a chance to reject learned helplessness. Instead, you can show up at the Iowa Utilities Board at 8:30 am. to object to the construction of carbon (CO2) pipelines. (Details below)


My years in Indianapolis were blessed by connections with wonderful people and organizations fighting for climate justice. I moved to Iowa July 1, 2017, and wondered how I could build new relationships here. By researching using social media, I learn about the work of Ed Fallon and Bold Iowa. I learned of an event to be held at the Iowa State Capitol to petition for the removal Richard W. Lozier, Jr. from the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) because of his conflicts of interest. This photo of that event illustrates what a small number of people show up.

Although Ed wasn’t there, Sikowis Nobiss did attend. I reminded her we met when she spoke at Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) a few months earlier. We have since worked on many projects together and I consider her a good friend of mine.

The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) has been the site of a number of environmental protests because one of their functions is to approve pipeline projects.

Two people protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline were arrested Wednesday in Des Moines after demanding a meeting at the Iowa Utilities Board.

Jessica Reznicek, who was arrested on a trespassing charge, had been fasting for 10 days with Travis O’Brennan, urging the board to revoke permits for construction on the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Iowa.

Two pipeline protesters arrested at Iowa Utilities Board by Charly Haley, and Linh Ta, Des Moines Register, Nov. 20, 2016

In July, 2017, Ruby Montoya, then a 27-year-old former preschool teacher, and Jessica Reznicek, then a 35-year-old activist, were arrested for damaging the sign at the Iowa Utilities Board.

Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, right, stand in front of the Iowa Utilities Board in July of 2017 and read statements taking credit for acts of sabotage against the Dakota Access pipeline. Courtesy of Des Moines Catholic Worker Archives

“Some may view these actions as violent, but be not mistaken. We acted from our hearts and never threatened human life nor personal property,” Montoya said. “What we did do was fight a private corporation that has run rampant across our country, seizing land and polluting our nation’s water supply. You may not agree with our tactics, but you can clearly see their necessity in light of the broken federal government and the corporations they represent.”

As a result of this admission, Montoya and Reznicek were indicted on nine felony charges of intentionally damaging energy infrastructure — a designation that can render a private, commercial company’s enterprise a matter of federal concern. 

‘You Strike a Match’ Why two women sacrificed everything to stop the Dakota Access pipeline by Julia Shipley, Grist, May 26, 2021

We were at the Iowa Utilities Board September 1, 2018, to start our sacred journey, the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. A small group of us walked and camped along the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline, from our beginning here in Des Moines, to Fort Dodge, a distance of 94 miles, over eight days.

Regina Tsosie sings a song at the press conference at the Iowa Utilities Board regarding the improper use of eminent domain for the Dakota Access Pipeline. And the beginning of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.


Regina Tsosie sings a song at the press conference at the Iowa Utilities Board regarding the improper use of eminent domain for the Dakota Access Pipeline

Tomorrow, July 12, we will again gather at the Iowa Utilities Board, this time to object to the construction of carbon (CO2) pipelines in Iowa.

https://www.facebook.com/events/509509047578832

Please join us July 12th, 8:30 am at the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) monthly board meeting. The board is preparing to handle permit requests for three hazardous carbon pipelines in Iowa.

There are many reasons why carbon pipelines should not be built, including:

  • these are unproven processes
  • even though the main argument for carbon pipelines is removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, some of the captured carbon is actually used for more oil fracking
  • the abuse of eminent domain
  • and significant, long-term impacts on farmland.
  • In addition, these are hazardous material pipelines

When a carbon pipeline explodes, huge amounts of carbon dioxide escape into the air, replacing oxygen, and potentially killing people and animals. Such an explosion and some of those consequences actually happened in Satartia, Mississippi. See: CO2 Pipeline Dangers.

No CO2 Pipelines in Iowa


Join the Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance Coalition for a rally at the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) monthly board meeting. We won’t stand by as corporations endanger our land, our communities, and our climate by abusing eminent domain. CO2 pipelines pose a multitude of threats to all Iowans. From destroying farmland to the threat of asphyxiation if a pipeline leaks, Iowans are carrying all the risks, while Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry make off with the reward.

