Not Just for Native People

Today about 160-200 people gathered in Augusta Maine, in solidarity with the Native Nations Rise with Standing Rock march in Washington.  Organizer Sherri Mitchell commented how important it was that non-Native peoples were showing up–both because for too many years Native people have been struggling without support from the white community, but also because these issues really affect all of us.  Issues like water to drink, on which depends everything else about our lives, or the problem of toxins in the land, like uranium mining and oil pipelines, which so often have first been situated on land where Indigenous people were living, but then spread everywhere.

People Gathering in Augusta.jpg

[People beginning to gather at the Augusta rally]

I think about how my activism on these issues is often perceived by (white) others as something I am doing “for” Indigenous peoples, or a “special interest.” Perhaps I am misperceiving it, but I get the impression that some see it as too “narrow.”  But Sherri gave voice to what feels true to me–that Indigenous issues are tied in to so many other issues that we are facing in this time, issues that will determine the future of our planet.

I tried to articulate this in my book, Finding Our Way Home.  So many of the issues we are facing are the result of disconnection from the land, from other people, from the spirit within and between all beings.  So many of the issues we face are a result of the original colonization and theft of this land from Indigenous nations.  There is such a pervasive overlay of denial around the true origins of our nation, that it is easy for me to feel tongue-tied just trying to speak or write about it.

After leaving the rally in Augusta, I went to see the movie “I Am Not Your Negro” (directed by Raoul Peck).  What a wake-up call from James Baldwin to white America–again, confronting the pervasive overlay of denial about racism in America.  Can’t we see that racism makes white people monsters!  Our country will rise or fall depending on healing the wounds of colonization and racism, and we can’t heal what we aren’t willing to acknowledge.  Or as James Baldwin said it so eloquently, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

I grew up in a bubble of “innocence.”  I remember when white people applauded the innocence of children who knew nothing about racism.  But “innocence” is not what we need to heal–we need to wake up, we need full vision, we need to face it.

Some of my colleagues in ministry speak of their congregations growing weary of our preaching about racism, such a downer.   I don’t know if my congregation has grown weary of my words about racism, or my work supporting Indigenous rights.  But here is what I want to say.  It doesn’t feel like a “downer” once it is acknowledged.  Yes, it can bring up tears and rage and regret.  But there is also a sense of relief that comes from experiencing what is really true.  There is a sense of solidarity.  Because it gets to the heart of what is wrong in white America, it gets to the root of what is wrong in all of America.

As I said, I don’t feel very articulate today, but I feel inspired by the rally, inspired by the movie, encouraged in the fog of the everyday illusions that comprise so much of our country, to #staywoke.

 

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Pray with Water Protectors Today

The Water Protectors at Standing Rock have called for a day of prayer today.  The Governor of North Dakota and the Army Corps of Engineers have given an eviction notice to the Oceti Sakowin camp that takes effect 2 p.m. today (Mountain Time).  They have said that everyone remaining in the camps will be arrested. You can call the Army Corps at 202-761-8700 and demand an extension. But also–Pray!  The people in the camps have been cleaning up the camps from the aftermath of the blizzards in December and in preparation for spring flooding.  In a video released Monday, women said

“After the deadline for February 22 at 2pm, we are all at risk of facing arrest, police brutality, federal charges and prison time.”  “In the history of colonization, they’ve always given us two options. Give up our land or go to jail, give up our rights or go to jail. And now, give up our water, or go to jail. We are not criminals.”

From Arvol Looking Horse, last night:

Right away I woke remembering our history of abuses we have suffered from the continued need from Mother Earth’s Resources. My heart is heavy today, for what we are all facing together with tomorrow’s deadline in the removal of the Standing Rock’s Camps…
Because of the seriousness of this situation, I humbly would like to once again call upon all the Religious/Spiritual Leaders, URI and the People who traveled to Standing Rock’s sacred fire on December 4th. (Sari At Uri) Pray with us at your own sacred places for Mother Earth, her Mni wic’oni (water of life) and the protection of our People who are still at the Standing Rock Camps.

We also need to remember healing for those who are making these dangerous decisions that have only ended up abusing all life.

I too will stand in the sacred place with our Sacred Bundle to offer prayers – if anyone would like to join me by bringing offerings to the Bundle, they are welcome – @ 2:00pm mountain time on Wednesday February 22, 2017.

