1 photo : 1,000 words

In a recent post that was a photo gallery of some pictures I’ve taken this winter, I mentioned the phrase “a picture is worth 1,000 words”.

The WordPress Reader provides links to related blog posts. One caught my attention: 1:1000, A Picture is Worth 1000 Words by Julianna Whalen on her site, Streets and Streams. Her idea is to write 1,000 words about one photo.

This year, I will be sharing the pictures that are truly worth a thousand words. I’ll be sharing the photos that truly take a full thousand words to understand. I’ll be sharing snapshots that even after a thousand words might make you wonder how I could have possibly made a sane and conscious decision to post them. I’m posting the silly snapshots that often seemed like they wouldn’t mean anything in the moment, but in reality encapsulate the spirit of a minute, a day, an entire trip.
These pictures aren’t always pretty and posed. They might be framed awkwardly. It’s possible that the lighting will be uneven. Forgive me for that, because that’s the thing: they still have worth.

Julianna Whalen https://streetsandstreams.com/2019/01/15/1-1000/

I like this idea. Julianna plans to write one such blog post once a month. Although I’m not committing to such a schedule or 1,000 words in each blog post, I’m going to try to do this here, and perhaps continue in the future.

Farm of Craig and LaVon Griffieon on the north side of Ankeny

This photograph was taken as we arrived at our destination for the first day of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. The elements you see include some people walking away from the camera, a tipi, a grain bin and barn, and a dark, stormy sky. If you look closely you’ll see a small red structure on the middle right of the photo.

This photo symbolizes the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. One of the purposes of the March was for a group of Native and non-native people to to spend the 8 days it took to walk from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, Iowa, a distance of 94 miles, together. Being together basically 24 hours a day, walking, eating, discussing and sleeping created the opportunities for us to get to know each other. The intention was to build understanding and trust among all of us, so we can work together on subjects of common concern. I’m very happy to say that was accomplished, although each of us got to know certain people better than others. Prior to the March it hadn’t really occurred to me just how much time we would spend together. And, especially, the hours we would be walking side by side, sharing each other’s stories. It seemed like people were talking with each other continuously as we marched. I’ve often shared the statement below, because I think it is the truth. And explains why I think people sharing their stories with each other is one of the most important parts of life.

ALL THAT WE ARE IS STORY. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship — we change the world one story at a time.

Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955-March 10, 2017)
Ojibwe from Wabeseemoong Independent Nations, Canada

Another reason for Native and non-native people to spend this time together is because of a growing awareness that we need Native people to lead us as we try to address our multiple environmental problems. It is increasingly obvious (i.e. hard to “deny”) that we have caused significant damages to our environment. Much of this damage relates to the violent extraction of fossil fuels, destroying the land and polluting vast amounts of water. Other damage occurs when the fossil fuel is burned, increasing greenhouse gas and particulate emissions.

Because indigenous cultures honor Mother Earth, and because of their Spiritual strength, and love of one another, they were not seduced by the fossil fuel based economy. The only way we can heal Mother Earth is to immediately stop the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. We need to learn from indigenous cultures how to return to a pre-fossil fuel way of life.

The reason for focusing on farmers relates to having conversations about agricultural practices. Factory farms in Iowa mainly produce corn and soybeans, not food for human consumption. The overuse of fertilizers is not healthy for the soil or water. We had several evening discussions lead by farmers and Native Americans to talk about how to combine knowledge and practices that uses the best of both worlds, which can be referred to as “two-eyed seeing”.

Two-eyed seeing “recognizes the benefits of seeing from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous ways of knowing, from the other eye the strengths of the Western ways of knowing, and using both of these eyes together to create new forms of understanding and insight.”  

Elder Albert Marshall (Mi’kmaq, Eskasoni First Nation)

The reason for walking from Des Moines to Fort Dodge is to walk along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Although oil is flowing through the pipeline, there is a case that was heard the week after the march in the Iowa Supreme Court related to the abuse of eminent domain to force farmers to allow the pipeline to be built on their land.

The photo was taken at the end of the first day’s march of 13.3 miles. I think most of us were feeling the effects of the walking. I imagine many were wondering if they could complete the entire walk. I know I was. But part of how this community came together involved our shared suffering and encouragement of each other.

Craig and LaVon Griffieon, owners of the farm in the photo, have been fighting the city of Ankeny, that wants to rezone their land, for years. When I mentioned the Griffieon’s to my Bear Creek (Quaker) meeting, people were familiar with the Griffieon’s and their struggles.

After the Griffieon’s shared their story, Regina Tsosie spoke. First she embraced and thanked Craig and LaVon for their hospitality. Then she spoke about the parallels of the attempts to take their farm with the theft of Native lands in the United States.

The small red square structure in the middle of the photo is the portable shower and toilet. It was a compost toilet with wood shavings. The shower was supposed to be heated by the sun, and gravity driven. My experience was a cold shower.

The final important part of this photo is the dark, stormy looking sky. Rain was forecast every day of the march. Although the first four days we did receive a lot of rain, the rest of the march we did not. Observing how my fellow marchers took the rain and miles of marching without complaint was a marvel to me.

I really like what Julianna wrote in her post about this idea of focusing on one photograph. “These pictures aren’t always pretty and posed. They might be framed awkwardly. It’s possible that the lighting will be uneven. Forgive me for that, because that’s the thing: they still have worth.”

This entry was posted in #NDAPL, Arts, climate change, First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Indigenous, Quaker, Quaker Meetings. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 1 photo : 1,000 words

  1. I loved reading about your experience at the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March! And thanks for the shoutout!

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