As the Iowa Utilities Board prepares to handle permit requests for three hazardous carbon pipelines, it’s crucial that they know 80% of Iowans oppose using eminent domain for carbon pipelines. It’s time Iowa’s decision-makers learn that we will not accept greedy corporate interests being put before their needs.

Let’s show the Iowa Utilities Board how powerful we are when we stand together!

https://www.facebook.com/events/509509047578832/


Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance Coalition

https://www.facebook.com/NoCCSIowa


Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is not the answer to the climate emergency. CCS is unproven, dangerous and delays real solutions to the climate crisis such as energy conservation, regenerative agriculture and renewable energy.
https://www.facebook.com/NoCCSIowa


Great Plains Action Society

https://www.facebook.com/GreatPlainsActionSociety

Great Plains Action Society. An indigenous collective working to resist and indigenize colonial institutions, ideologies, and behaviors. https://www.facebook.com/GreatPlainsActionSociety


Buffalo Rebellion

https://www.facebook.com/IowaBuffaloRebellion

Buffalo Rebellion is a coalition of Iowa grassroots organizations that are growing a movement for climate action that centers racial and economic justice!

Formed in 2021, Buffalo Rebellion is comprised of seven Iowa organizations: Great Plains Action Society, DSM Black Liberation Movement, Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, Sierra Club Beyond Coal, Cedar Rapids Sunrise Movement, SEIU Local 199, and Iowa CCI
https://www.facebook.com/IowaBuffaloRebellion


Iowa Sierra Club

https://www.facebook.com/IowaSierraClub/


Ní Btháska Stand

https://www.facebook.com/NiBthaskaStandCollective

Ní Btháska Stand

Direct Action Collaboration between Great Plains Action SocietNí Btháska Stand Collective at Iowa State Capitol sending a strong message to policymakers:

#NoCarbonPipelines
#StopNavigator
#StopSummit
#NoCCS
https://www.facebook.com/NiBthaskaStandCollective


https://www.facebook.com/iowacci

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
With thousands of members from all walks of life, we get things done on critical issues
https://www.facebook.com/iowacci


No CO2 Pipelines in Iowa

Iowa Utilities Board (IUB)! See Our Power!

https://www.facebook.com/events/509509047578832/

You can download a copy of this poster here. https://1drv.ms/b/s!Avb9bFhezZpPjNEeBqI19Hk2DVMAkw

Please join us July 12th, 8:30 am at the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) monthly board meeting. The board is preparing to handle permit requests for three hazardous carbon pipelines in Iowa.

There are many reasons why carbon pipelines should not be built, including:

  • these are unproven processes
  • even though the main argument for carbon pipelines is removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, some of the captured carbon is actually used for more oil fracking
  • the abuse of eminent domain
  • and significant, long-term impacts on farmland.
  • In addition, these are hazardous material pipelines

When a carbon pipeline explodes, huge amounts of carbon dioxide escape into the air, replacing oxygen, and potentially killing people and animals. Such an explosion and some of those consequences actually happened in Satartia, Mississippi. See: CO2 Pipeline Dangers.

Here are some other posts I’ve written about carbon pipelines.

Carbon pipeline opposition
Eminent domain abuse again
Survivors of Carbon pipeline explosion tell their stories
Iowa carbon pipeline resistance

Join the Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance Coalition for a rally at the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) monthly board meeting. We won’t stand by as corporations endanger our land, our communities, and our climate by abusing eminent domain. CO2 pipelines pose a multitude of threats to all Iowans. From destroying farmland to the threat of asphyxiation if a pipeline leaks, Iowans are carrying all the risks, while Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry make off with the reward.

As the Iowa Utilities Board prepares to handle permit requests for three hazardous carbon pipelines, it’s crucial that they know 80% of Iowans oppose using eminent domain for carbon pipelines. It’s time Iowa’s decision-makers learn that we will not accept greedy corporate interests being put before their needs.