Please pray with us where ever you are upon Mother Earth.

Mother Earth is a Source of Life – Not a Resource.

Onipikte (that we shall live) ,

Nac’a Arvol Looking Horse C’anupa Awiyanka (Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe)

When I walk in my own neighborhood at dawn, I pray, and I come to this sacred place, the small brook that feeds into Capisic Brook.  On the walk, I hear and see the cardinals singing.  They are praying.  Back in my yard, I pray there, because this too is a sacred place. The crows are shouting to each other.  They are praying.  Let us all join in this sacred work, from wherever we are.  Water is life.  The Earth is our mother.  We are all one.

Capisic Brook feeder

[Capisic Brook]

Standing Rock-What to do Now!

Write YOUR comment to the Army Corps of Engineers demanding a comprehensive environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Click: “Click to Open and Write Comments” to go to IEN page and follow instructions there. We have added 25 Reasons to Oppose this pipeline below. We’ve also provided links to more information if needed.

Stand alongside the indigenous leaders who brought over 500 tribes together to Protect the Water for millions downstream.

Stand with the hundreds and thousands of people who braved the cold in North Dakota and loudly proclaimed; MNI WICONI – WATER IS LIFE!

Stand with the millions of people supporting us from across the U.S. and around the world – SAY; “NO DAPL!”

From the first days in office Trump has made it no secret that he will do whatever he can to finish this and other pipelines. He cares nothing for the future of our nation or people as he pushes us ever-closer to becoming a resource colony for the world. He went another step further and ordered the US Army Corps of Engineers to stop their comprehensive environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline and grant the final permit.

WE are not going to stand by and allow this to happen…It’s up to us to deny that request. Please add your comments of opposition to DAPL TODAY!

A complete review is needed to assess the impacts on drinking water, tribal rights and the climate and we need your help to make it happen so, Please share this page with your social networks. Thank you!

IEN’s Dallas Goldtooth  asked Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe permission to share an outline (below) of issues discussed in our engineering report to assist in forming opinions and comments. You can read the  FULL REPORT and the COVER LETTER

At any time, construction, could resume – unless we flood the Army Corps with REASONS they MUST conduct the full environmental review that includes impacts to land, water, and people along the pipeline route, violations to long-standing tribal rights, and the future consequences to climate change if we continue down this path.

Illegally forcing this project through is an obvious example of corruption — AND a gross violation of Indigenous rights and the science of climate change. Trump and members of his administration stand to PROFIT personally from the completion of DAPL. He owns stock in the Dakota Access and has never proven otherwise. Another prime example of Big Oil’s influence on our government and the violation of our rights if we don’t stand up and say NO!

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose drinking water and sacred sites have been desecrated by this pipeline, already announced plans to sue to stop any action to expedite DAPL. Every comment we send bolsters their legal case that the federal government would be abandoning their own rules and procedures by illegally forcing the project through.

To help you compose an original comment to submit (very important, as canned comments are combined and counted as just ONE comment reducing the appearance of overwhelming opposition) we’ve provided a DAPL Environmental Assessment Explanation of Issues by Steve Martin a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians of North Dakota:

