An amazing group of people

Dear Friends,

As greedy fossil-fuel tycoons escalate their abuse of eminent domain to steal our land, foul our water, and destroy our planet, we must push back with all the strength and commitment we can muster. Standing Rock became a visual manifestation of our commitment to not back down, and we who were empowered through Standing Rock continue to fight for our future.

In the face of such an enormous crisis as climate change, we must think big and act big. One huge opportunity to make a difference is the First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March. On Saturday, September 1 following a 9:00 a.m. press conference at the Iowa Utilities Board building at 1375 E. Court Ave in Des Moines, marchers will set out from Birdland Park at 10:00 a.m., tracking the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline for nearly 100 miles. The March finishes in Fort Dodge on Saturday, September 8 in conjunction with the international Rise for Climate day of action with a Celebration of March at 1:30 p.m. at City Square Park.

The March is organized by Indigenous Iowa and Bold Iowa. It offers an important opportunity to come together and show the world that we won’t back down, that we’re not going away, that we’re in this fight until we achieve justice for all people and sustainability for our Earth.

We march in support of the nine Iowa farmers and Sierra Club who filed a lawsuit against DAPL for abusing eminent domain to build the pipeline. If we win this lawsuit, it could stop the flow of oil from north of Standing Rock all the way to central Illinois!

We also march as a living, moving example of how people can find common ground and create a sustainable future, and to recognize what happened in the past to the Indigenous peoples of this land. The March is, in part, a statement as to why it’s essential that we recognize the sovereignty of Indigenous people today.

We’ll march 10 – 15 miles a day. We’ll camp at farms and in parks. Our power source is a solar collector. We’ll use a trailer designed with environmentally-friendly commodes and solar showers. We’ll eat lots of fresh, locally-grown food from farms that are part of the new vision for agriculture. Farmers, environmentalists, and Indigenous leaders will have deep conversations on a level that, if not unprecedented, is certainly unusual — and critically important.

The people participating in this March are truly an amazing group of individuals, including:

  • Manape LaMere, one of the seven headsmen from Standing Rock;
  • David Thoreson, the first American to sail both directions through the northwest passage while documenting climate change’s impact on the Arctic;
  • Donnielle Wanatee, a Meskwaki woman who stood up against the Dakota Access Pipeline over four years ago — before most people had even heard of the pipeline;
  • Fred Kirschenmann, an organic farmer known internationally for his work on sustainable farm policy;
  • Christine Nobiss, a Plains Cree-Salteaux woman who has earned national recognition as the founder of Indigenous Iowa, and who also works with Seeding Sovereignty;
  • Debbie Griffin, an urban minister whose church in downtown Des Moines is focused on social justice and environmental stewardship.

That’s the short list. The Indigenous, farm, and environmental leaders who’ve come together to make this powerful statement have much to offer.

If you can join the March for a day, please do. Come to our kick-off on September 1, our rally at the end of the March on September 8, and for dinner and conversation in our camp every evening at 5:30 p.m.

Better yet, if you’re able and willing to march, grab a good pair of walking shoes and come march with us.

If you can’t be with us in the flesh, please support us with a donation. A grassroots effort like this needs all the financial help it can get. And yes: spread the word! Like Standing Rock and the many endeavors that have sprung from it, this march has the potential to ignite a prairie fire, one that spreads a message of strength and healing for ourselves and our planet.

— Ed Fallon

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Unity Through Seed Saving

Dear Friends,

Twenty years ago, I began saving seeds from my garden. I now save about fifty heirloom varieties annually. It’s encouraging to see more people understanding the importance of seed preservation, because as our Earth plunges deeper into the New Climate Era, saving heirloom seeds is likely to play a key role in humanity’s ability to adapt and survive.

Bear Paw Beans, gifted to Ed from Donnielle Wanatee

One of my most treasured seeds is the Scarlet Runner Bean, with its purple-and-black beans and beautiful red flowers. I’ve meticulously kept a line of Scarlet Runners going for nearly a decade, and I’m careful to never plant more than half of what I’ve saved.

