Students teaching students

Yesterday I saw the great presentation, Online Pushback:UnBan Anti-Racism Education in Iowa, a forum by Indigenous youth of the Great Plains Action Society related to Iowa’s ban on teaching Critical Race Theory or Anti-Racism Education (video below).

Indigenous Youth Organizers, Alexandrea Walker and Keely Driscoll, have started a youth-led movement to demand that the current Iowa Administration unban Anti-Racism Education, aka, Critical Race Theory. For the sake of health and safety for all, it is imperative that Kim Reynolds reverse the overtly white supremacist decision to ban anti-racism education plus diversity, equity, and inclusion programming in the classroom and in all state-funded institutions

At the 12:15 mark in the video above, my friend Sikowis Nobiss introduces her son Alden who is in sixth grade. With the ban against teachers teaching about anti-racism, he spoke about his idea of students teaching each other as an alternative.

Sikowis: Hello everybody. I am here with my son today and his name is Alden and he’s in sixth grade. And he’s being affected by the ban on critical race theory or as we like to call it anti-racism education, decolonization work, diversity equity inclusion. Those are better terms for it because critical race theory is a term that they’re using to manipulate the situation, to make it sound like it’s critical, you know that it’s being like overtly hard on something when really it means how like you know analyzing something specifically or properly.
So, Alden is in grade six and you know he’s got some interesting thoughts about this, and I wanted to ask him like what does he think, what do you think about the ban on critical race theory?
Alden: It’s not that good.
Sikowis: How come?
Alden: I mean people should know that what happened in the past or else the history is just going to repeat itself. Just the same thing that happens over and over right? Seems like it isn’t going to stop if people don’t take action and more people like Reynolds is going to ban stuff.
Sikowis: And you had an interesting idea, you had said that teachers can’t teach critical race theory right? But students can. Can you tell us more about that?
Alden: The governor only said that teachers couldn’t say stuff like that and they couldn’t teach stuff like that, but that doesn’t mean schools can’t just be used to teach inside like only teachers.
Sikowis: So, who would teach like you want?
Alden: Kids to teach each other. Yeah the more educated kids that are like me I guess that know about what happened in the past.
Sikowis: Very good thank you so much Alden. We appreciate you making those remarks. That took a lot of bravery for him. I’m very proud of that.
I hope you guys could hear that. He basically thinks that if teachers can’t teach critical race theory then why can’t students do it? So that’s his idea. He thinks that students can teach each other in their spare time. During recess during, lunch time and that’s something that he’s going to try to do. So, we have a book that he’s going to share called 500 Years After Columbus, which is a curriculum guide for teaching better indigenous studies for k-12. So, he’s already taking a look at that.

Just as the final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls triggered shock waves across the country, bringing conversations about violence against Indigenous people into the classroom, so did the discovery of 215 children’s remains at the Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this year.

As the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation approaches, we can expect Canadian teachers are thinking about how they can better weave Indigenous perspectives into their lesson planning.

In the past, events like this rarely made it as national news, staying inside our Indigenous communities where the pain remained hidden from the rest of Canada. Now, teachers are talking about them with their students — how history and society influence individual situations of race-motivated violence and cultural genocide. It’s our responsibility to make sure they are equipped to teach the truth and acknowledge the important role schools play in reconciliation.

We owe it to all students to bring truth and drive reconciliation in classrooms by Linda Isaac & John Estabillo, National Observer, September 16th, 2021.

For specific teachings on Indian Boarding Schools and the United States assimilation policies—a history educators say is central in contextualizing present day culture for Native and non-Native youth alike— statistics are even bleeker.

“Over the course of the last couple of years, we’ve identified five states—only five states— that have even mentioned Indian boarding schools in their content in their state content standards, which is unimaginable,” said Sam Torres, director of research and programs at The Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. Those states, surveyed by NABSHC in 2015, are: Arizona, Washington, Kansas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota. 

“It’s obviously a representation and reflection of what is being valued in educational and curricular context,” Torres said. 

For its part, NABSHC—an organization that has been at the helm of increasing public awareness on boarding schools since its founding nearly a decade ago—in 2020 released its first ever Truth and Healing Curriculum. The curriculum, available for free online, is made up of four lessons on Indian Boarding Schools focusing on history, impacts, stories, and healing.

