First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March: Day 1

Dear Friends,

Regina Tsosie starts the IUB press conference with a song. (Photo by Fintan Mason)

After a stormy night, marchers carpooled to the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) for a press conference to announce the First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March. Though the IUB was closed, we know board members are paying attention. It’s important for them to hear that they made the wrong decision when granting the authority to use eminent domain to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. Most Iowans agree. Iowa law agrees. Soon, we’ll see whether the Iowa Supreme Court agrees.

Manape LaMere (in red) embraces Ako Abdul-Samad (in blue) after both offer a blessing to send off marchers. (Photo by Jeff Kisling)

Blessings by Ako Abdul-Samad and Manape LaMere sent marchers off along the Des Moines River. Given last night’s storms — and a forecast for continued rain and cloud cover today — I wouldn’t have guessed that our biggest challenge today would be heat and humidity.

Halfway through the March, the day warmed considerably, with the heat index hovering around 90 degrees. One young marcher felt faint and had to sit in the shade before being rescued by one of our support vehicles. The conditions hit several older marchers hard, too, requiring extra breaks in the shade.

A welcome respite came at Sue and Tom Broadbooks home in Ankeny, where the family invited us in to cool off and enjoy home-made cookies. This was the first exceptional act of kindness and hospitality in a week that would see many gestures of goodwill toward us.

Our campsite at the Griffieon farm north of Ankeny. (Photo by Jeff Kisling)

Marchers made it through a difficult 13.2-mile day to enjoy a wonderful evening of food and conversation at the Griffieon farm. Half the marchers accepted the family’s generous offer to sleep in their machine shed. The rest of us braved a second night of severe weather in our tents.

Four-mile creek, near the Griffieon farm, looked more like a river today. (Photo by Jeff Kisling)

I’m a veteran tent-dweller, yet have never seen my tent pummeled so mercilessly by the driving rain that hit us in the middle of the night. It was as if buckets of water were being hurled against the sides of the tent. I worried that the nearby ditch between our tents and the road would fill with water and wash over the field where we were camped. That didn’t happen, but if our first night’s rainfall had been as bad as some storms that Iowa has seen in recent years, that field could have indeed been swamped. We were lucky — and reminded that, in the New Climate Era, the most marginalized populations are often the most at risk.

Ed Fallon

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Raising awareness for effective action

Dear Friends,

I’m a big believer in pacing oneself. We’ve got to take time to smell the roses even in the midst of intense struggle. Yet sometimes — often, in all honesty — the demands of fighting for justice require some pretty exhausting days.

Josie Ironshield

The First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March will be a string of such days. But the importance of this march — raising awareness about the historic lawsuit that could stop the flow of oil through the Dakota Access Pipeline — can’t be understated.

Last Tuesday’s investigative trip to Lyon County to dig into the recent tar sands oil spill was such a day. Well, two days actually, one of them involving numerous meetings and nine hours in a car. Check out the culmination of that trip with this excellent article in the N’West Iowa Review.

Regina Tsosie

Efforts by residents and advocacy groups to monitor the oil clean up will continue, regrettably, as the effort may take over a year. And in a new development that has residents near Iowa’s Great Lakes fuming, soil and plant debris contaminated with tar sands oil is being dumped in their county. Check out this article in the Dickinson County News.

ACTION ALERT: CALL GOV. REYNOLDS AT (515) 281-5211 AND ASK HER TO PUT A STOP TO DUMPING TAR SANDS OIL IN DICKINSON COUNTY.

Christine Nobiss and Dara Jefferson

Sunday was another long day. It started at 5:00 a.m. and landed Kathy and me back in Des Moines after 10:00 p.m. The highlight of the day was the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women rally in Rock Island, Illinois. Check out the livestream, which is both powerful and instructional. I’ve included with this blog a few photos of the inspiring Native leaders who spoke at the event.

Sunday’s trip concluded with a sunset tour of tornado damage in Marshalltown. I was blown away (yeah, bad pun, I know) at how severely the tornado had torn up that community. I’ve been in communication with Chief of Police Mike Tupper and State Rep. Mark Smith. Help will certainly be needed, especially for the low-income families hit hard in northeast Marshalltown. Stay tuned.

Dawson Davenport and Ed Fallon

In other news, a Des Moines Register article reminded us of the one-year anniversary of Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya announcing that they’d repeatedly vandalized equipment along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). I caught flack for my quote in the Register story, where I describe Jessica and Ruby’s action as “misguided” because “it alienated a lot of people who we need on our side. So while I respect and admire their passion, I don’t think it was a wise decision.”

Narcissa Trujillo-Nolen, Regina Tsosie, Larry Lockwood, and Dan Eads

For an injustice to end (and DAPL is unjust on so many levels), you have to continually build more and more popular opposition. Fact-finding, community forums, press releases, protests, nonviolent civil disobedience, lawsuits, speaking out at official meetings — all turned public opinion against DAPL. Torching bulldozers and vandalizing valves didn’t. In fact, it gave pro-pipeline forces an excuse to pass legislation this year classifying DAPL as “critical infrastructure” and creating criminal penalties that could scare people away from exercising their First Amendment rights in the future.

Some have cited Gandhi in defense of Jessica and Ruby’s action. But Gandhi never destroyed property and was always open about everything he did. Most significantly, Gandhi was about effective action. Even his symbolic acts were orchestrated with an eye toward moving Indian and global opinion toward supporting India’s independence from Britain.