  1. The finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the crossing of Lake Oahe in a HDD tunnel 92’ below the surface of the lake is a wrong conclusion presented by the DAPL EA and initially supported by USACE.
  2. The DAPL EA was prepared with a pre-decisional intent and is a biased document that appears to have been prepared with the desired result known from the outset.
  3. The DAPL EA lacks engineering integrity. The FONSI can neither be supported by previous precedent nor generally accepted industry practice and should be vacated immediately.
  4. Not enough reasonable alternatives were seriously considered by DAPL to address the unresolved conflicts between stakeholders. In particular, routing alternatives.
  5. The DAPL solution is the perfect technical storm and relies on the worst of all potential technical factors, including: (1) crude oil product (2) in a large-diameter pipeline and (3) in a 1.5 mile-long HDD tunnel 92 feet below the surface of the lake.
  6. So much emphasis was placed on following the existing Northern Border gas pipeline routing completed in 1983 that an alternative route further north that would have resulted in no major or minor river or lake crossings was not even contemplated.
  7. It is inappropriate to authorize DAPL to cross Lake Oahe as contemplated in the EA without further analysis, more rigorous exploration and analysis of siting alternatives. Accordingly, the USACE did not grant easement to cross Lake Oahe as contemplated based on the current record.
  8. Preparing a full Environmental Impact Statement is the best and most responsible recommendation at this stage given the level of conflict between stakeholders and fatal flaws thus far discovered resulting in an inadequate EA.
  9. The USACE have clearly sided with the obvious need for the tribal government leaders and representatives or experts to be granted the ability to review and respond to the critical documents that had been previously kept secret from the tribe. These documents are
    • Lake Oahe Spill Model Discussion Report
    • Lake Oahe HDD Risk Analysis Report
    • DAPL Route Comparison.
  10. It is disappointing and troubling that these documents have still not been made available by DAPL to the tribes team of technical experts.
  11. The DAPL solution is the perfect technical storm and relies on the worst of all potential technical factors, including: (1) crude oil product (2) in a large-diameter pipeline and (3) in a 1.5 mile long HDD tunnel 92 feet below the surface of the lake.
  12. Without access to do a full technical review to evaluate further technical difficulties and based on what what was presented in the DAPL EA, there is no foundation that this is the least risk alternative or the finding of no significant environmental impact.
  13. The business interests of DAPL have compromised the integrity and responsibility of the engineers responsible for the DAPL project.
  14. The selection of the route was not based on the route posing the least risk alternative and that alone should be reason to support the need for a full review as contemplated by the USACE memo of December 4th.
  15. It has become well known that DAPL has negotiated commercial off-take agreements that required the pipelines commercial operation by January 1, 2017. It should be investigated further as to whether the routing recommended was premature and may have been the fallout of DAPL’s management desire to shorten the time to full commercial operation.
  16. The decision to recommend the routing under Lake Oahe appears to be the direct result of the heavy weighting DAPL applied to the requirement to follow the existing corridor in the questionable and subjective evaluation tables 2.1 and 2.2 in the EA. This was by far the dominating factor in the outcome of their analysis. Alternative objective routes should be evaluated.
  17. The results of the EA and the FONSI allowed USACE to prematurely issue the highly-contested Section 408 permit. Unfortunately, the result led to the requirement to place the crossing at Lake Oahe.
  18. What the EA failed to evaluate or even present was another alternative route even further North and East of the Missouri River that should have been evaluated. This alternative routing has no major or minor river or lake crossings and is actually shorter than the current DAPL proposed routing.
  19. The key factor we would like to emphasize that the EA fails to discuss objectively is the fact that no similar application of a crude oil large diameter pipeline exists that crosses a freshwater lake via a large-diameter HDD tunnel anywhere in the World.
  20. The DAPL solution is the perfect technical storm and relies on the worst of all potential technical factors, including: (1) crude oil product (2) in a large-diameter pipeline and (3) in a 1.5 mile long HDD tunnel 92 feet below the surface of the lake.
  21. This design solution culminates in such an extreme high level of potential environmental and safety risk that an EIS is required because The EA does not currently address a leak or spill in the HDD section and full remediation of a clean-up of contaminated soil around the tunnel. Actually, clean-up of a spill in the HDD tunnel outside the pipe is a technical impossibility to perform.
  22. Unfortunately, the worst in this case means that any leak or spill in the HDD section results in permanent and deep contamination to the surrounding soils 92’ below the surface of the lake. Those contaminated soils will inevitably seep and poison the Hell Creek and Fox Hills aquifers and waters of Lake Oahe. The Hell Creek and Fox Hills formations are the major aquifers in the state and many residents depend on these formations for the water usage. These are regional aquifers for not only North Dakota but also other surrounding states.
  23. It appears placement of the HDD tunnel could not be any lower than the 92’ section because it would have run into the Pierre Formation, a dark grey to black shale that has low strength and has the high risk potential for causing landslides. Concerns about landslides have been presented by various local stakeholders as a significant project risk, including the Accufacts report prepared on behalf of the Standing Rock tribe dated October 28, 2016. The EA seems to support that this risk does not exist and we don’t have enough information to credibly confirm or deny this at this time.
  24. It is a proven fact that significant pipeline leaks and spills do occur regularly cannot be credibly denied. Project sponsors involved with this project thus far have completely ignored that the HDD crossing at Lake Oahe would become one of the rare examples of a perfect pipeline that never leaks or ruptures if it were to avoid soil and water contamination.
  25. NEPA requires the best currently available technical data be used in impact assessment. There is no way to mitigate a leak or rupture from contaminating the soil and water if a leak should happen in the HDD tunnel 92’ below the surface of the Lake.