The vast majority of Americans don’t learn about Indian boarding schools growing up. These Native leaders and educators want to change that by JENNA KUNZE, Native News Online, SEPTEMBER 13, 2021

We owe it to Indigenous educators who are triggered and challenged to deliver education around a topic like residential schools that have impacted them. Educators like me, who when viewing the images of children with their plain clothes, short hair, and empty eyes — identities stripped — still struggle to separate the pain we hold from lesson planning.

We also owe it to non-Indigenous educators who lack confidence in teaching because they weren’t taught the truth about the atrocities of the residential school system. This is a significant blocker to the successful integration of truth-telling in our classrooms, which can be solved by supporting educators in their journey of learning.

We must ensure the materials passed down to educators are written accurately by authentic voices. We need ongoing government funding and access to professional learning programs. Alberta is one province that does this well. Its Teacher Qualifications Standard requires educators to take courses in foundational knowledge of Indigenous history.

We owe it to all students to bring truth and drive reconciliation in classrooms by Linda Isaac & John Estabillo, National Observer, September 16th, 2021.

Unban Anti-racism Education in Iowa

The Great Plains Action Society youth organizers and experts across Iowa weigh in on white supremacy and the ban on Critical Race Theory. The bans on Critical Race Theory across the country are one of many examples of efforts to whitewash the truth.

Online Pushback: UnBan Anti-Racism Education in Iowa
May be an image of 2 people and text that says 'ONLINE PUSHBACK FORUM UNBAN ANTI-RACISM EDUCATION IN IOWA Hosted by Great Plains Action Society Youth Organizers Alexandrea Walker, Ho-Chunk Keely Driscoll, Meskwaki Youth and experts across lowa weigh in on white supremacy and the ban on Critical Race Theory September 15, 2021 @ 6:30 PM CST @'

YouTube Link

The Truth Will Not Be Whitewashed!

Indigenous Youth Organizers, Alexandrea Walker and Keely Driscoll, have started a youth-led movement to demand that the current Iowa Administration unban Anti-Racism Education, aka, Critical Race Theory. For the sake of health and safety for all, it is imperative that Kim Reynolds reverse the overtly white supremacist decision to ban anti-racism education plus diversity, equity, and inclusion programming in the classroom and in all state-funded institutions. Join Alex and Keely as they host a forum for youth and experts throughout Iowa to weigh in on this pressing issue. Guests TBA.

The Truth Will Not Be Whitewashed is a campaign founded by Great Plains Action Society and Humanize My Hoodie. We encourage others to join this effort. Please contact us if you are interested in joining our growing coalition.

Great Plains Action Society (You can send a message from this link)

This reminds me of the work of Lynne Howard and Des Moines Valley Friends’ (Quakers) to get draft counseling into the Des Moines public schools in 1970. They were successful! Resisting draft counseling was an effort to whitewash the truth about participating in the military.



We believe that all young men in the Des Moines Public High Schools should have access to adequate counseling by qualified counselors in regard to the Selective Service and its alternatives.  Qualified counselors are those persons who:

  1. Have received special draft counseling training
  2. Have a detailed knowledge and experience of the Selective Service Law and the administration thereof
  3. Are sensitive to the moral and spiritual implication of war and peace and individual conscience
  4. Have knowledge of where to refer students if they want counseling on a specific aspect of the Selective Service alternatives and options

We further believe that such counseling should be made available during school hours, similar to other available guidance counseling.


There in light of the above purpose we recommend that one of the following plans be used to implement this counseling program:

  1. That each high school in Des Moines provide adequate training of all guidance counselors in order that they be familiar with the Selective Service Law and its alternatives
  2. That each high school select one guidance counselor who would be specially trained (see above) to counsel and answer questions concerning the draft and its alternatives.  Other guidance counselors in the school could refer their students to this specially trained counselor, if this type of counseling is needed
  3. That each trained counselor would refer persons who need more intensive and specific counseling to appropriate groups.  (Particular religious groups, various branches of the Service, etc.)

The Peace Testimony Remains by Lynne Howard. September 15, 1970

What You Get into Will Change You

Recently a series of things happened that provoked some reflection. I saw the quote, “what you get into will change you. Sometimes in life you just don’t know what you’re getting into”, which prompted me to write the following.

A lot happened to me since retiring and returning to Iowa four years ago. I hadn’t given a lot of thought to what would happen when I returned to Iowa. I had stayed connected with Iowa Quakers and involved with them as much as I could from a distance. So, there were already some relationships to build on.

In Indianapolis I was blessed to have made many friends as we worked to protect water and oppose the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. I was also most fortunate to become involved with the Kheprw Institute (KI), a youth mentoring and empowerment community. And North Meadow Circle of Friends Quaker meeting. It was hard to leave but I stay in touch.