Gandhi wasn’t just about civil disobedience, which constituted a very small portion of his work. Much of his effort was behind the scenes, creating new structures to replace failed models that only perpetuated injustice. Gandhi was also about political reform, remaking the Indian Congress Party and raising funds to assure that the Party could operate effectively year round, not just during a showy annual convention.

In the DAPL fight, our most effective action is yet to come: the landowner/Sierra Club lawsuit over the misuse of eminent domain. That case will probably be decided by the Iowa Supreme Court in September or October. In the meantime, whatever we can do to continue to move public opinion our direction will be helpful. I’ve been dismayed, but not surprised, that the mainstream media have mostly ignored the lawsuit.

Let’s change that. Visit Bold Iowa’s Stop DAPL 2.0 page for ideas on how to get the word out through your local or regional newspaper. Thanks!

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Wanted: Bold Iowans

Dear Friends,

I’m writing with an urgent appeal. Since March of 2016, Bold Iowa has been a key leader on climate change and eminent domain. In fact, our work is recognized not just in Iowa but across the country.

Yet for Bold Iowa to continue, we need your help NOW!

Bold Iowa’s march earlier this year built new bridges in challenging conditions.

We’ve built a powerful rural-urban network of environmentalists, farmers, Indigenous communities, landowners, and property-rights advocates. But our funding is perilously tight, and we truly need your support NOW! If even 10% of those receiving this message contribute $25, that would cover 20% of our annual budget. So, please TAKE A COUPLE MINUTES TO DONATE!

Our mission to build a broad coalition to fight climate change, protect land and water, and stand up for property rights against the abuse of eminent domain keeps our awesome team busy. Beyond the importance of your financial support, if you’re feeling really bold and would like to discuss joining our team, contact me at ed@boldiowa.com.

Much of our work has focused on stopping the Dakota Access pipeline. We’re deeply saddened that oil is now running under Iowa’s precious soil and water. But this fight is far from over. The lawsuit filed by nine Iowa landowners and the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club is before the Iowa Supreme Court. This is a landmark case that could potentially put the brakes on the erosion of private property rights! (Read my recent blog here, and stay tuned for updates.)

Here are a few of Bold Iowa’s 2017 accomplishments:

January: We followed-up on the December, 2016 rally and march in support of the Landowner/Sierra Club lawsuit, continuing to build awareness of that lawsuit and the other pipeline fighter cases going to trial. Also, Ed and five landowners were interviewed by Eric Byler with The Young Turks in extensive national coverage of Iowa landowners’ resistance to the pipeline.

The march after the landowners’ hearing at the Polk County Courthouse, December, 2016.

February: We coordinated a statewide day of action to push back against Dakota Access, with meetings and non-violent direct action at 12 locations across Iowa, receiving extensive press coverage and resulting in four arrests during a sit-in at the Governor’s office.

March: We helped Little Creek Camp with promotion and fundraising. Also, part of Bold Iowa’s effectiveness includes plenty of “earned” media, including an appearance on WHO TV 13’s The Insiders.

April: We organized and led the eight-day, 85-mile Climate Justice Unity March to build bridges between urban and rural constituencies on climate, water and eminent domain. A national documentary crew is producing a video about the March.

Kids in Searsboro ham it up during the Climate Justice Unity March’s visit.

May: We organized the press conference for pipeline-fighter Heather Pearson’s trial in Rockwell City, which was covered by three media outlets.

June: Bold Iowa and several of our leaders are mentioned extensively in the TigerSwan memos released in detailed investigative reports published by The Intercept. The memos confirm the effectiveness of Bold Iowa’s “Bold Action Teams,” a strategy that slowed down pipeline construction considerably.

July: Working with Indigenous Iowa, we organized a rally and concert to demand pipeline accountability from Iowa’s elected leaders. The event featured renowned Native classical guitarist Gabriel Ayala.

Regina Tsosie opens the July 1 rally with song and prayer.

August: Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace, Bold Iowa and other organizations claiming damages of $1 billion. Our multi-layered strategy — education, protest, marches, civil disobedience, divestment, and political action — has had a clear and profound impact. Bold Iowa is honored to be tagged in this lawsuit, the second time in the past year ETP has come after us in the courts.

September: We discovered and publicized language in the Iowa Code showing that Gov. Branstad’s latest appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board, Richard Lozier, is unfit to serve because of “gross partiality” due to his work as an attorney representing the Dakota Access pipeline.

October: We began the process of contacting candidates for Governor and US Congress, with plans to endorse candidates who are strong on climate action, committed to fighting to protect our environment, and advocate for reining in the abuse of eminent domain. We also continue to stand in court with pipeline fighters Emma Schmit, Mahmud Fitil, and Kriss Wells who, along with Heather Pearson, were arrested last year and brought their cases to trial.

Heather Pearson testifies at her trial in Rockwell City.

Finally, we’re planning a “Picnic on the Pipeline” for October 29 — stay tuned for more detail on that — and we’re launching a series of house parties on solar energy.

Wow, right?! We’ve done a heckuva lot for a small, grassroots organization! Help build on this success by stepping forward:

Thanks! Together, let’s be bold and fight for an Iowa that puts our traditional values of community, hard work, and respect for the land and water ahead of the narrow, self-serving interests of bought-and-paid-for politicians and corporate bigwigs who are trying to run roughshod over our rights and our lives.

Ed Fallon

 

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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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