Let’s show the Iowa Utilities Board how powerful we are when we stand together!

https://www.facebook.com/events/509509047578832/


Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance Coalition

https://www.facebook.com/NoCCSIowa


Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is not the answer to the climate emergency. CCS is unproven, dangerous and delays real solutions to the climate crisis such as energy conservation, regenerative agriculture and renewable energy.
https://www.facebook.com/NoCCSIowa


Great Plains Action Society

Great Plains Action Society. An indigenous collective working to resist and indigenize colonial institutions, ideologies, and behaviors. https://www.facebook.com/GreatPlainsActionSociety


Buffalo Rebellion

Buffalo Rebellion is a coalition of Iowa grassroots organizations that are growing a movement for climate action that centers racial and economic justice!

Formed in 2021, Buffalo Rebellion is comprised of seven Iowa organizations: Great Plains Action Society, DSM Black Liberation Movement, Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, Sierra Club Beyond Coal, Cedar Rapids Sunrise Movement, SEIU Local 199, and Iowa CCI
https://www.facebook.com/IowaBuffaloRebellion




Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
With thousands of members from all walks of life, we get things done on critical issues
https://www.facebook.com/iowacci




#NoCarbonPipelines
#StopNavigator
#StopSummit
#NoCCS

A Love Letter to Y’all

I’m looking forward to being with my Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA) friends this morning, for our weekly free grocery store, described below.

As a Quaker, I find it particularly interesting that the first public action of DMMA was participation in a peace march.

Originally tweeted by Des Moines Mutual Aid (@dsm_mutual_aid) on January 6, 2021.

A Love Letter to Y’all (a thread)

One year ago yesterday Des Moines Mutual Aid participated in a march protesting the potential for war or increased hostilities with Iran that followed the fallout of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani by drone strike in Baghdad.

This was our first “public” event since adopting the name Des Moines Mutual Aid, a name we gave our crew during our growing work with our relatives at the houseless camps throughout the city and our help with coordinating a weekly free grocery store that has a 50 year history, founded by the Des Moines Chapter of The Black Panther Party For Self Defense.

A year ago we started laying the foundation for work we had no idea what was coming.

As we were adjusting our work with the camps and grocery re-distribution in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, both that continued to grow in need and importance, the police continued their jobs and legacy of brutality and murder.

This nation exploded in righteous rage in response to the pig murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

DMMA realized we were in a position to organize a bail fund to keep our fighters out of jail, both to keep the streets alive as a new phase of The Movement was being born, and because jails are a hotspot of Covid-19 spread.

Not to mention the racial and economic oppression that is the cash bail system.

In the past year DMMA has expanded it’s work in multiple directions and gained many partners and allies.

We partnered with the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement (@DesMoinesBLM) to create the DSM BLM Rent Relief initiative to help keep families in their homes in the midst of a pandemic and the winter.

The camp work has grown exponentially, but is being managed with our collaboration with Edna Griffin Mutual Aid (@egma_dsm), DSM Black Liberation Movement (@DesMoinesBLM), and The Great Plains Action Society (@PlainsAction).

The bail fund remains successful because of desire from the public and a partnership with Prairielands Freedom Fund (@prairielandsff) (formerly The Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project).

The weekly free food store has maintained itself, carrying on the legacy it inherited.

Every one of our accomplishments are directly tied to the support of so many people donating time, talent, and funds to the work. We are overwhelmed with all of your support and hope you feel we are honoring what we promised.

All of these Mutual Aid projects are just a few of many that this city has created in the last year in response to the many crises we face, not only confronting the problems and fulfilling the needs directly in front of us, but creating a sustainable movement that will be capable of responding to what’s next and shaping our collective futures as we replace the systems that fail us.

These last 12 months have been wild and a real test of all of our capabilities to collectively organize.

But it is clear that we as a city have what it takes to do what is needed in 2021, no matter what crisis is next.

Much gratitude to you all.

In love and rage,
Des Moines Mutual Aid

Originally tweeted by Des Moines Mutual Aid (@dsm_mutual_aid) on January 6, 2021.