What follows are stories of my justice experiences since returning to Iowa. They are offered in case they might be helpful for you and your own work.

I’m frustrated more people don’t engage in justice work. Why are we here if not to grow and engage with family and our communities? Most people either don’t know how to engage or don’t want to. I’m frustrated because there is so much work to be done. We are experiencing environmental catastrophes that will only worsen and occur more frequently. We need masses of people to prepare now for the evolving chaos.

Also, these experiences will be good for you. I know from experience “what you get into will change you”.

It is important to recognize “sometimes in life you just don’t know what you’re getting into.” Those can be times of great opportunity. I encourage you to get involved in opportunities like this, as long as doing so is relevant to what you are called to do.

What you get into will change you. Sometimes in life you just don’t know what you’re getting into.

Phyllis Cole-Dai

The most important step is to figure out what you should do. There are so many problems. Many people get burned out by trying to do too many things. People of faith rely on faith to help us figure this out. Keep what you are led to do in mind. You must be vigilant as you look for opportunities to get involved with justice work. And just as vigilant to decline to get involved in things not related to what you are called to do. Maintaining this focus is crucial for success.

First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity

I had long wanted to get to know some Indigenous people for numerous reasons, such as spirituality and sustainable living. Fortunately, an ideal opportunity to do so was to walk and camp along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline with a small group of native and nonnative people. The intention was for those in the group to get to know each other as we walked 10-15 miles/day, put up our tents, and have meals together.

During the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March (Sept. 1 – 8, 2018) Manape said we were on a sacred journey. During the March, Donnielle said we are a tribe. This morning I’m realizing the following stories about the past are part of my sacred journey. Also thinking of the many new friends found as part of this journey. I’m thinking how much I would have missed if I didn’t recognize and take advantage of this amazing opportunity.


Last Saturday morning began by watching a new video (see below) from the Wet’suwet’en people in British Columbia. Gidimt’en Checkpoint spokesperson Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham) and Elder Janet Williams found a film crew trespassing on Gidimt’en territory, making a commercial to promote Coastal Gaslink’s plans to tunnel beneath the sacred headwaters.

I first learned about the Wet’suwet’en’s struggles in January, 2020, when I saw a remarkable video of Sleydo’ evicting the Coastal GasLink workers from Wet’suwet’en territory. “All CGL workers have now been peacefully evicted from Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en territories. Under the authority of Anuk nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law), and with support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs of all five clans, the Wet’suwet’en are standing up for the last of our lands and we need you to stand with us. We will honour the instructions of our ancestors, and continue to protect our lands from trespassers.”

I began to follow what was happening with the Wet’suwet’en, especially when they started asking people to write about what was happening, since the mainstream media was not. A few of us, who had worked together on some Indigenous related events, organized a vigil in support of the Wet’suwet’en:

We didn’t expect anyone to join us. Fortunately, Ronnie James did. In the photo are Peter Clay, Linda Lemons and Ronnie James. Ronnie is an Indigenous organizer with many years of experience and interested to see who organized and attended our vigil. After he left, I realized I didn’t have a way to contact him. Fortunately, he accepted my Facebook Friend request. We began to have numerous conversations (via social media), where he patiently taught me a great deal about organizing, Indigenous thought, and Mutual Aid. (See:

Peter Clay, Linda Lemons and Ronnie James
Mutual Aid

Meeting and becoming great fiends with Ronnie changed the course of my life. I eventually joined the work of Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA). Every Saturday morning, I participate in the free food distribution program. About a dozen of us put together sixty boxes of food, that we then put in the cars of those who need it. It is amazing this food distribution has been in existence in Des Moines since the Black Panthers organized the free breakfast program for school kids in the 1970’s.

Putting together the boxes of food, we move as a well-oiled machine. There is a little visiting as we pass each other when putting the food into boxes. I learn a lot about the justice work people are doing in central Iowa, since my Mutual Aid friends are also involved in many such projects.

Saturday there was a lull while waiting for another food delivery that provided a chance to talk with Ronnie. I mentioned the story below about the continued oppression of the Wet’suwet’en peoples and reminded him that we had met at the vigil for the Wet’suwet’en mentioned above. I told him that was something he taught me about organizing. Going to justice events to meet people. I said I wouldn’t have known about Mutual Aid if not for him attending that Wet’suwet’en vigil. He replied I probably would have learned about Mutual Aid because it had been in the news a lot recently.

