What kind of ancestor do you want to be?

Many of my friends are very discouraged about the condition of the land called the United States. The perversion of our political and economic systems has been happening while we look on. Feeling helpless to stop this deterioration. Feeling hopeless.

These days there are so many things clamoring for our attention, especially related to the upcoming election. The current administration is intentionally creating chaos so they can delegitimize the results. I wish the media would not always fall into the trap of constantly focusing on the latest outrageous thing appearing on twitter.

And seeing our rapidly worsening environmental chaos. I had naively thought the Midwest, where I live, might be one of the better places to be. But we have been suffering extensive flood, which along with draught and increasing air temperatures has been impacting corn production. Then recently a derecho wiped out huge areas of corn. Drinking water supplies are polluted with fertilizer runoff. And river levels in Des Moines are resulting in water use restrictions.

Things no longer seem to make sense. James Allen defines the idea of sensemaking. When things no longer make sense, “the centre cannot hold.” It feels like that is happening now.


…there remains the most existential risk of them all: our diminishing capacity for collective sensemaking. Sensemaking is the ability to generate an understanding of world around us so that we may decide how to respond effectively to it. When this breaks down within the individual, it creates an ineffective human at best and a dangerous one at worst. At the collective level, a loss of sensemaking erodes shared cultural and value structures and renders us incapable of generating the collective wisdom necessary to solve complex societal problems like those described above. When that happens the centre cannot hold.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium
June 18, 2019

I urge us to step back from the chaos and focus on the truth revealed to us. Return to our spiritual foundation. Listen closely to the Spirit/Light within. This is why I was led to read the article, “What kind of ancestor do you want to be?” on the Great Plains Action Society website described below. Rather than reacting to the negative, that question focuses on what is important to us. What the Spirit is asking of us. Keeps us on our path, instead of being drawn into the chaos.

I was born into and raised in Quaker communities. I am grateful to have this framework that has helped me make sense of the world. A framework based on actively seeking and following spiritual guidance. I mourn for the millions of people who don’t. The world today must not be making sense to them.

But White Quakers in the U.S. today must come to terms with our involvement with the injustices of the past. The theft of native lands and cultural genocide that occurred from the forced assimilation that occurred in Quaker Indian residential schools. And with the history of enslavement of Black people. An enslavement that continues today in the form of racial injustice. With the huge differences between White people and Black, Indigenous, and people of color related to economic and political status and distribution of wealth. Because that trauma and damage doesn’t remain there. It is passed from each generation to the next. I would suggest not only the trauma to those who were the victims of the wrongs, but also those who were involved in the execution of them.

And the injustices related to so many things continue to this day. In many areas such as incarceration rates and terrorism by police, environmental injustice, access to housing, education, healthcare, etc.

White Quakers need to do more than educate ourselves and acknowledge what occurred. We have to work to make things right. Become anti-racist.

I originally began to learn as much as I could about Indigenous people for environmental reasons. My entire life I have been appalled by the profligate consumption of fossil fuels, knowing what was to come. Indigenous peoples respect Mother Earth and live within renewable boundaries.

I soon came to see there are so many other reasons to learn about, and follow the leadership of native peoples. One of the most important being their deep spiritual ways of living. The area I thought Quakers were good at. I still believe in Quakerism, but know we have to do much more spiritual work. We have become too involved in society’s materialism, capitalism, and all that comes from that.

All this relates to the question, what kind of ancestor do you want to be?

I’ve been working on this diagram to try to organize how I see these things. White people have imposed capitalism on this colonized land and peoples. Capitalism requires massive amounts of fossil fuel consumption, with the associated greenhouse gas emissions. Leading to the accelerating environmental chaos we are living with now, with much worse to come very rapidly.


A number of my friends are part of the Great Plains Action Society. Plains-Indigenous Peoples resisting colonization and Indigenizing the world. Here is their mission statement.

We are a collective of Indigenous organizers of the Great Plains working to resist and Indigenize colonial institutions, ideologies and behaviors. By implementing notions of Indigenous sovereignty and traditional ideologies, we strive for environmental and social justice which are two issues that cannot be separated. As our climate changes, more people will suffer and our mission is to help prevent the atrocities that Indigenous people have already faced. 

Great Plains Action Society

Today, my tribe, along with several other bordering tribes are facing yet another threat by these fat-takers. TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is undergoing the final permit processes to begin constructing the near 2150 mile crude oil route stretching from Hardisty, Alberta Canada on down to Steel City, Nebraska.

How many stolen sisters are projected to end up missing/murdered once these camps are built? How many addicts or drug lords will target our sovereign communities? How much blood will be spilled by the hands of these destructive companies? How long before our children can no longer drink from or swim in the over 220 bodies of water this pipeline plans to snake under? What type of animals or plant life will become extinct once this pipeline breaks? How much longer before this planet becomes too toxic due to this fossil fuel addiction? How many people will care?


We must fight because these battles will never be over. Just like our fallen warrior, Crazy Horse, we must protect all that is sacred so that our future generations can have a shot at life. When asked “why are you on the frontline fighting for climate and social justice?” my answer is simple… To put an end to the ongoing genocide that me and my people have endured since the colonizer stepped foot on these lands. I then ask myself this: What type of ancestor will you be?

It all comes down to what type of ancestor I want to be for my descendants. Do I want to be a regular nobody that did nothing to protect our planet or do I want to be like Crazy Horse who fought and died for the little bit of land that we have left to protect? We have that chance right now to make that decision. This kind of resistance runs through all of our blood because we are the Indigenous Peoples of these lands. It’s at vital choice for the survival of humankind.

What Kind of Ancestor Do you Want to Be? Why I Fight the KXL by TaSina Sapa Win, February 28, 2019

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