Hazardous liquid carbon pipelines

There are many reasons why carbon, or CO2 pipelines, should not be built.
Some I’ve written: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=carbon+co2

My friend Mahmud Fitil maintains the Facebook group Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance Coalition @NoCCSIowa.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is not the answer to the climate emergency. CCS is unproven, dangerous and delays real solutions to the climate crisis such as energy conservation, regenerative agriculture and renewable energy

The Iowa Sierra Club, Science and Environmental Health Network, Iowa Food and Water Watch, and Great Plains Action Society are all a part of the Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance Coalition.

Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance Coalition

Mahmud gave an excellent presentation at the Buffalo Rebellion Climate Summit this past weekend, “Launching the Movement: Strategic Applications of Drones for Grassroots Actions” during which he discussed and showed drone videos that documented the damage from leaking pipelines, damaged oil rail cars and toxic ethanol plant waste.

The state requires the hazardous liquid pipeline permit because carbon dioxide in large concentrations can cause illness and asphyxiation.

Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register

The following article about carbon capture pipelines was published in the Des Moines Register today.

A company that wants to build a controversial carbon capture pipeline across Iowa should tell residents in its path how much danger they face in the event of a leak, the state’s consumer advocate says.

Summit Carbon Solutions should provide an analysis assessing the pipeline’s risk along with the company’s emergency response plan before regulators consider the company’s request for a hazardous liquid pipeline permit, Jennifer Easler, Iowa’s consumer advocate, wrote in a motion filed this month with the Iowa Utilities Board.

The state requires the hazardous liquid pipeline permit because carbon dioxide in large concentrations can cause illness and asphyxiation. 

“Iowa official asks Summit Carbon Solutions for more information about possible pipeline leaks, dangers” by Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register, April 26, 2022


Mahmud and Sikowis Nobiss organized a gathering at the offices of Summit Carbon Solutions in Ames. Following are some of the photos I took at that event.


I took these photos at last weekend’s Buffalo Rebellion Climate Summit.

#IAClimateJustice #ClimateJustice @NoCCSIowa

Dare we hope?

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.

Buffalo Rebellion

#IAClimateJustice

Earth Day Rally Des Moines

As I’ve written about recently, we held an Earth Day Rally in Des Moines yesterday. The rally was part of the three-day Climate Summit of the Buffalo Rebellion I’m attending.

After a number of people spoke, we walked to the offices of MidAmerican Energy, which has been the focus of climate activists for some time because of their refusal to close their coal burning plants. https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=midamerican

As we chanted outside the building the security guard called the police. Several Des Moines police cars arrived, but then left when they saw we were peaceful and exercising our right of free speech. At least I assume that’s why they left. Then we returned to Cowles Commons.


Another nail in our coffin

In 2020, President Biden told voters, “no more drilling on federal lands, period.” Yesterday the Biden administration broke that promise, saying it will resume selling leases to drill for oil and gas on federal lands.

The fossil fuel industry has found new life as the energy consequences of the war in Ukraine are being used not as an opportunity to wean off oil production, but the opposite; to ramp up fossil fuel development.

Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released part of its latest report on Monday.

Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness

Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.

Jake Grobe

“It is never a good sign when the President announces something at 5pm on a Friday. But President Biden can’t get away with this disastrous climate decision. The fact of the matter is that more drilling won’t solve high gas prices right now – so why is Biden breaking his campaign promise to stop drilling on public lands? 

“This is why young people are doubting the political process altogether. If Biden wants to solve for voter turnout in 2022, he should actually deliver on the things he promised, not move farther away from them. On November 8, 2022 we don’t want to hear anyone asking why young people didn’t vote. Biden is actively turning voters away. If we’re going to combat fascism and win in 2022, he must be a leader and course correct. This election and our futures depend on it.”

In 2020, President Biden not only ran and won on a bold climate agenda, but told voters, “no more drilling on federal lands, period.” Today, his administration is expanding drilling on public lands, stalling on climate legislation and concurrently, his approval ratings are plummeting, especially among young people. 

Sunrise Responds to Biden Plans to Open More Public Land to Drilling, Sunrise Movement, 4/15/2022

Is there no hope for the future? How can we possibly do this to our children? How long will these questions go unanswered? Is it too late?