Ronnie mentioned that was the first time he had been at Friends House, where the Wet’suwet’en vigil was held. Des Moines Mutual Aid has its offices in Friends House now. I had just spoken with Jon Krieg who works with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), whose offices had been in Friends House. Recently AFSC had moved out and Jon mentioned he missed visiting with Ronnie.

Des Moines Valley Friends meeting, which meets in a meetinghouse attached to Friends House, has been allowing another Mutual Aid group to use their kitchen to cook meals that are taken to the houseless camps.

Another set of connections relates to the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS), founded by my friend Christine Nobiss, who was also on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. Ronnie’s Mutual Aid work is supported by GPAS.

Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke

Saturday was also the day of the annual Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke ceremony, an annual event sponsored by the Dallas County Conservation Board. The ceremony is held in the Kuehn Conservation Area. My Quaker meeting, Bear Creek, has been involved with the ceremony for over ten years. A number of Friends attended.

While there, I was able to talk with my friend Rodger Routh, who grew up in the Earlham, Iowa (where Bear Creek meeting is) community. Rodger is a photographer/videographer and justice advocate, who is often at the same events I attend. Jon Krieg (AFSC, mentioned above) is also a photographer. It is common for the three of us to be at the justice related events.


One of the principles of justice work is to follow the leadership of the communities affected by injustice. In Indianapolis, the Kheprw Institute would let us (Quakers in this case) know what we could do for them.

Recently I had a chance to ask Christine how nonnative people could best support her and her work now. She told me to learn and teach others about the concepts of LANDBACK. So, I created a website named LANDBACK Friends, where I’ve been sharing what I am learning about LANDBACK.

Maintaining connections

As the completion of a circle, I was so glad to be contacted by my friends at the Kheprw Institute (KI) in Indianapolis. Aghilah contacted me because KI is interested to learn more about LANDBACK. Evidently, they have been following my blog since I left Indianapolis and reading what I’ve been writing about LANDBACK.

Quakers for Abolition Network

My blog also made it possible for one of my new friends, Jed Walsh, to contact me about the work he and Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge are doing related to abolition of police and prisons. I wrote a little in their article that was just published by the Western Friend,


We are moving more deeply into collapse. Fueled by the consequences of environmental chaos, our economic and political systems are failing. We must work now to build ways to deal with this collapse. I’ve been working on this diagram to illustrate how people are building such systems. It is important to build Mutual Aid communities. And embrace the principles of LANDBACK. “What you get into will change you”.

This document has a lot more information about Quakers, the Wet’suwet’en peoples, and LANDBACK. Scroll down to move through the document.


Civilian Climate Corps and Mutual Aid

Senate Democrats have included a Civilian Climate Corp in the reconciliation bill currently being debated. Yesterday’s article was an introduction to the idea of a Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) and included a link for you to send letters to your representatives asking them to vote for it.

I’m really excited about the possibility of a CCC because that could be the final piece for a plan to address many social ills and make real progress to mitigate the environmental chaos that will continue and worsen. I’ve updated this diagram to include how a CCC could fit in.

I’ve been working with Des Moines Mutual Aid for over a year, which has taught me a great deal by seeing this concept in action.

Mutual Aid works because Mutual Aid groups are made up of the people living in the neighborhood. Mutual Aid results in people getting to know and trust each other because it is about action, not meetings and plans for the future. And the work is to address the needs of the community, like food and shelter. Those involved get the satisfaction of making change happen immediately.

Mutual Aid should be integrated into the Civilian Climate Corps idea!

Key to the success of Mutual Aid is working to maintain a horizontal hierarchy, where everyone has a voice. Attention is paid to avoid vertical hierarchy from forming. Everyone is treated with respect, because we know circumstances might change where we need the help of Mutual Aid ourselves.

Because of these experiences, I wanted to find ways for Mutual Aid to be embraced by more communities. We need vast numbers of people to join in this work.

But how? Just talking to people doesn’t really demonstrate how Mutual Aid works.

Mutual Aid should be integrated into the Civilian Climate Corps idea!

That is how colonial capitalism can be replaced. That is how we can rapidly transition from fossil fuels. That is how we can rebuild caring communities.

Civilian Climate Corps

There are so many reasons why a Civilian Climate Corps is important now. Millions of people, especially young people, are looking for meaningful work. And there is such a huge amount of work to be done. We routinely see images of the catastrophic damages from the wildfires in the West, and the hurricane and rains in the East.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see thousands of people deployed to disaster sites? Thousands of caregivers for childcare or to be there for senior citizens? To help in school classrooms. To coach sports teams. To raise healthy foods locally. To restore healthy soil and water. To build and repair housing. To build renewable energy infrastructure. To teach people how to pursue their interests, such as various forms of art.