ARMY CORPS DECISION: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Reposting from Andy Pearson on Facebook.

On Sunday afternoon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, just north of the encampments at Standing Rock. This is amazing, virtually unprecedented, and a movement victory — and the water protectors who have led the fight are right to claim it as such. It’s also likely temporary and by no means the end of this fight. Here’s some context and paths forward as best I understand right now.

WHAT HAPPENED: The Corps denied the easement and ordered an Environmental Impact Statement, which is a formal study which will compare various route alternatives. Denying the easement was a stepping stone to getting to an EIS here for the Corps, and doesn’t mean that the pipeline won’t be built in its current alignment near Standing Rock eventually. The Corps is essentially hitting the pause button and initiating further study.

HOW DOES AN EIS GO? There are usually three phases to conducting an EIS: Scoping, Draft, and Final. The public can generally comment during each phase. The purpose of scoping is to identify what should be studied in the EIS — the scope. Then the Corps and their EIS contractor prepare and release a draft, which the public is invited to comment on. They then rework the draft in light of public input and release a final version, which the public can generally also comment on. The process usually takes several months, and can last for years depending on the project’s complexity. A generic timeline would be about nine months, but we don’t have any actual guidance yet on the timeline for this particular EIS.

WILL THIS ACTUALLY STOP CONSTRUCTION? Debatable. It would be illegal for Energy Transfer Partners to drill under the Missouri, but that’s not to say they won’t do it and opt to pay whatever legal penalties they incur. That would be a fairly shocking move on their part but they’ve hinted they may be open to doing it. It’s easy to imagine that an incoming Trump administration would do their best to make the penalties as minimal as possible.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR ETP TO DRILL RIGHT NOW? Contracts with oil shippers. These contracts, called take-or-pay contracts, obligate shippers to pay money to the pipeline company over a long, committed period of time regardless of whether they have oil to actually send or not. It’s a great deal for DAPL but not so good for the oil shippers, especially now that the Bakken oil boom isn’t so hot. These contracts expire if the pipeline isn’t substantially complete by January 1, and there’s somewhat of a chance that some shippers will choose to drop out at that point due to changing economics in the industry if the pipeline isn’t complete. Sunday’s decision by the Corps means that the pipeline won’t be complete by January 1 unless ETP breaks the law and drills anyway.

WHAT ABOUT TRUMP? Oh, you had to ask. He’s a problem here. Once he’s president, he’ll be able to stack the deck at the Army Corps so that the EIS is weak or biased in favor of DAPL, and he might be able to stop the EIS process altogether and reinstate the permit, though I don’t know the legal specifics here yet. It’s very doubtful that we’ll see a full and robust EIS with him taking office. The upshot of Sunday’s decision as I see it, assuming that ETP chooses to follow the law, is that it delays approval of the line until after Trump takes office, giving time for the contracts to expire and letting the worst of winter slide by without the need for full forces at the encampments.

WHAT CAN WE DO IN THE MEANTIME? We can continue the work we’ve been doing, because it’s all still relevant and helpful, and will become quite urgent again in at most a few months. We can go after the banks harder than ever to cut off funding to DAPL. We can continue to spread information, lobby elected officials, lobby the Corps, hold events, train for direct action. We can engage in the EIS process once it begins. This isn’t the end of the fight by a long shot, but it’s a brief respite between battles and a sign of how far we’ve come thanks to the indigenous leadership and water protectors at Standing Rock. Let’s celebrate and reflect and keep fighting. #NoDAPL

Custer’s Ghost Rides Again-Sherri Mitchell

Reposting from Sherri Mitchell Wena’gamu’gwasit:

sherri-mitchell

Sherri Mitchell

Custer’s Ghost Rides again- This time he’s riding in on the back of a big black snake. On December 5th, which is Custer’s birthday, the U.S. Army Corps is threatening to forcibly remove thousands of Native people and their allies from Sioux Treaty lands.

These lands were granted to the Sioux Tribe in the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868. The treaty was signed two years after Custer was sent in to kill all the Cheyenne and Dakota Sioux, so the U.S. could steal their lands. Custer failed, so the U.S. begrudgingly signed the Treaty.