Midwest Quakers and Native Peoples

The purpose of this brief history is background for a request from Sikowis (Christine) Nobiss for funds to support the documentary “They Found Us” that’s being done about her reservation’s residential school. George Gordon First Nation had the longest running residential school, which didn’t close until 1996.

During the 2017 annual sessions of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) there was panel discussion about building bridges with native peoples. The panel consisted of Peter Clay, an Iowa Friend, Donnielle Wanatee from the Meskwaki Settlement, and Sikowis (Christine) Nobiss, one of the most active Indigenous leaders in the Midwest. All three have played a large role in my connections with Native Americans since.

In February 2018, I was part of a group who went to Minneapolis to protest US Bank’s funding of oil pipelines. Sikowis spoke at that gathering.

I began to get to know Sikowis when she and I were among a small group of native and non-native people who walked and camped for eight days along the route of the Dakota Access pipeline, from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, Iowa. Iowa Friend Peter Clay was also on this First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.  Jon Krieg (AFSC) joined us for the first day. And my Scattergood School roommate Lee Tesdell participated in one of the evening discussions during the March. Another Iowa Yearly Meeting Friend, Liz Oppenheimer, organized a time of worship sharing and prayer among Friends each morning, supporting our sacred journey.

In this photo during the March Sikowis is holding the bowl Peter Clay is smudging from.

The purpose of the March was to create a community of native and non-native people who began to know and trust each other so we could work on things of common concern. That was highly successful, and we have done a number of things together since.

One of the first was when several of us from the March, including Sikowis (in the center of this photo), Iowa Friends Shazi and Fox Knight, and I lobbied Senator Grassley’s staff to support several bills related to native concerns.

Lobbying Iowa Senator Grassley about native legislation

The summer of 2019 Sikowis suggested I attend the National Network Assembly at the Des Moines YMCA Camp near Boone, Iowa, that she helped organize. I was aware that if I wanted to build on relationships with native peoples, I should wait to be invited. Seeing this as one of those opportunities, I did attend.

In early 2020, I began to hear about the struggles of the Wet’suwet’en peoples in British Columbia, as they worked to prevent the construction of a liquid natural gas pipeline (Costal GasLink) through their pristine lands and waters. There was little being written about this in the mainstream media, so supporters were asked to write about what was happening on our social media platforms.

This photo is from a post about a rally I organized to support the Wet’suwet’en in Des Moines on February 7, 2020. Iowa Friend Peter Clay attended.

I’m convinced the Spirit led Ronnie James to come to this rally. Ronnie is an Indigenous organizer with twenty years of experience. He was surprised anyone in Iowa knew about the Wet’suwet’en, so he came to see who we were. Since that day Ronnie has been patiently mentoring me about Des Moines Mutual Aid. Including helping me become involved in the food giveaway project. We’ve become good friends.

This relates to my relationship with Sikowis because Ronnie is a member of the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS) that she organized for Indigenous activism in the Midwest. Several other friends I made during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March also work at Great Plains Action Society.

As often happens, once people know I love photography, I get invited to events for that purpose (even though I’d want to go, anyway). This photo of Sikowis was taken at last year’s Indigenous People’s Day. She’s holding a Great Plains Action Society bag.

Sikowis Nobiss

Another event where I took photos was a gathering on the State Capitol grounds related to racist statues. In this photo Sikowis is speaking at the Pioneer statue.

Sikowis Nobiss

Last December, Sikowis asked me to come to Ames for a rally at the office of Summit Carbon, one of the companies that want to build a CO2 pipeline.


Residential institutions of forced assimilation


The legacy of what are sometimes called Indian Boarding Schools has been a concern of mine for years. The involvement of Quakers in establishing and teaching in these institutions has become a source of tension and conflict among Quakers today. I think my past ignorance about these institutions was common for Quakers, thinking Friends involved in those schools were doing the best they could to help native children assimilate into mainstream American society. Not critically thinking why that would be a good thing. But we began to learn more about the great harm this did to native children and their families. And that was before learning about the widespread emotional, physical and sexual abuse of the children.