I’m glad Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) is working to support a Civilian Climate Corps (CCC). You can use the link below to send a letter supporting CCC to your Congressional representatives.

Inspired by the ambition and impact of the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps, a modern CCC will gainfully employ residents to confront the interlocking crises of climate change, environmental and racial injustice, and economic inequality. Doing work for the public good such as:

  • Retrofitting homes for energy efficiency, clean electrification, and climate resilience
  • Restoring native wetlands, prairie, and sustainable farming practices with Indigenous leadership to keep our water clean and soil rich
  • Collaborating with local governments to develop climate action plans and distributing aid in the wake of climate disasters

Corps members should be paid a living wage, receive healthcare and childcare support, and pre-apprenticeship training or full tuition reimbursement for stable careers in the clean economy.

Senate Democrats have included a Civilian Climate Corp in the reconciliation bill currently being debated. We need to step to ensure it is big enough to meet the scale of the crisis we face and that it prioritizes BIPOC folx who were cut out from the original New Deal.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI)
We need a fully funded CCC (Civilian Climate Corps)

Climate change and the actions the government takes to address it are a key concern for the vast majority of young voters, who are set to take on more of the burden of dealing with increasingly extreme weather caused or exacerbated by human industrial activity.

Voters aged 18 to 29 are much more likely than older voters to list tackling the climate crisis as one of their top two priorities, according to Abacus Data polling released last week. Those who voted for the Green Party in 2019 and residents of Quebec and British Columbia also rate climate change as a particularly pivotal issue.

“One thing that we’ve heard from young Canadians that they want to see and that we haven’t heard lots of parties talk about yet is green jobs,” said Camellia Wong, a spokesperson for Future Majority, a nonpartisan group of young people pushing for politicians to take more notice of their concerns.

She said that a robust green jobs program would help address two major issues facing the younger generation: the climate crisis and the precarity of work.

NDP promises to double transit funding; youth want green jobs by Morgan Sharp, National Observer, September 8th 2021

Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke 2021

This year’s Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke ceremony will be held Saturday, 9/11/2021 at the Kuehn Conservation Area (map below) from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm.

Last year’s ceremony was not held in person because of the COVID pandemic. The following was written about the 2020 virtual event.

Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke 2020

Yesterday my Quaker Meeting, Bear Creek Friends of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), discussed the meeting’s long history of connection with Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke. This ceremony is held annually at the Kuehn Conservation Area, just a few miles from the meetinghouse in rural Iowa.

This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Prairie Awakening ceremony occurred virtually, with a series of videos. The following table has links to those and other videos related to Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke, most done by my friend Rodger Routh with Chris Adkins, Dallas County Conservation’s environmental education coordinator and longtime organizer of the event, narrating.

YearTitleVideo linkDuration
2008Hope dance taught to children Dallas County Prairie Awakening5:15
2008Celebrating the land Prairie Awakening Celebrating the Land5:27
2009Owl release Prairie Awakening Owl Release Sept 20091:25
2010Hoop Dance Prairie Awakening Dallas Chief Eagle and Jasmine Pickner9:21
2015Monarch release
2015Bonfire Prairie Awakening Bonfire Sept. 12, 20150:48
2017BonfirePrairie Awakening 
2017Prairie Wakening/Prairie Awoke  Slideshow Jeff Kisling
2018Remembering our land. Honoring Elders Prairie Awakening, Prairie Awoke: Kuehn Conservation Area6:02
2020Prairie Wakening/Prairie Awoke Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke 20208:33
2020Irma Wilson White Prayer Ties DemonstrationIrma Wilson White Prayer Ties Demonstration8:09
2020Chris Adkins  Monarch taggingMonarch Tagging4:46

Having lived my adult life in Indianapolis, September 2017 was the first opportunity to attend. I had just retired to Iowa and was hoping to build up enough stamina to continue to live without a car, as I had done for about 40 years in Indianapolis.

I used the opportunity of traveling to the Prairie Awakening ceremony as a test. It is forty miles from home in Indianola to Bear Creek meeting. It is also about forty miles from the Iowa state Capitol building to Bear Creek Meeting. My bicycle and I were dropped off at the Capitol building in Des Moines, where I participated in a climate action on September 9, 2017.

