A couple of days ago I wrote about ceremonies to stop pipelines. In that case, the Trans Mountain pipeline (TMX). Ceremonies became important to me, as well, as we worked to bring attention to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
A focus of my life has been to try to stop the destruction of Mother Earth by fossil fuel pollution. For those who don’t know me, that meant deciding to live without a car from my twenty’s on. As a friend says, “brag, brag, blah, blah” when he talks about his work. But its necessary to present my credentials when talking about these things. Otherwise, someone invariably says, ‘well, you have a car, don’t you?’ And assumes that ends the discussion. Being able to say, ‘no, I don’t’ sometimes makes it possible to continue the conversation.
I had been taught (as a Quaker) to live according to my beliefs. That my example might lead others to change their lives. It didn’t take long to find I wasn’t able to get anyone else to give up their car. Which made me question my faith.
I began to learn, though, that convincing others to give up their cars might not have been the main objective. I might not know that someone, somewhere had decided to give up their car. I began to believe it might not be my place to convince others to get rid of their cars.
Getting back to the point above, what mattered was to live my life as consistently with my beliefs as possible. That was what I was called to do. Faith is a matter of doing what I was led to do, the consequences of which might be different than I had assumed. And reiterating the point above, living according to my beliefs gave me a kind of authority to speak about my love of Mother Earth. That would not be as effective if I was not living according to my beliefs.
Despite what I just said, there were many times I about gave up hope that people would ever do things, like give up personal automobiles, to slow the deadly spiral of environmental chaos so rapidly unfolding around us. Many times I would tell myself, if I really have faith, I must put my trust in it. Time and again, I really could not believe that.
This led me to search for those who live with more environmental integrity. Made me want to learn more about Indigenous peoples. How to do that? I knew much of what I learned in school had little to say about Indigenous peoples. And what little was said was from the view of White settlers colonists.
In 2016, while living in Indianapolis, I began to learn about Native Americans when we joined together to bring attention to the Dakota Access pipeline. I say ‘bring attention’ rather than protest, because one of the first things I learned was the difference between protesting and being a water protector.
Water protector was about an integral, Spiritual connection with Mother Earth, and all things human and nonhuman. This returned full circle to my crises of faith and Spirituality. I began to learn how Indigenous peoples don’t work on issues like the environment, as I once did. Instead, their Spirituality was the basis of everything, including care of the environment.
When we gathered together in Indianapolis, there were always prayers. It was very meaningful to me to experience the indigenous Spiritual approach. One of the most beautiful things I have participated in was a gathering for those who had been engaged as water protectors. We gathered in a prayer circle, and several spoke about what the work meant to them. In this video my friend Brandi Herron talks about what she is grateful for. Then I tell these Dakota pipeline activists about my journey related to cars, spirituality, and the Keystone Pledge of Resistance.
This video with many photos discusses the Dakota Access pipeline actions in Indianapolis.