Today a coalition of Native and non-Native people,representing several organizations, met with Carol Olson, Senator Chuck Grassley’s State Director at the Federal Building in Des Moines. Two of Senator Grassley’s staff from Washington, DC, joined us via a conference call. The meeting was a chance for us to get to know each other and find ways we can work with Senator Grassley and others to pass legislation to support Native American communities. Those who attended are shown in the photo below.
This coalition came together from two circumstances. One relates to the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March this September, where a group of about forty Native and non-Native people walked 94 miles, from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This March was organized by Bold Iowa, Indigenous Iowa and Seeding Sovereignty. The goal was the development of a community of Native and non-Native people who would get to know each other so they could work together on areas of common interest.
The other circumstance is the desire of the Friends Committee on National Legislative (FCNL) to build teams of people to develop ongoing relationships with the staff of their U.S. Senators and Representatives in their in-district offices. FCNL is a 75-year-old Quaker organization that has worked to support legislation for peace and justice issues. FCNL is non-partisan and has developed an extensive national network of Friends and others who support this work for peace and justice. Since the 1950’s Native American Affairs have been one of the main areas of focus of the organization.
A connection between these two groups was the presence of several Quakers who participated on the March. Jeff Kisling, Peter Clay and Jon Krieg were marchers. And one of the evening discussions during the March was led by Lee Tesdell, also a Quaker. Other Quakers have become involved since the March, include Shazi Knight and Bear Creek Friends Meeting. Christine Ashley (FCNL) knows the Quakers in Iowa and Ed Fallon of Bold Iowa very well.
There are two pieces of legislation in Congress now related to Native Affairs. One is the SURVIVE Act which is intended to get more funds from the Victims of Crime Act to Native communities. The second is Savanna’s Act, which allows tribal police forces to have jurisdiction over non-Native people on Native land, access to criminal databases and expanded collection of crime statistics. Senator Grassley was involved in the passage of the Victims of Crime Act.
During this meeting, Jeff Kisling talked about the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the SURVIVE Act. Christine Nobiss spoke about the racism and violence against Native women and Savanna’s Act. Everyone else then contributed to the discussions.
Now Carol Olson has been introduced to us, and we can all begin to work together.
It is crucial that Native people lead discussions like these. It is a powerful thing to have begun to build this coalition to support legislation for Native American communities.