Then I began the journey of bicycling from the Capitol to Bear Creek meeting. I hadn’t ridden that far, nor had I traveled that bike path before, so this was a test of my vision.

I did finally arrive at the Bear Creek meetinghouse that evening, around 5 pm, pretty much exhausted. There was one gigantic hill to climb near the end that practically had me crying. Well OK, I did cry. I was so grateful that Jackie Leckband had left water and food at the cottage next to the meetinghouse where I spent the night.

The next evening a few Bear Creek friends gathered to talk about native affairs. I showed some videos of Nahko Bear speaking and performing.

The following day, after meeting for worship, I attended my first Prairie Awakening ceremony and it was wonderful.

This blog post is a reflection on that journey.

Unfortunately last year when we were gathered at Kuehn, just as the ceremony was about to begin, a big thunderstorm rained us out.

This year because of the pandemic, several videos were produced for a virtual ceremony. One of the things we did at yesterday morning’s pre meeting via Zoom was to watch and comment about those videos.

I’ve written a lot about why I have been led to make connections with native people, many of whom are now friends. The most recent post about this is Stranger in a Strange Land.

The years of Bear Creek Friend’s work with Prairie Awakening provides us with an excellent foundation to continue to build relationships with Native Peoples. Other ways we’ve built connections have been Paula Palmer’s workshops, “Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples”, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) panel discussion “Building Bridges with Native Peoples”, some Friends participating on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, support of the Wet’suwet’en Peoples efforts to stop construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in British Columbia, and with Decolonizing Quakers.

Other blog posts I’ve written about this in the past can be found here:

This is a slideshow of photos I took at the 2017 Prairie Awakening.

First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March Anniversary

My grandmother, Lorene Standing, said the will of God is often revealed in a series of small steps. I thought that meant a series of spiritual messages and that has been my experience.

But also, looking back over our lives, the series of actions we took, the decisions we made, map the path traveled. Spiritual guidance can help us stay on the path, might tell us what action to take. Each step gives us experience needed to continue on the path. We stray from the path at times. But learn by making mistakes.

This is the third anniversary of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March (described below). When I learned about the March, I immediately felt a leading from the Creator this was something I should do. The experiences during the March were transformational for me.

The Spirit was important in numerous ways. One of the reasons I wanted to join the March was to learn more about Indigenous spirituality, and I did.

The article below describes how my Quaker community supported us spiritually during the March.

The Spirit created the opportunity for me to talk with my new friend, Matthew Lone Bear, about Quaker involvement with the native residential schools. And for him to share a story of the impact of those schools on his own family. (These stories are found on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March website )

Our experiences on the March have made it possible for us, native and nonnative people, to work together in many ways since.

Here is a link to the First Nation-Farmer website, where there are many stories, photos and videos from the March. And a link to the website LANDBACKFriends which is about work going on now related to the concepts of LANDBACK.

First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March

These are perilous times. Ferocious wildfires, melting glaciers and permafrost, severe drought, and devastating storms show rapidly evolving environmental chaos. Political, economic and social systems are breaking down.

There is also hope as we work together to address these challenges. Mutual Aid works because it is based upon people working and being together in their local communities, solving local problems. And LANDBACK is a framework for Indigenous peoples to teach us how to work to repair our relationships with Mother Earth and each other. It is because of the friendships that formed during the March that many of us are working together on Mutual Aid and LANDBACK.

Following is an article, written shortly after the March, published in On Creation, the publication of Quaker Earthcare Witness. The article is no longer online.

Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Friends Peter Clay and I recently walked on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. A group of about thirty that included nearly a dozen Native Americans walked 94 miles along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline from September 1 – 8, 2018. One of the goals of the March was to bring attention to a case before the Iowa Supreme Court about the improper use of eminent domain to force Iowa farmers to allow construction of the pipeline on their land.

After walking between 9 and 15 miles, most evenings a community forum was held to discuss topics such as farming practices, or the consequences of the pipeline construction. One evening my Scattergood Friends School classmate Lee Tesdell discussed some of his progressive farming practices. Christine Nobiss discussed ways Native farming practices are better for the earth and water. This was an example of how this March helped us come together. As Manape LaMere, one of the headsmen from Standing Rock said, the purpose of the March was to make it possible for us to work together in the future. To do so, we needed to trust each other, and to trust each other we needed to understand each other.

During this March, Quakers in my local meeting, Bear Creek, often sent email messages of encouragement, and held us in their prayers. One of my Quaker friends, Liz Oppenheimer, invited people to offer spiritual support for our March in a couple of ways. One was via a telephone conference call every morning we were marching, from 8:30 to 9:00 am.

