By Jeff Kisling.
Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Friends Peter Clay and I recently walked on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. A group of about thirty that included nearly a dozen Native Americans walked 94 miles along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline from September 1 – 8, 2018. One of the goals of the March was to bring attention to a case before the Iowa Supreme Court about the improper use of eminent domain to force Iowa farmers to allow construction of the pipeline on their land.
After walking between 9 and 15 miles, most evenings a community forum was held to discuss topics such as farming practices, or the consequences of the pipeline construction. One evening my Scattergood Friends School classmate Lee Tesdell discussed some of his progressive farming practices. Christine Nobiss discussed ways Native farming practices are better for the earth and water. This was an example of how this March helped us come together. As Manape LaMere, one of the headsmen from Standing Rock said, the purpose of the March was to make it possible for us to work together in the future. To do so, we needed to trust each other, and to trust each other we needed to understand each other.
During this March, Quakers in my local meeting, Bear Creek, often sent email messages of encouragement, and held us in their prayers. One of my Quaker friends, Liz Oppenheimer, invited people to offer spiritual support for our March in a couple of ways. One was via a telephone conference call every morning we were marching, from 8:30 to 9:00 am.
The other way Liz created for others to support us was by creating a Facebook group called “Meeting for Worship: Iowa’s Climate Unity March”. Following are a few of the messages shared on that Facebook page:
I see that Jeff has posted some of his recent writing about the march and its issues. My request is that we return to Jeff’s initial questions— sharing our reactions to the idea behind this march, as well as to the issues of pipelines, indigenous rights, misuse of eminent domain, etc.
As we share our own wonderings, questions, and struggle, I hope we can better accompany Jeff, Peter Clay, and other marchers.
George Fox suggested to us that if we answer that of god in others that we can then walk cheerfully over the earth. As I think about Jeff and Peter and the new sisters and brothers they will meet as they march, I realize that this sentiment works the other way also. As they walk over the earth they will then be able to answer to that of god in others.
This morning on the conference call for worship, we heard a vocal prayer of gratitude to Peter Clay, Jeff Kisling, and the other marchers and organizers of the march. We also heard the joyous hymn “Trees of the Field.”
After other Friends had left the call, and literally as my finger was about to hit the Hang Up button on my phone just past 9:00 am, another Friend joined the call. It was Jeff!!
He wants us to know that the marchers and organizers know we are holding them all in prayer and they are very appreciative of our support in this way. When I replied “It’s such a small thing we do,” Jeff reminded me “No, no it’s not.”
We are so blessed to be connected this way, no matter what form our march and our journey takes. And to those of you who are carving out time each day to hold the Climate Unity March in prayer, regardless of when, where, or how, all of us thank you.
Each morning of the March we gathered in a circle to hear about the day’s route and address any questions. The first morning I shared this Quaker support with my fellow marchers during our circle gathering, who expressed appreciation for this.
Some of the most powerful experiences I had during the March were times when prayers were offered. We stopped for prayers every time we crossed the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. I was honored to be given the opportunity to give prayers at the pipeline crossing just before we reached Pilot Mound. I briefly described Quaker worship, then our circle, holding hands, worshiped in silence for a while.
Jeff Kisling attends Bear Creek Meeting, part of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). Many stories about this march can be found at <kislingjeff.wordpress.com>.
First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March: A Reflection
By Peter Clay.
WHAT RESONATES FOR ME as the central experience of the First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March? Broken relationships and beginning to learn what is required to move into healing.
The deepening of existing friendships and the beginning of new friendships across the divide was part of my experience on the march. I am very grateful for these friendships. But let us not underestimate what is now required of us. While it is essential for the descendants of settler-colonists and indigenous peoples to examine together how the destruction and violence caused by colonization and empire continue today, harming all of us, the work is very hard.
After the march, I was left with awareness that true healing will require much more of all of us than we may even be able to imagine, from the place where we are today.
I accept that for humans to again understand the interdependence of all beings, of all life on Mother Earth, healing the broken relationships among the peoples of the Earth is essential. There is much consideration today of what decolonization, including decolonizing our minds, looks like. As I walked, I saw how the implicit bias of our colonized minds denigrates and tokenizes the achievements, culture, and even the creation stories of indigenous peoples. Today, the elimination of indigenous peoples from the landscape of what they call Turtle Island continues in numerous ways. The violence continues, reproduced and replicated over and over and over again. This is simply unacknowledged by the overwhelming majority of those of us who are the descendants of those who came from Europe. It was our relatives who brutalized the indigenous peoples living here, who used violence to steal their traditional lands from them and who stripped the people of many nations of their very identities, including their language, their spirituality, and their agency to still be truly sovereign in the place of their ancestors.
How can all of us living today even begin to heal from such brutality and savagery? It is a mistake to minimize the difficult and painful path before all of us. Was this March part of the way forward? I think so, but it is, and will be, a long journey.