Treaty law is one of the supreme laws of the land, second only to constitutional law. Treaties are signed agreements made by two or more parties. Legally, signed agreements cannot be changed without the written consent of all parties. Unfortunately, the U.S. has never been very keen on following their own laws, especially where Indians are concerned. In fact, the first U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding the tribes was in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. In that decision, the SCOTUS used religious law, specifically the Roman Catholic Rules of Conquest under the Christian Law of Nations to justify the taking of Indian lands (see Doctrine of Discovery). So, it should be no surprise that they have summarily violated all treaties with the Indigenous nations of this land. The U.S. breached the Treaty of Ft. Laramie in 1944, under the guise of the “Flood Control Act,” which was simply cover for the further taking of Indian lands for gold mining.

Now, nearly 150 years later, the U.S is back in Sioux territory with bigger weapons trying to complete Custer’s mission. And, they have chosen Custer’s birthday to make their stand. You get to watch as history repeats itself. The question is whether you will watch quietly or if you will stand up and do something about it.

On December 5th, the U.S. is going to honor their long tradition of stealing Indian lands and killing Indian people, by celebrating their most beloved Indian killer Col. George Armstrong Custer on his birthday.

They will do so by attacking Indian people on lands that the U.S. has taken illegally, using illegal amounts of force, to protect the interests of an oil company that is attempting to poison the drinking water of the Tribe. The term for this is ecological genocide, and it is being carried out through industrial and environmental terrorism at the hands of a U.S. corporation, and with the full backing of the U.S. government and police forces in violation of the U.S. Constitution and Treaty Law.

This is not only a stand for Standing Rock, it is a stand for life, and it is a stand for the Constitution and rule of law in this country.

If you are able, please go to Standing Rock and stand with the people. If you can’t go, then call ALL the numbers listed below.

Call:
Lee Hanse
Executive Vice President
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
800 E Sonterra Blvd #400
San Antonio, Texas 78258
Telephone: (210) 403-6455
Lee.Hanse@energytransfer.com

B. Glenn Emery
Vice President
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
800 E Sonterra Blvd #400
San Antonio, Texas 78258
Telephone: (210) 403-6762
Glenn.Emery@energytransfer.com

Call North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple at (701) 328-2200 to demand protections for protestors and an end to hostilities against them.

Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414. Tell President Obama to STOP the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Call the Army Corps of Engineers and demand that they remove DAPL from their lands: (202) 761-5903

The Story We Are Called To Be

You don’t have anything if you don’t have the stories.   Leslie Marmon Silko

The word “story” can be used to describe the way we understand the reality in which we live. A story is what we tell ourselves about our lives, the meanings we attach to reality. This past week we saw that people in America are holding vastly divergent stories about what it means to be American, that we hold vastly divergent understandings of the reality of our times.

One thing about stories is that even vastly divergent stories can exist in the same space, and in a sense they can all be true—because people live out their lives based on their particular understandings of reality. Stories are a way to understand reality, but stories also shape reality. In this way, stories have incredible power: to harm or to heal, to destroy or to protect, to create the future and even the past.

One story I heard a lot during the last several weeks was the story of a woman who would finally break the ultimate glass ceiling and hold the highest office in the country. This story identified its beginnings in the sacrifices of the suffragists to win the vote for women. But it also included a vision of a multicultural nation that honored all of its people, and welcomed the immigrants who came into our midst. There were many people who believed in this story, who were deeply inspired by this story. In fact, the popular vote of our country would have elevated Hilary Clinton to the presidency. When the electoral votes were all in, and Clinton had lost, the people who were holding this story in their hearts were crushed and heartbroken.

There was another story that took more effort for me to discover, a story of those who supported the other major candidate, now president-elect Donald Trump. I was able to get some insights into this story by looking at Facebook posts from more conservative members of my own extended family. In the best versions of this story there was a hope that a very imperfect outsider would bring the jobs back; that he would shake things up and pay attention to people in the middle of the country, the working Joes whose lives had been upended by free trade deals. There was a lot of pain in the heartlands that no one was paying attention to. These folks were not oblivious to the problems he represented, but they saw the other candidate as much worse. I respect those folks who wrestled with their values searching for the best way forward.