Well, almost never. Last year’s Scarlet Runner crop did poorly. I was only able to save a couple dozen seeds. For reasons I’ll never understand, this spring I abandoned caution and planted all of my remaining Scarlet Runner seeds.

To my dismay, none of those bean seeds germinated. A line of seed I’d saved for nearly ten years was gone.

Donnielle Wanatee and her daughter Lovena in front of their family’s wiki-up at the Meskwaki Powwow.

In June, Donnielle Wanatee and her daughter Lovena visited the urban farm at our home in Des Moines. While Lovena helped Kathy pull weeds, Donnielle told me about “Braiding the Sacred,” a gathering she’d just returned from in upstate New York. (Braiding the Sacred is a growing network of Indigenous corn keepers whose work centers on ancestral corn varieties and the sacred responsibility to care for them.)

One of the leaders of Braiding the Sacred, Angela Ferguson, heard of a man who’d carefully maintained 1,100 different Native seed varieties. The man unexpectedly gifted the entire collection to Angela! In that collection, Angela found seven corn seeds from the Meskwaki and Sauk-and-Fox. She gave some of each of those to Donnielle.

Bear Paw Bean flowering

In addition to those corn seeds, someone at the gathering gifted Donnielle a few bean seeds, a variety called “Bear Paw.” As Donnielle and I sat on my porch, she showed me each of the Meskwaki corn seeds given to her by Angela.

Lastly, she showed me the Bear Paw Bean seeds. My jaw dropped! It was the exact same seed as my Scarlet Runner Bean!

Donnielle gave me sixteen of those seeds. The very next day, Kathy and I planted eight of them. The plants are now over ten feet tall and thriving like none I’ve ever planted before.

Cherokee White Eagle Corn, gifted to Ed by Donna Vaughn in 2011

Maybe this seems like a trivial matter, but to me the experience was an example of how mysteriously yet graciously spiritual forces within our world come into play.

How odd for me to plant every last one of my Scarlet Runner seeds.

How odd that not even one of those seeds germinated.

How odd that, barely a month later, a Native friend shows up at my door with the exact same seed.

Is it odd, or simply the way the Universe works? I don’t know. But for me, saving heirloom seeds is both logically and intuitively one of the most important tasks we can do. It’s one way we stand up to the forces that continue to push us into a climate future that is dangerous and foreboding, into a reality that negates all that is alive and beautiful.

In addition to all the other important work Donnielle does, I’m honored to march with her on the First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March.  “I’d like Iowans to start having the conversation that no one should have to leave this state,” Donnielle told me. “We should all be able to live together. This is what the March has the potential to bring about. We have to start working together because a rising tide raises all ships, and that’s what I’m trying to do with my Iowa.”

Ed Fallon

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Sinking the Santa Maria

Dear Friends,

[Please come to the trial for Emma Schmit and Mahmud Fitil, pipeline fighters arrested last fall for blocking construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline during Bold Iowa‘s Farmers Defense Camp. For more detail, check out this excellent video by Rodger Routh. We’ve been asked not to wear pipeline shirts in the courtroom.]

I’ve never understood why Christopher Columbus was given a holiday. [Listen to Donnielle Wanatee on this week’s Forum.] I get why we celebrate the impressive lives of men (yeah, they’re all men, but let’s change that) like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. These men actually accomplished great things.

Statue of Columbus splattered with “blood.”

But a holiday for a guy who “discovered” America? I mean, really, you sail west from Spain and how could you miss it?

Columbus didn’t “discover” America. He pillaged it and opened the door to one of the most despicable genocides in human history. Such an “accomplishment” doesn’t warrant a national holiday. It warrants a national apology to the descendants of the Indigenous people Columbus and other European invaders slaughtered.

So I’m all kinds of excited about the movement to declare the first Monday of October “Indigenous Peoples Day,” which already has been approved in 55 cities.

Let’s keep that going. My prediction is by the middle of the next decade, Columbus Day will no longer be a national holiday and we’ll celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in its place. But in the interest of reconciliation, I suggest we give Columbus Day an honorable, merciful death by sending a flaming replica of Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria, down the Potomac River and out to sea. Leif Erikson would be proud.