The other way Liz created for others to support us was by creating a Facebook group called “Meeting for Worship: Iowa’s Climate Unity March”. Following are a few of the messages shared on that Facebook page:

I see that Jeff has posted some of his recent writing about the march and its issues. My request is that we return to Jeff’s initial questions— sharing our reactions to the idea behind this march, as well as to the issues of pipelines, indigenous rights, misuse of eminent domain, etc.

As we share our own wonderings, questions, and struggle, I hope we can better accompany Jeff, Peter Clay, and other marchers.

George Fox suggested to us that if we answer that of god in others that we can then walk cheerfully over the earth. As I think about Jeff and Peter and the new sisters and brothers they will meet as they march, I realize that this sentiment works the other way also. As they walk over the earth they will then be able to answer to that of god in others.

This morning on the conference call for worship, we heard a vocal prayer of gratitude to Peter Clay, Jeff Kisling, and the other marchers and organizers of the march. We also heard the joyous hymn “Trees of the Field.”

After other Friends had left the call, and literally as my finger was about to hit the Hang Up button on my phone just past 9:00 am, another Friend joined the call. It was Jeff!!

He wants us to know that the marchers and organizers know we are holding them all in prayer and they are very appreciative of our support in this way. When I replied “It’s such a small thing we do,” Jeff reminded me “No, no it’s not.”

We are so blessed to be connected this way, no matter what form our march and our journey takes. And to those of you who are carving out time each day to hold the Climate Unity March in prayer, regardless of when, where, or how, all of us thank you.

Each morning of the March we gathered in a circle to hear about the day’s route and address any questions. The first morning I shared this Quaker support with my fellow marchers during our circle gathering, who expressed appreciation for this.

Some of the most powerful experiences I had during the March were times when prayers were offered. We stopped for prayers every time we crossed the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. I was honored to be given the opportunity to give prayers at the pipeline crossing just before we reached Pilot Mound. I briefly described Quaker worship, then our circle, holding hands, worshiped in silence for a while.

20 Years of Endless War: Special Silent Reflection

The pandemic resulted in many people, including Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) staff, remaining home. So, FCNL invited people to attend weekly Quaker meetings for worship via Zoom, called Witness Wednesday Silent Reflection. There are a number of regular attenders, who often speak of how meaningful these meetings have been in these times. This Wednesday there will be a special silent reflection on 20 years of endless war, that anyone is welcome to attend. We will reflect on affirming our fervent hope that endless war will be no more. Signup to receive the Zoom link here:

20 Years of Endless War: Special Silent Reflection
District of Columbia
Wednesday, September 8, 5:15 PM Eastern

As we mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and the unfolding humanitarian crisis and violence in Afghanistan today, join General Secretary Diane Randall for a time of reflection.

Take a moment to reflect in keeping with the Quaker practice of silent worship. Join us virtually on Zoom or by phone in affirming our fervent hope that endless war will be no more.

War has never been the answer to the world’s most pressing problems—including terrorism. Military solutions and large-scale violence cannot lead to sustainable peace. Instead, they only make the problem worse by spawning new terrorist groups and setting off cycles of retribution.

Only through the careful, patient work of peacebuilding with local human rights and civil society leaders which includes women, and through diplomacy by regional and international stakeholders can we reach just and durable solutions to the root causes of violence.

As we grieve these deaths and the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, we hold the people of Afghanistan in the Light in the days and months ahead.  We affirm our opposition to war and violence and to the ensuing destruction and chaos.

Today, it is our fervent hope that endless war will be no more.

Two Decades of War by Diane Randall, General Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation, September 1, 2021

War is not the Answer
Midcoast Friends Meeting with WINA sign

It was post-9/11, and Friends in Atlanta Friends Meeting wanted to publicly witness against war. Friends listened to their hearts’ stirrings during business meeting, and “War is Not the Answer” became the Meeting’s new yard sign.

These words were taken from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, delivered April 4, 1967 at the Riverside Church in New York.

War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not engage in a negative anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born.

Martin Luther King Jr., Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

The message – War is Not the Answer – and the signs went viral. FCNL and Friends saw the potency and popularity of the message grew and spread, and the rest is history. With the increasing prospect for an endless war with Iran, War is Not the Answer, has become more relevant.

Friends and other people of faith act when they see broken systems. As we stand on the precipice of another war, Friends are mobilizing across the country to demand Congress halt the spiral into all-out war.