But there has been a much more troubling story in the support shown for Mr. Trump. It is a very old story, an ideology of white supremacy in this nation that originated in the destruction of Indigenous nations who lived in this land, and in the capture and enslavement of African people. White supremacy has morphed and changed through the centuries, but it has never gone away. Some hoped that the election of Barack Obama signaled a transformation had been achieved. But that was never the case, and during this election season, we saw the flames of hatred stirred up and given more oxygen. Mr. Trump played on the real pain of people in our country, and through scapegoating, channeled that pain into hatred. Hatred against people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women, queer people, people with disabilities.

Since election day, I have been hearing stories about people already experiencing violence from blatant white supremacists emboldened by the Trump election. Muslim women whose hijab scarves have been ripped from their heads, Latino children beaten up in school, Swastikas painted on the door to a Jewish community center, rainbow flags being burned, and heartbreaking fears about what will happen next.

A story is what we tell ourselves about our lives, the meanings we attach to reality. Some of the stories we tell about our lives are so ingrained that they are almost invisible to us. We think of them as just “the way things are.” But we do not have a shared reality as a nation, a shared sense of “the way things are.” That may not be a bad thing, if it helps us to wake up, to ask questions about what story we are telling ourselves.

There are some people saying that now is the time for our country to come back together, now is the time for us to unite as Americans and let go of the hostilities of the election season. I would agree that letting go of hostility is a good thing. Letting go of blame and hate. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” It is important to understand the suffering in each other’s lives, to understand how we come to the choices we make. It doesn’t help us to hate each other.

But the call to unity covers up something very important—the call to unity relies on our going back to a story that Joanna Macy calls “Business as Usual.” This is the foundational story of our Industrial Growth Society. In this story, our economic and political systems depend on ever increasing extraction and consumption of resources. They require the generation of ever more rapidly increasing profits. In this story, human lives are valued only insofar as they can be used in the generation of profits and the consumption of products. In this story, the Earth is seen as a resource bank for the generation of profits, and also the septic tank for human waste. The underlying power in this story belongs to the multi-national corporations and elite business-owning families. This is the story that sometimes we think of as “the way things are.” We don’t really think of it as a story at all.

So I cannot answer a call to unity like that. I keep hearing in my heart a different call, a call to a whole new story, or a story that is so old it seems new. That call is sometimes just a whisper, but more and more it echoes like a great shout—a call that demands that we look beyond the superficial unity of the realm of the status-quo, and look deeper into a more essential unity that we are beginning to awaken to.

For the Business as Usual story is actually a story built on separation. Business as Usual is a story that says that human beings are separate from each other, that one can build a wall between different races and religions. It is a story that says that human beings are separate from the earth, as if the environment were a special interest and has nothing to do with our food and water and life itself.

Joanna Macy talks about three foundational stories. The first is Business as Usual. But Macy suggests that if we keep trying to follow Business as Usual, we will end up in another story, “The Great Unraveling.” This story is about the disasters the Industrial Growth Society is causing. This story is the stuff of our nightmares of the past week. Race hatred, violence in the streets, the people torn apart fighting over scraps to survive. This story is about the environmental disasters of global warming and rising sea levels and mass extinctions. It foretells a future of destruction, hunger, disease, and war, and the likely extinction of human society as we have known it.

But there is a third story. Macy calls it “The Great Turning.” In this story, people choose to create a transition away from the Industrial Growth Society toward a Life-Sustaining Civilization. In this story, people come to understand their profound interconnection with each other, and with all of the natural world. People join together to make the changes that can heal and defend life on earth.

Human beings have the capacity to meet our needs without destroying our life-support system. We could generate the energy we need through renewable forms such as solar, wind, tides and algae. We could grow food through organic permaculture methods in thousands of small farms and gardens in every yard. We have birth control methods that could bring human population under control. We have developed social structures to mediate conflict, and give people a voice in democracy. When we realize how profoundly interconnected we are to all beings, we know that we need each other, that no one is outside of the circle of worth and dignity. The name of this third story, “The Great Turning,” grew from imagining how future beings might look back on our own time, if humanity survives because we’ve made a transition to a Life-Sustaining Civilization.

Business as Usual. The Great Unraveling. The Great Turning. If we understand the stories, we realize that each of us can make a choice about what story we want to tell about our lives, what version of reality to which we want to give our energy. And there is power in that. We don’t have to sit back and observe with horror the increasing violence and destruction that have been unleashed. Instead, we must remember the story we are called to be. We must recommit ourselves to live out our deepest values. Now, more than ever.