And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of Groundhog Day. America’s most overrated rodent is wrong half the time anyhow.

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Heed Iowa’s Native Leaders

Dear Friends,

Most of the mainstream media missed it, as did most of Iowa’s political leaders. You might have missed it too, but last week, a truly important event happened in Des Moines.

Rally organizers Ed Fallon of Bold Iowa and Christine Nobiss of Indigenous Iowa, with Christine’s children.

No, it wasn’t Independence Day, although that’s important, and this year’s celebration was unique given the Legislature’s decision to legalize fireworks.

The truly important event was the NoDAPL Rally, Concert and Call to Action at the Iowa State Capitol on July 1, spearheaded by Christine Nobiss and Indigenous Iowa. It was small, maybe 150 people. But participants came from all over with a united sense of purpose that will continue to shape the conversation on climate, water and our land well into the future.

Regina Tsosie with the Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities opens the rally with a song.

July 1 showed that Native voices are not backing down in the fight to protect Earth from the full-blown war being waged against her by greed and myopia.

July 1 showed that Indigenous leaders are no longer isolated, and that people from many nations are working together in this struggle. There were at least ten Native nations represented at the rally.

July 1 showed that non-Native allies increasingly understand that, as Native people step forward to assume leadership roles, we must stand with them as supporters and resist the colonial impulse to sweep in, take over and show them how it’s done.

Gabriel Ayala of Tucson, Arizona, headlined the rally with powerful music and words.

I wrote about this truth in one of my blogs from Standing Rock last year, and reprint a portion of it here:

Manape LaMere, a camp leader and one of the seven Elders, invites us to a meeting of camp Elders. Lyssa and I lean into the blizzard for the grueling ten-minute walk from our tent site to the dome.

Donnielle Wanatee of the Meskwaki People speaks.

We assemble in a cold, crowded structure heated by a wood stove. The air is filled with a cocktail of smoke from sage, wood and tobacco. With people constantly coming and going, bursts of blizzard air slip in through the dome’s entrance. The interior never warms up much.

The meeting is long, interesting, important. The Elders talk about tribal unity, and the importance of non-native allies remembering that they are guests and not here to provide leadership. The camp is governed by Native leaders using traditional structures and time-honored procedures. This is likely to be foreign, uncomfortable to non-natives. It’s easy for those of us from a western mindset to slip into a mode of benevolent, well-intentioned colonialism. It’s easy for us to want to take over, insist on a “better” way to do things.

Donnielle Wanatee’s daughter, Loveena Adeline Jefferson

It’s solid advice. White folk still have this imperial mindset, where we’re the ones to fix things, the ones who ride to the rescue.

I don’t watch a lot of movies, but as I listen, Dances With Wolves comes to mind — it takes a white guy, Kevin Costner, to help the Indians figure out how to save themselves (he fails).

At what point will European-Americans, as individuals and collectively, move beyond the failed notion that we have all the answers? Clearly, we have a ways to go if a U.S. Congressman (Steve King) can disparage non-white constituencies as “sub groups” while making the outrageous statement that historically, all valuable contributions come from whites.

State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad and his friend, Jacks.

After each of the Elders speaks, Manape invites me to share what’s happening in Iowa in opposition to the pipeline. I’m honored to have this opportunity, and talk about landowner and farmer resistance, upcoming court hearings, and Jessica Reznicek’s open-ended fast demanding revocation of Dakota Access’ permit.

They appreciate my report and the commitment of their allies in Iowa. But here at Standing Rock, this movement is more than just a fight against the pipeline. It’s a movement of historic proportions, a movement that’s just beginning, a cultural revival of traditions that will supplant the failed, non-sustainable paradigms that have dominated Western civilization.

Lakasha Touches Lightning from Little Creek Camp helps emcee the rally.

I ask Manape what happens after the pipeline fight is over. “The traditional chiefs who’ve been appointed to lead this camp are looking to build a future that is sustainable and eco-friendly,” says Manape. “We’re a community where people are showing up with wonderful technology, whether it’s heating or cooling systems or just general power usage.

