This past weekend’s 3 day journey happened as a result of spiritual leadings. Quakers (among others) believe we can communicate directly with God or the spirit, which is why we don’t feel the need for a minister, meditating together in silence to try hear what the spirit is saying to us. Something is added by doing this as a group. Occasionally someone will feel led to express what they are experiencing vocally, which often resonates with others.
Its not like God speaks in words, but rather nudges us along a path. My grandmother, Lorene Standing, used to say God’s will is revealed in a series of small steps. Each step reinforces the ones before. Things begin to happen that reinforce these steps. This may occur over a short time, or years.
Interestingly, Dallas Chief Eagle spoke about this for quite a while around the bonfire at the end of the Prairie Awakening celebration. The desire to attend the celebration was where the idea for this journey started.
He told us to empty our mind. When thoughts enter, say “no”. To be completely still. He then had us do this together. Afterward he asked the children what they felt, and they said “good, “peaceful” and “happy”. He said to practice this, and that we would also learn to recognize the spirit in others.
My spiritual life has been profoundly affected by time spent with Native Americans in Indianapolis last year as we worked in various ways to support the water protectors at Standing Rock, including several awareness raising and prayer events with burning sage and drums. We also had an event where we went to two of the banks involved in funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, Chase and PNC, and withdrew $110,000. I also had my own defunding experience.
A number of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Friends have been drawn to the brave nonviolent struggle of the water protectors at Standing Rock, some having visited there. As this year’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee report says “The witness and commitment of the Water Protectors at Standing Rock inspire us, as does the support for them from Indigenous Peoples all over the world”. The first evening at Yearly Meeting was a panel discussion about “Building Bridges with Native Americans”. Iowa Friend Peter Clay had visited Standing Rock several times. Christine Nobiss of Indigenous Iowa spoke, as did Donnielle Wanatee, who invited us to attend the Meskwaki Powwow at the settlement she lives at near Tama, Iowa. Dad and I did attend and enjoy the powwow, and shared photos with the organizers.
This month at Bear Creek we discussed the queries related to social and economic justice. I said there was a growing consensus among the activists I work with that we need to confront two foundational injustices of United States history, taking the land and genocide of Native Americans, and the enslavement of and continued injustices related to African Americans. Bear Creek Friends’ years of support for the Prairie Awakening celebration and the people involved throughout the year, is one way to do so. This was further stimulus for me to attend.
The problem was I have refused to have a personal automobile for the past 40 years or so. That worked fairly well in Indianapolis where public transportation was available. But I knew this would be a challenge when I moved to Indianola, Iowa. Many friends in Indianapolis gave me money to buy a nice bicycle when I left, and I have been working to build up my endurance.
So I was praying for a way to get to the Prairie Awakening celebration at the Kuehn Conservation Area, near Bear Creek meetinghouse, about 40 miles from Indianola. Going by car with my parents was not an option, because they were going to be in Bloomington, Illinois.
Then I learned that an event was going to be held at the Iowa State Capitol building the Friday of the Prairie Awakening celebration weekend. That was when my parents were leaving town, so I thought they could drop me off. Afterwards I would ride my bicycle to Bear Creek meeting, which was about 40 miles away. I was apprehensive about that, not having ridden that distance, yet. But that was how my leading was evolving, so I had faith things would workout somehow. Bear Creek clerk, Jackie Leckband, offered to pick me up in her truck if needed, so there was a backup plan.
The event at the State Capitol was part of a new national campaign called StopETP, Stop Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access and many other pipelines. This event involved delivering a petition to the Governor to remove a member from the Iowa Utilities Board (that approves pipelines, etc) who has close ties to the fossil fuel industry, organized by Bold Iowa and Indigenous Iowa. Christine Nobiss who spoke at Iowa Yearly Meeting attended.
After the event, I began to ride through downtown Des Moines to get to the bike trails along the Des Moines River through the city. It was a struggle, but I made it to the meetinghouse around 6 pm. I stayed in the cottage on the meetinghouse grounds.
Earlier in the week I awoke with a vision related to Bear Creek and StopETP, described in detail here https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2017/09/07/bear-creek-friends-meeting-and-stopetp/ Saturday evening I showed videos related to Standing Rock at the meetinghouse.
Sunday morning I attended meeting for worship, then Russ and Jackie Leckband gave me a ride to the Prairie Awakening, which they have been involved with for many years. That is described in this previous blog post: https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/september-journey-day-3-prairie-awakening/
My parents returned to Indianola from Illinois that evening. Monday morning Dad picked me up. He had to be in Earlham anyway to attend a funeral.
I wanted to try to show how this came together as a series of leadings related to Quakers, Native Americans, spirituality and environmental justice.