This video is about some of the ways faith played a role during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, a 94 mile March along the route of the Dakota Access pipeline in central Iowa. The transcript of the video is shown below.
I’d like to share some of the ways we marchers were supported by my friends and Quaker faith community. Although I write from a Quaker faith perspective, I don’t intend to imply that Quakers are any more faithful than others. It’s just that is my faith community and experience. That community (Iowa Quakers) gets tired of hearing me saying we have to stop using fossil fuels, but that’s been one of my main areas of concern for most of my life. And Friends have worked find ways to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
It became clear to me as I went out into the world on my own that we could not continue to keep burning fossil fuels, especially from our personal automobiles, without causing severe environmental damage. So although I did have a couple of cars early in life, in the mid 1970’s I was led to believe that I had to give up having a car myself.
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, who lives in Minneapolis, 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 route and address any questions. I shared this Quaker support with my fellow Marchers during our circle gathering, who expressed appreciation for this.
How we live our lives reflects (or should reflect) our beliefs. Quakers try to be attentive to what the Spirit is saying to them at all times, though we often lose our focus. But one of the reasons I treasured my early experiences with Native Americans in Indianapolis as we worked to raise awareness about, and to defund the Dakota Access Pipeline, was because I felt an immediate, deep spiritual connection. And from what I could see and learn, Native Americans’ lives do reflect their beliefs. There were occasions when I was able to experience how Indigenous people around the world support the water protectors.
Some of the most powerful experiences I had during the March were times when prayers were offered. Besides those blessings that were given at the beginning of the March, we also stopped for prayers every time we crossed the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The path of the March was plotted for us to travel along the pipeline route from Des Moines to Fort Dodge. I was always impressed with Donnielle Wanatee’s prayers during our journey. And the songs Manape LaMere sang. And the prayer Ako Abdul-Samad offered at the beginning of the March. 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 little while.
One of the most difficult things I have learned, and that I have to keep re-learning, is that faith is not hoping what you want will occur, rather seeking what the Spirit is asking of you. The Spirit asked me to begin this journey, so I did. What happened next was in God’s hands. Perhaps I might have been given a message, likely through my aching, physical body, that I might not finish the March. I am grateful that in the end I was able to finish. Not only to physically complete the March, but also to have had all that time to participate in the close community we built together during the March.
We grow physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually when we push our limits. I believe we all have a lot of untapped potential. We don’t know what a limit is until we push up against it. If we push past it, all the better. It wasn’t a limit after all. How many times do we mistakenly believe in untested limits? How often do those turn out not to be limits at all?