One of the main goals of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, where a group of about 50 Native and non-native people, and one dog, walked along the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, Iowa, was to build a community of people who got to know each other well enough that we could work on things of common concern.
Alton and Foxy Onefeather have been in Des Moines for the past week to help Peter Clay put siding on his garage. One of the things we learned on the March was about Alton’s experience in supervising construction projects. Alton and Foxy also participated in one of Bold Iowa’s bird dogging events at a Corey Booker event.
Thanks to Sam Kuhn for arranging a party for this opportunity for a reunion of those marchers who lived close enough to Des Moines. We all wished more would have been able to attend, but I think you can see how much those of us who could come enjoyed each other’s company.
One of most meaningful conversations for me was with Foxy Onefeather. She told me what she thought about a blog post I wrote about the things I had learned from her during the March. She was very graceful as she spoke about how that was the first time she had seen a written version of her story. I asked her if I got it right. She said yes, I had. I then apologized for not checking with her before posting the blog. I have since learned how important it is to check with people before sharing stories like this. She said “yes” that probably would have been best. At first she was a little concerned when she read it. She said she was also surprised because she hadn’t thought I had listened so closely at the time she was telling me her story (as we were walking through Ames, Iowa). I’m glad I had been writing about each day of the march when we stopped for the night, but I still have a vivid memory of her telling her story because it was so moving. One of the main things I remembered was her saying she didn’t experience racism until she moved to the Midwest (she had been living in California, I think).
Foxy decided it was alright to share her story in writing. This relates how indigenous people pay close attention to oral history, so this was new to her.
Foxy also mentioned that she and Alton have been following my blog. They are fairly isolated where they live in South Dakota and so don’t have a lot of contact with the wider world. What they read there helped them realize some non-native people also care for the water, air and earth.
She mentioned she enjoyed the slideshow we were looking at of the (850) photos I had taken on the march, and that she had a number of photos of the March on her phone. Foxy suggested they be added to my photos. I am really excited to see them, and will add them to the March photos.
I still feel badly that I didn’t check with her and Alton about sharing their stories, but some good came from that. Even before Foxy and I talked last night, my Friend Liz Oppenheimer had been making me aware of how important it is to ask for permission before sharing people’s stories.