I was led to make this something I needed to learn more about. And share what I was learning with Quakers and others. Friend Paula Palmer, who has become a friend of mine, was called to a ministry related to these institutions and Quaker’s involvement in them.  Peter Clay and I helped organize events among Iowa Friends, Conservative and FUM, when Paula came to the Midwest.

Prior to the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March I was unsure whether I should bring up the subject of forced assimilation, especially as I had learned more about trauma from those institutions being passed from generation to generation. I had hoped to learn about Indigenous spirituality on the March but didn’t see how that could happen without acknowledging Quakers’ involvement in forced assimilation.

Matthew and I began to get to know each other early in the March because he was shooting video of the same things I was taking photos of. We shared quite a bit about this common interest. I believe it was the second day of the March as we were walking and talking together that the Spirit led me to tell him I knew about the Quaker involvement in the residential schools, and I was sorry for what had happened. Of course, I had no idea how he would react. But all he did was nod his head, and we continued to walk and talk together. I didn’t say anything else about that.

But just a few hours later he said he wanted to tell me a story. It involved a traumatic incident related to his mother and the residential schools. I was so grateful he felt he could share that with me. We didn’t talk about that any further.

Since then, when it seemed appropriate, I brought up Quaker involvement in the boarding schools with each of my native friends. Each one had personal experiences related to the schools. I believe that it was an important part of our developing friendships that we shared these stories.

Sikowis told me briefly of family members who had experienced traumas from those institutions. We had that brief discussion several years ago.

I believe this is in part why she invited me to ask Quakers if we would help support making a documentary about her reservation’s (George Gordon First Nation) residential school.

Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee has an annual budget to support peace and justice work. This year it was decided that rather than give token amounts to various peace and justice organizations, we might discern to invest a larger sum, for a more significant impact, to an organization or project. But we didn’t know what that would be.

This request from Sikowis is an opportunity to build on Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)’s relationship with Indigenous peoples in the Midwest. An opportunity to begin truth and healing.

I’m pleased the Peace and Social Concerns Committee unanimously supports using our budget to support the documentary that’s being done about the George Gordon First Nation’s residential school.


March 27, 2022

This letter in regards to a request for financial support for a documentary title “They Found Us”, to support community presentations of this film that I produced.

My name is Curt Young and I a member of the George Gordon’s First Nation.  I am a descendant of Mike Longman, along with my mother Longman-Young; both members of this nation.  The development of this documentary was an intent for myself to learn more about my maternal familial lineage, as I had not grown up on GGFN and wanted more connections to my cultural heritage.  I applied for the “Peoples Investment Grant”, while residing in Calgary and was a successful candidate.  These funds were intended to financially support a compilation of Elder’s narratives, however, during the initial interviews, the findings of the 215 bodies outside of the Kamloops residential schools, inspired myself to change the direction of the documentary.  I decided to focus more on the process that GGFN reserve’s undertaking of a ground search outside of the local residential school; to see if there were any unmarked graves or bodies buried there. 

Over the past year, I have made three trips to GGFN to obtain footage of the community’s initial activities related to the ground search of the area.  Aside from the footage of the community, I also have compiled interviews from GGFN members, and other Indigenous people, including leaders and Elders, that have shared their own narratives and experience with residential schools.  The budget that I was provided by the grant I received was allocated to travel costs associated with these trips to GGFN, along with the rental of video technological equipment, necessary to create the documentary.  I have spent time and effort into producing this documentary and have been promoting it through various online platforms, along with connections I have within Indigenous communities, both urban and rural.  I have much interest in public showings of this documentary, particularly since June is coming up, with it being National Indigenous Peoples month.  One showing that I have confirmed is the first week of June; at Fort Calgary.  Although I am quite excited for the interest and opportunities, I would like to honour my home community and acknowledge the stories that are compiled in my documentary, by having the first public showing of “They Found Us” on GGFN.

In order for myself to bring the documentary to GGFN I am requesting funds to support my travel, accommodation and honorarium for traditional drummers and possibly a dancer to create a healing and culturally safe space for a community show.  My first showing that I have booked for this documentary is June 4, 2022, thus, I am asking to have funds to showcase the documentary on GGFN prior to this date. 

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’