“And this new form of government we’re building is breathing life into our people, reviving the significance of our treaties. Some people get it, some people don’t. But what we’re doing is going to save non-Natives as well as Natives.”

I hope you’ll take time to review the photos and video we assembled from July 1. You’ll find it in my Facebook “NoDAPL Rally, Concert and Call to Action” album and Facebook “NoDAPL Rally on July 1, 2017” playlist and in various other places too numerous to list. Also Rodger Routh produced a wonderful summary video. Videos include some powerful speeches by both Native and non-Native leaders. Thanks for continuing to stand together! – Ed

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 5

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 – Sully to Reasnor (10 miles)

Chap Myers

We scramble out of our tents early today for the ride to Des Moines for Donnielle Wanatee’s trial. She was arrested for trespass at Governor Branstad’s office during the February 22 Day of Action Against DAPL. Donnielle pled “not guilty” and asked for a jury trial. The judge denied her request. Nevertheless, she persists.

It’s a miserable morning. The wind and rain make it impossible for our cook, Chap Myers, to keep the stove lit. Some marchers opt for a cold breakfast. Most of us end up at the Coffee Cup Cafe across the street, grateful that it opens at 6:00. With the cumulative exertion of four days of marching, my caloric output has surged to that of a college athlete. I order the menu’s largest breakfast, which finds its way into my fuel tank faster than civilized dining standards allow.

Jon Neiderbach and Donnielle Wanatee

Today, we’re an organized, efficient group and arrive on schedule at the Polk County Justice Center. When I enter the court room, Donnielle is already testifying. She comports herself with clarity and dignity. Jon Neiderbach, an attorney who marched with us for two days, represents Donnielle pro bono.

The trial is quick and predictable. The judge praises Donnielle’s commitment to clean water but finds her guilty of trespass. She wants a jury trial, but the judge had previously cited a procedural nuance that denies her this right. With Jonathan’s help, she appeals the judge’s ruling, insisting on her right to a jury trial. I’m proud of both her and Jon. It’s a great start to the day, and we haven’t even marched a step.

By early afternoon, we’re back in Sully to begin the day’s 10-mile trek. The rain’s stopped, and we again carry the American flag at the front of the march column. Isidra and Annie lead the way, taking turns as flag-bearer.

Marchers gather in front of Lois and Irving Vander Leest’s piano lawn art

Three miles from Reasnor, we meet Lois and Irving Vander Leest. Their farm is on the path of the pipeline, and it’s here that construction equipment was torched by an arsonist last August.

The Vander Leests strongly support the pipeline. Lois assures me she’s had no trouble with either the pipeline company or the workers. I’m candid with her about my opposition, based on concerns about climate, water and the abuse of eminent domain. We concur that arson is inexcusable, and she and Irving agree to join us for dinner tonight at the United Methodist Church in Reasnor. Before we set out from the Vander Leests’ farm, we pose for a picture in front of a piano cleverly repurposed as a lawn ornament.

Marchers pause for prayer as they cross the path of the Dakota access pipeline

Two miles from Reasnor we cross the pipeline. The scar from last year’s construction is still visible. We pray. Donnielle offers tobacco. It’s a solemn moment. I think of the 570,000 barrels of oil a day that will soon move through the ground under our feet. I remind other marchers that, despite the imminent flow of oil, if the lawsuit by nine Iowa landowners prevails, it could require that the pipe be removed, forcing Dakota Access to attempt a lengthy and complicated reroute.

Reasnor is a town of 153 people, and everyone we meet is friendly and helpful. The Methodist Church, with a congregation of eight parishioners, opens its doors to us for food and lodging. After dinner, some of us wander down to the D & T Tap, where Zach Ide, Heather Pearson and I break out our guitars. I play The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) and solicit a rousing response from the locals. Perhaps they appreciate the challenge of walking a long distance for an urgent cause. Perhaps I’m just making that up.

But one thing I know for certain: This march is connecting us in ways that we — marchers and locals alike — rarely experience. It’s easy to stay in one’s own social, cultural and online bubble. This march pushes us beyond that bubble and out of our comfort zone. It pushes us to confront the truth that their is no us vs. them. There is only we.

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