Building Bridges

The reason I wanted to be part of the group who went to Minneapolis last weekend was to make connections with water protectors and environmental activists. Over the last six years in Indianapolis I was blessed to be part of an environmental/social justice network, and wanted to make similar connections now that I’m in Iowa.  In Indianapolis that began with being trained as an Action Leader in the Keystone Pledge of Resistance, and training about 50 people to execute a nonviolent civil disobedience action if there were indications that the Obama administration was going to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline permit.

What was interesting about that was this became the core of activists who came together again and again to participate in other social justice organizations and actions, including helping to launch Indiana Moral Mondays, supporting high school students addressing homelessness, lobbying support for the Iran nuclear deal, pressuring Morgan Stanley, Chase Bank, and PNC Bank to stop funding fossil fuel projects, working with the Kheprw Institute (KI), and engaging with water protectors and the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance.

That reminded me of the Margaret Mead quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  I had thought of that in terms of a specific issue. In Indianapolis, anyway, that was true of multiple areas of concern being worked on by the same small group of people. That is also in line with what I was learning about Native American spirituality and how all things are connected, symbolized by the Medicine Wheel.medicine-wheel

When I learned that Ed Fallon, of Bold Iowa, was organizing a group to travel together to Minneapolis, I was pretty sure this would be a similar group of people, and it was. It would actually be the first time I met Ed, although we had communicated by email a number of times since I arrived in Iowa last summer.

As background about some of the people I was with that weekend, the theme of last year’s annual sessions of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), i.e. Quakers, was Building Bridges.  The first evening was a panel talking about Building Bridges with Native Americans, consisting of Peter Clay, who had been to Standing Rock, Donnielle Wanatee, from the Meskwaki settlement near Tama, Iowa, and Christine Nobiss, the founder of Indigenous Iowa. During that panel discussion Donnielle invited us to attend their pow wow that fall.  Seeing this as an opportunity to build bridges, Dad and I did attend the pow wow and really enjoyed it. Being aware of cultural appropriation, I contacted the pow wow ahead of time about taking photographs there, and was told it was alright to take photos of the ceremonies, and I was asked to share them with the pow wow, which I did. They are on the pow wow’s Facebook page.


I saw Christine Nobiss again last September when Bold Iowa and Indigenous Iowa delivered a petition to the governor’s office asking for the removal of an Iowa Utilities Board member who had conflicts of interest with the fossil fuel industry.


Also at the Capitol gathering were Patti McKee of Catholic Peace Ministry and Des Moines Valley Friends member, Heather Pearson, and Kathy Byrnes, an Iowa landowner fighting against the Dakota Access pipeline.

Heather, Kathy, and Donnielle and her daughter, were among the 13 of us in the van.  I talked with Donnielle about being present when she spoke at Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), and that Dad and I had attended the pow wow, and about taking photos there. The person I had communicated with about permission to take the photos was a relative of hers. She told me she was on the pow wow planning committee, which was a lot of work.

Donnielle, Kathy and Ed were among the speakers during our action in Minneapolis. Heather lead the chanting. Although Christine did not ride in the van with us, she also spoke.

Also riding with us on the 4 hour trip to Minneapolis was a Native woman and her son who live at Standing Rock. One of the most amazing parts of that trip was to hear them talk about the incident involving the security guards’ dog attack, which Amy Goodman of Democracy Now happened to be present for, and captured on video. I was in the presence of some of my heroes/heroines.

The trip in the van and action in Minneapolis turned out to be an even greater experience than I hoped.

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Van full of water protectors on the way to Minneapolis

Nahko said the following performance of Build a Bridge was for those who were part of the water protector movement. The song begins with:

I’ve come to build a bridge

So come, let’s build

Build, build, build

I have come to build a bridge

So come, let’s build

Build, build, build

 

and ends with

Said, my people my earth, my country, my heart

In service for ever, a mission to better

My passion, my fist, my heart, open it

Reclaim, recover, protect clean water

Said, I’ve come to live in peace

So come, let’s live

Live, live, live

Said, I’ve come to live in peace

So come, let’s live

Live, live, live

 

And at the end of the song he says, “and together we will.”

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