In the contest between Business as Usual and the possibility of a great turning toward Life Sustaining Civilization, the front lines are perhaps most starkly drawn right now on the plains of North Dakota. The Indigenous people of Standing Rock have made a stand to protect the water from the destruction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. They have been joined by thousands of Native people from across the Americas and the world, and thousands of non-Native allies. Robin Wall Kimmerer and Kathleen Dean Moore talk about it in a story called “The White Horse and the Humvees.” I want to share a few of their words:

On one side is the unquestioned assumption that land is merely a warehouse of lifeless materials that have been given to (some of) us by God or conquest, to use without constraint. On this view, human happiness is best served by whatever economy most efficiently transforms water, soils, minerals, wild lives, and human yearning into corporate wealth. And so it is possible to love the bottom line on a quarterly report so fiercely that you will call out the National Guard to protect it.

On the other side of the concrete barriers is a story that is so ancient it seems revolutionary.  On this view, the land is a great and nourishing gift to all beings. The fertile soil, the fresh water, the clear air, the creatures, swift or rooted: they require gratitude and veneration. These gifts are not commodities, like scrap iron and sneakers. The land is sacred, a living breathing entity, for whom we must care, as she cares for us. And so it is possible to love land and water so fiercely you will live in a tent in a North Dakota winter to protect them.

..The people at Standing Rock and their busloads of allies… are making clear that we live in an era of profound error that we mistakenly believe is the only way we can live, an era of insanity that we believe is the only way we can think. But once people accept with heart and mind that land is our teacher, our mother, our garden, our pharmacy, our church, our cradle and our grave, it becomes unthinkable to destroy it. This vision threatens the industrial worldview more than anything else.

Leslie Marmon Silko says, “You don’t have anything if you don’t have the stories.” I know so many are feeling discouraged right now about the change to our elected government. We can see that it bodes suffering and hard times. But here is the thing. A change in stories, a change in world view, has never happened because of the people in power, the people at the top. This kind of fundamental change always happens from people on the margins, people on the bottom, people in unexpected places.

We don’t have to follow the call to return to Business as Usual. We can follow the call of old stories and new dreams, of deep values and courageous ideals. We never know if our own acts of love and kindness might tip the balance. We never know if our willingness to welcome an immigrant to our community or visit a neighbor’s house of worship might tip the balance. We never know if our planting a garden, or living more simply, might tip the balance. We never know if reminding each other of the interconnections between all beings, might tip the balance.

This is not going to be an easy time ahead of us. But it was never going to be easy. If you were hoping it would be easy, it may be that you need to grieve that old story. Let yourself take time to weep and mourn. We are all being called upon to make a choice. We have our work cut out for us. Our job is to keep track of the story we are called to be: to remember our connections with all people and all beings of the earth, and to live in such a way to further those values. May we find strength and courage.Birch light and dark DSC07802

Portland Stands with Standing Rock

Standing with Standing Rock in Portland ME

Portland Stands with Standing Rock, Photo by Katrina Van Brugh

Sometimes our spirits know that we must go to another place to support the struggle to protect Indigenous rights and water. But sometimes our spirits tell us to stay put, and lend support from where we are, in whatever we can.  That is my particular calling in this moment, even though a part of my heart is out in Standing Rock every day.  But I was happy to stand in the rain on Saturday in Portland, Maine, with a few dozen people, including these young people from my congregation. Somehow being in the rain also felt right, because #waterislife.

This week many of my clergy colleagues have gone to the site of the camps, to bring a message of support, and I am glad for them to be there.  I am happy that our religious voices can be aligned with sovereignty and justice, after so much damage has been done in the name of the churches throughout the history of this land.

I am also glad personally to be following the spirit’s lead on this, because something is happening right now in our world which is deeper than politics, deeper than the divide between right and left, deeper than what any of the media are willing or able to talk about. It cannot be figured out by thinking or talking.  It is deeper than that.  It comes from the depth of the mysterious forces that give life, that sustain life, on our beautiful planet.

In a time of despair, that which can give us hope is often hidden from public view, bubbling up in unexpected places.  The energy and magic that is Standing Rock is not limited to that one place, but emerges wherever the people find our connection to the land, our connection to the water. Still, what is emerging at Standing Rock goes much deeper than I am able to fully understand, even when I open my heart to the mystery and the flow of it.  But every morning, I do open my heart to that mystery, and offer what energy and gifts I may offer to it.