Yesterday I was blessed to attend a ZOOM meeting which was the first of what will be a series of such meetings, to be held every second Thursday. These meetings, led by Native people, are titled SHIFT the Narrative, which this session did for me.
I think I had a different experience from many who were on the call because I am a White settler. If you are a White person who is uncomfortable with these labels, that is part of the intention. I don’t think we can be in solidarity with Indigenous peoples without acknowledging our own history. A history of cultural genocide and fighting to near extinction.
Actually one of the first things I learned on the call was concept of lost tribe, which is a tribe that no longer exists, destroyed by forced assimilation and genocide. This is the first of many things I learned during the meeting that I am sure are not new to Native peoples.
I’ve been using the idea of accompaniment as I’ve sought to learn more about and from Indigenous peoples. I learned that concept when my Quaker meeting in Indianapolis participated in Quaker Social Change Ministry (QSCM). The two main concepts of QSCM are:
- find a community experiencing injustice, and spend a lot of time in that community
- never offer suggestions or leadership until that community asks something of you. Instead listen deeply
Our Quaker meeting in Indianapolis used this model to work with a Black youth mentoring community, the Kheprw Institute (KI). A number of us spent a lot of time in that community. We slowly began to get to know, and trust each other.
I have used that model ever since when I am fortunate to be invited to engage with new groups or communities. The point I’m trying to make is when opportunities arise to engage with Native peoples, I try to listen deeply, and not offer any ideas until I am asked to do so.
This does require searching for ways to make these initial connections.
When I retired and moved to Iowa two years ago, I was looking for opportunities to continue my engagement with water protectors as I had in Indianapolis. This isn’t the place to go into all that has happened since. The point I’m trying to make is I was blessed to have numerous opportunities to get to know and become friends with some native people, one of whom is Christine Nobiss, a leader who is involved with Seeding Sovereignty among many other things. She and I walked 94 miles, from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, Iowa, along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline in 2018. That was called the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. There were about 40 people who marched, about half who were native and half who were White people. All those hours and miles of walking and evenings camping achieved the purpose of creating a community of people who could then work together on issues of common concern. (The collection of blog posts, photos and videos about that March can be found here: https://firstnationfarmer.com/ )
One of the first things some of us did together after the March was to meet with Senator Grassley’s staff in Des Moines to talk about two pieces of legislation related to native affairs–the SURVIVE act and Savannah’s act. Christine and I were part of that group.
I continued to use the ideas of accompaniment or solidarity, to listen for opportunities to do things together. Last summer Christine suggested I attend the first National Network Assembly, held at the Des Moines YMCA Camp near Boone, Iowa. This was four days of meetings for activists to learn what other activists were doing. I’m not much for conferences, but here was a clear invitation, so I did attend that and had a very good experience. Christine was one of the organizers of the Assembly.
I checked with Christine earlier this year, when I was learning what was happening with the Wet’suwet’en peoples and the Coastal GasLink (CGL) natural gas pipeline. As I expected she knew people there. And they wanted someone to go to Canada for support. Christine said I could help by getting money that would allow their storyteller to go to British Columbia. I was able to get some generous people to donate some money for that purpose.
Christine recently suggested I attend the first session of Shift the Narrative, which I did yesterday and learned so much from.
SHIFT stands for Seeding the Hill with Indigenous FreeThinkers and is Seeding Sovereignty’s political engagement program focused on empowering Indigenous voices, values, and leadership; Particularly womxn, youth, LGBTQIA+, and Two-Spirit folx during this critical 2020 presidential election and beyond. We increase Indigenous voter turnout and respond to key issues within Indian Country by uplifting community concerns and initiatives both on and off the reservation. We support those who seek to Indigenize Congress as well as those that question our relationship with the US political system.https://seedingsovereignty.org/shift-the-narrative
Above all else, we rally behind Indigenous-led environmental and climate justice movements as the fight for land sovereignty is at the center of every issue we face. Land defense is a force that has a long history of inciting political engagement–a force that Seeding Sovereignty believes catalyzes real, lasting change.
SHIFT the Narrative is a live, online interview series that covers different aspects of Indigenous political engagement and current issues in Indian Country through interviews with expert guest speakers.
Stay ahead of the curve! Join Sikowis and S.A. as we interview expert guests every second Thursday! Conversations will surround work in Indian Country such as getting out the vote, organizing to change policy, issues of sovereignty, running for office, and much more, like:
- Does Race & Gender Affect the Vote? – Native womxn are the most marginalized and least sought group when it comes to local and national voting. Why is this and how can we change it?
- GOTV Efforts in Indian Country – What is the breaking point that catalyses Native folx to get involved in US politics? Why do some Natives actively choose not to vote?
Episode One: SHIFT the Narrative
Join us for our debut episode as we welcome our first guest, Mellor Willie, Navajo, Co-founder and President of 7Gen Leaders PAC. With COVID-19 greatly affecting the Navajo Nation, we are asking political experts like Mellor their thoughts on GOTV (Get Out the Vote) efforts and legislation for aid during this crisis.
Since it took much longer than I expected to get to this point, I’m going to stop here, and tell what I learned from Mellor in my next post.