Completing a circle

I first learned about the Wet’suwet’en peoples in British Columbia when I saw this YouTube video, Coastal Gaslink Evicted from Unist’ot’en Territory, January 5, 2020. Having worked so hard to protect water from the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, I was amazed to see this peaceful eviction of a pipeline company.

From that day I closely followed any news I could find about the Wet’suwet’en peoples. Not surprisingly there was almost nothing in the mainstream news. As a result, people involved in the conflicts continually asked us to use social media to spread the news of what was happening there. I try to do that as much as I can. I was in contact with those at the scene to send them news of what we were doing in Iowa. And validate what I was hearing from other sources.

February 8, 2020
“We need you.”

All eyes needed! One of the most important Indigenous movements is under attack right now for attempting to protect their land from a gas pipeline.
With the second day of heavily armed Royal Canadian Mounted Police raids underway at #Wetsuweten watch camps in Nothern British Columbia, thousands of people across so-called Canada are throwing down right now.
This international human rights violation must be stopped. Stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en.

“We make conscious decisions to either sit back and watch or stand up and be heard. We make choices as to whether protect our future generations, or we allow for a destitute future for them. We make choices as to enter the uncomfortable place of change & movement, or we continue on this downward spiral. What will your choice be? Will you sit back and allow for human rights violations to occur, or will you #RiseUp with us?” Wet’suwete’n Access Point at Gidemt’en 

My Quaker meeting is in the countryside near Earlham, Iowa, and approved this statement. We also sent a letter in support of the Wet’suwet’en to British Columbia Premier, John Horgan.

We are concerned about the tensions involving the Wet’suwet’en Peoples, who are working to protect their water and lands in British Columbia. Most recently they are working to prevent the construction of several pipelines through their territory. Such construction would do severe damage to the land, water, and living beings. Bear Creek Friends Meeting

Several of us gathered in Des Moines, Iowa, for a vigil in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en peoples. Our friends at Bold Iowa and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) helped notify people about our vigil. We didn’t think many people would join us. But we know it is not the number of people, just that there are people publicly supporting the Wet’suwet’en. You never know what the people driving past might think or do. A sign displaying simply “Wet’suwet’en” might make some curious enough to look into this. Raising awareness and supporting each other is good. Each of us at the vigil drew strength from each other. As it says above, “what will your choice be?” Will you gather with a few friends and your signs to stand on a street corner in your town?

Fortunately, Ronnie James, who has become a good friend, came to the vigil. I learned Ronnie had years of experience as an Indigenous organizer. He is part of the Great Plains Action Society, and his focus is on Mutual Aid. One of the organizing skills he taught me was to attend events related to our work to meet new people to work with. I believe this was a spirit led connection. Not only would I have missed getting to know Ronnie and those he works with, but I might not have learned about Mutual Aid.

Ronnie has patiently taught me about his work and Mutual Aid since that meeting. I learned about the free food distribution project, which I was surprised to learn had been in operation since the Panther’s Free school breakfast program began in the early 1970’s.

So I work with a dope crew called Des Moines Mutual Aid, and on Saturday mornings we do a food giveaway program that was started by the Panthers as their free breakfast program and has carried on to this day. Anyways, brag, brag, blah, blah.

So I get to work and I need to call my boss, who is also a very good old friend, because there is network issues. He remembers and asks about the food giveaway which is cool and I tell him blah blah it went really well. And then he’s like, “hey, if no one tells you, I’m very proud of what you do for the community” and I’m like “hold on hold on. Just realize that everything I do is to further the replacing of the state and destroying western civilization and any remnants of it for future generations.” He says “I know and love that. Carry on.”

Ronnie James

I was fascinated with this work. Not only the projects themselves, but how the Mutual Aid model was used. One of the key aspects of Mutual Aid is working to ensure a horizontal or flat hierarchy, where each person has a voice, is maintained. As opposed to the vertical hierarchies that organize the vast majority of organizations. If there is no vertical hierarchy, there can be no superiority.

There are significantly increasing tensions now between the Wet’suwet’en peoples and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. All signs indicate another invasion of the Wet’suwet’en territory by the RCMP. The Wet’suwet’en people are asking for our support now. (CGL is Coastal GasLink pipeline).

Gidimt’en Occupation of CGL Drill Site Continues! Callout for Week of Action 10/9-10/15

Cas Yikh of the Gidimt’en Clan are counting on supporters to go ALL OUT in a mobilization for the biggest battle yet to protect our sacred headwaters, Wedzin Kwa. We have remained steadfast in our fight for self-determination, and we are still unceded, undefeated, sovereign and victorious.

We are humbled by the power of our allies, friends and supporters. We have love, respect, and gratitude for those that stood their ground beside us on the yintah to defend Wedzin Kwa. We vow to reciprocate the solidarity from everyone that followed, all our allies/relatives and supporters that put their feet in the street defending Indigenous sovereignty.

Now, we need you to rise up again.

October 9th-15th 2021, go #AllOutForWedzinKwa.

Learning of these new tensions, I thought we should have another vigil in support of the Wet’suwet’en. I know Ronnie is extremely busy now, but I asked him whether those of us who gather every Saturday morning for the Mutual Aid food project might show public support, as he and I did in early 2020.

He agreed he was busy, but he would meet to support the Wet’suwet’en peoples again if I was willing to organize it. He said I could ask the others at the food project if they would be interested.

This is an example of how Mutual Aid works. Without a vertical hierarchy, there wasn’t a ‘leader’ who needed to approve such a gathering. It was up to me to organize and invite others.

When I arrived at Mutual Aid yesterday morning, Ronnie asked if I had brought the Wet’suwet’en signs that we had made for the 2020 vigil, and I had. Then as distributing the food was winding down, he suggested I tell the others about the Wet’suwet’en and invite those willing to stay so we could get a photo showing our support. Again, he didn’t tell me what to do, but offered the suggestion. So, I announced the photo shoot and asked anyone interested to stay for that. I was grateful to those who did.

My friends avoid photos because their activism sometimes brings police attention. As usually happens, activists are involved in many different issues. There were arrests last year during the unrest related to George Floyd and police violence. But we have not stopped having our own mask mandate, so that worked out well for the photos.

I brought poster boards and markers because Jack, five years old, nearly always comes to the food project with his mother. And is the life of the party! I know he really likes to draw. So I ask Jack (and his mother) if he wanted to make a sign, which you can see on the far right in the photos.

This is the completion of a circle that began with signs and meeting Ronnie in early 2020, and comes around to using the same signs, with Ronnie and others, yesterday. With a lot of work in between. I believe we will continue to move along the circle.


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