Day 4: First Nation Farmer Climate Unity March

Day 4 Sept 4, 2018 Ames – Boone 15.1 miles

I believe today is our longest mileage march–15 miles. More rain is predicted for this afternoon and there are flash flood warnings.

The group is becoming more cohesive as we share our stories. As Donnielle said, “we are a tribe.”

We are a tribe

Tim Dwight walked with us today. He used to play in the National Football League. Now his work relates to solar energy. I learned a lot about how he can work with communities to build solar energy systems. He has been involved in lobbying efforts in the Iowa legislature to support solar energy.  Tim is going to talk more about that for the whole group tomorrow or the next night.

Those of you from the Bear Creek area might recognize the name Gary Clague, who grew up in Earlham. He knows the Knights and others.

Gary Clague

Alton was talking about the strong bond that forms between a child and an animal. He spoke fondly of a horse from his youth. When he and his friends went to ride their horses, his was the only one who came up to him every time. He talked about how easy is was to ride the horse that was in tune with where he wanted to go. “I really miss that horse.” I spent a lot of time visiting Foxy Jackson, who we learned is going to marry Alton in a couple of weeks.

Alton Onefeather

Matthew Lone Bear and I continue to talk a lot about photography, videography, and drones. He sometimes goes for unusual camera angles, for example lying on his back. I think that is a sign of a good photographer.

Matthew Lone Bear

Mahmud Fitil shared stories related to tar sand spills, saying most commercial labs won’t analyze the water samples from tar sand spills because they fear repercussions from the government. Fitil went to Doon, Iowa, site of a train derailment and oil spill of an estimated 230,000 gallons in June. He said there was little activity related to the cleanup. The smell was worse than that of raw gasoline, causing some to vomit.

Mahmud Fitil

Miriam Kashia and I compared my Quakerism to her Universal Unitarian church and community. I told her the Quaker Social Change Ministry program we used at North Meadow Circle of Friends in Indianapolis was modeled after the program created by the Universalists. Miriam says her new church is the greenest church in Iowa.

Miriam Kashia

At 5:30 pm we all straggled into the Boone County Fairgrounds, fifteen miles from our Ames camp. Everyone seems to be limping a little. I discovered I had worn a hole in my shoe, which resulted in a blister! Fortunately, we have Miriam, who plugged the hole, and will treat my blister in the morning. Several others also developed blisters. It was a rough day.

The building we are in is actually the site where the Public Utilities Commission had a meeting for public comments about the Dakota Access Pipeline in November, 2015. Peter Clay spoke and Miriam Kashia attended. That was where Peter had his first contact with Native Americans, who came from South Dakota to fight the pipeline.

Before dinner, someone described how they went to the Bakken oil fields to see what tar sands oil looked like. He was able to obtain a couple of quarts of it and found an independent lab to analyze it. As expected, it was full of toxic chemicals.  He found that the tar sands product became suspended in water, so a spill cannot be cleanup up simply by skimming it off the top of the water.

Someone else talked about the damage to the fields done by the pipeline construction. Heavy treaded vehicles traveled over the fields in wet weather, compacting the soil. Where the pipeline was laid, the rich topsoil was scraped off. It was supposed to be saved to put pack in place but wasn’t. The clay layer was dug up, then a mixture of the topsoil and clay refilled in the trench. The clay disrupts the flow of water and nutrients through the topsoil/clay mixture. It is common to see ponds of water over areas of the pipeline because of nonporous clay layer.

Standing water in fields

Dinner that included buffalo meat and fry bread followed. Looking around the table I thought it would be nice if this was a “real” Thanksgiving dinner. Manape said, we call it Thanks-taking.

Storms are predicted for tonight and tomorrow so we are glad to be inside. This was the first night we all slept in the same space together, which I thought added another dimension to us growing closer as a group.

Day 3: First Nation Farmer Climate Unity March

Day 3 Sept 3, 2018 Huxley – Ames 9.2 miles

Prior to beginning today, Tricia performed smudging for us, to remove negative energy and bring positive energy. That this was offered to all of us, sharing this Native practice, is just one of many examples of all of us sharing with each other. This sharing was crucial to our growing interconnections, and building a single community, together.

This video was shot by Mahmud Fitil who is marching with us. My feet felt better after that. Mahmud told me when he went to the site of a tar sands train derailment the smell was so bad people nearly vomited.

For the first several hours it was raining pretty hard. Prior to this march, I never would have ventured out into such heavy rain. But this morning I didn’t hear one person suggest we should wait until it wasn’t raining so hard.  Not one person complaining. We just put on our rain gear, had our morning circle to discuss the day’s route, and began to march and continue sharing our stories. One of the most remarkable and most meaningful things that happened on this march was the extended length of time we were with each other, and the conversations went on almost non-stop.

After Lee Tesdell’s presentation last night, he took me to see where the pipeline crossed the highway we would be traveling on when we left Huxley. We planned to have a ceremony when we reached the pipeline. Donnielle Wanatee offered good prayers, asking for protection for the walkers, and for their families at home. I was surprised at what an emotional time this was. It was especially difficult for Kathy Byrnes, bringing back a lot of bad memories of her past experiences with the construction of the pipeline on her neighbor’s land. Many offered her hugs.

I could see from the expressions and body language that every one of us was feeling the trauma of the land and water being desecrated by the black snake.

These deep emotions were felt by all of us every time we crossed the pipeline. I could see from the expressions and body language that every one of us was feeling the trauma of the land and water being desecrated by the black snake.

So today was mostly about walking in the rain, sharing more stories, and experiences at the pipeline sites.

The tipi was set up again in Ames. Here is a short video of putting the cover on the tipi.

Day 2: First Nation Farmer Climate Unity March

Day 2 Sept 2, 2018 Ankeny – Huxley 9.0 miles

Day 2 Griffieon Farm to Huxley
Day 2 Matthew Lone Bear video
Forum on Agricultural Practices with Lee Tesdell

From the photos below you can see we encountered stormy skies and overflowing creeks. The tipi was erected at most of our stops. And we all participated in smudging with burning sage. Learning about each other.

As would happen often, our planned camping site in Huxley was flooded. Sam became adept at finding alternatives. The Fjeldberg Lutheran Church allowed us to sleep there.

The video by my friend Matthew Lone Bear (see link above) was taken during this day of the March and provides a nice overview of our journey.

Each evening there would be a community discussion. This evening my Scattergood roommate, Lee Tesdell, spoke about progressive agricultural practices he’s using on his farm including a denitrifying bioreactor. The link in the above describes an interesting discussion about agricultural practices today compared to Indigenous methods as described by Sikowis Nobiss.

Lee Tesdell
denitrifying bioreactor

First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March Anniversary

This is the fourth anniversary of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March that occurred September 1-8, 2018.

One of the main goals of the March was to create a community of native and nonnative people who began to get to know and trust each other. I’m in the process of writing about the many things that happened as a result of this March. That is taking a while since so much has happened. While I continue that, I thought I’d review some of what happened during the March.

The First Nation Farmer Climate Unity March website contains extensive stories, photos, and videos.

You can view the Introduction here:

Following are stories about the first night before leaving and the first day of the March.

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

Rodger Routh video – Ankeny camp