FCNL has distributed more than 2,000,000 “War is Not the Answer” bumper stickers and yard signs since 2002. Demands for the sign are increasing so we are making it available free online for you to download and print. If you’d like to purchase a lawn sign or bumper sticker, you can do so here.

War is Not the Answer. MLK’s Words Endure as an Anti-War Sign

Militarism and LANDBACK

What triggered this blog post was learning Congress is working to require women to register for the Selective Service System (“draft”). Men have been required to do so for decades.

As I began to write about that, I had to decide whether to post this article on my blog Quakers, social justice and revolution where it would fit with what that blog is about.

Or whether it might fit with the posts on this blog that I recently started about LANDBACK. I’ve been learning about LANDBACK, and wonder how militarism fits into this idea.
(For an introduction to LANDBACK see:

LANDBACK is about breaking away from white supremacy, the capitalist economic system and the structures that enforce them. So I updated this diagram I’ve been working on to add the military to the justice, police and prison systems that enforce colonial/corporate capitalism.

A growing number of us are working for the abolition of police and prisons. The military enforces white supremacy and capitalism beyond our borders. Thus, I think, abolition of the military, military bases and the use of weaponized drones could be considered part of LANDBACK.

Thinking about LANDBACK as an antiwar framework is intriguing. Mutual Aid is part of the LANDBACK idea. I was very interested to learn Des Moines Mutual Aid’s first public appearance was at an antiwar march:

One year ago today (2020) Des Moines Mutual Aid participated in a march protesting the potential for war or increased hostilities with Iran that followed the fallout of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani by drone strike in Baghdad.

Ronnie James

The immediate collapse of the Afghan government when U.S. troops left Afghanistan after twenty years of war has a great many of people wondering about militarism and war.

Most Quakers, such as myself, have opposed the draft in many ways, for many years. The issue resulted in a group of Quakers leaving the country called the United States and establishing a thriving community in Costa Rica, a country that does not even have a military. Numerous Quaker men either registered as conscientious objectors, or refused to cooperate with the Selective Service System. Some were sentenced to prison. This is a link to stories about Quaker men and the miltary: Young Quaker Men Face War and Conscription.

Senators on the Armed Services Committee recently approved a revision to military draft laws that would require women to register for the Selective Service System (SSS).

Proponents of the measure, which was included as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), see it as a matter of gender equality. This argument misses the point: Congress should be focused on abolishing the draft entirely, not expanding it.

As laid out in a coalition letter we supported to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, this legislation “does not represent a move forward for women; it represents a move backward, imposing on young women a burden that young men have had to bear unjustly for decades – a burden that no young person should have to bear at all.”

Congress Should Abolish the Selective Service System, Not Expand It by Alex Frandsen, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), August 12, 2021

Mutual Aid and Hurricane Ida

It is difficult to not feel discouraged and helpless in the face of devastation from Hurricane Ida, severe drought and ferocious wildfires in the West, Coronavirus pandemic, mass incarceration, domestic terrorism, and subversion of our political and judicial systems. Clearly environmental chaos is rapidly evolving and these disasters will continue to grow in frequency and extent.

Cause for hope are mutual aid responses to Ida’s damage. “This is how we’ll forge the good, just and beloved community,” Akuno says. “We’ve got to organize that into existence.”

(Kali) Akuno explained that he advocates for rational and democratic planning, decision making and resource sharing, in opposition to the laissez-faire approach of governments, which basically say, “Y’all have to fend for yourselves and good luck.” Mobilizing people and helping them gain the political confidence to demand better systems takes time and relationship-building, Akuno says, and in his decades-long experience as a community organizer he has come to know of an essential first step: “It’s important for people to know that there are other people who actually give a shit. You have to show them that you do.”

On Thursday, a van full of Cooperation Jackson’s members will embark on a mutual aid effort to distribute generators, solar-powered device chargers, potable water and canned food to people in Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi, as well as in New Orleans.

In addition to meeting people’s immediate needs, the group is delivering a message: It doesn’t have to be this way. Activists are communicating that in order to make sure that the rebuild is controlled on the ground as much as possible, it’s essential to build relationships, stay in touch and let each other know how we can support each other as we move through this crisis. They’re also emphasizing that mutual aid efforts can be paired with fights against the powerful systems that are hard to overcome, but that must be overcome.

“This is how we’ll forge the good, just and beloved community,” Akuno says. “We’ve got to organize that into existence. [Global] warming is already beating most of the models. We weren’t supposed to be at this point for another 20-25 years, but we’re already here. We have to come up with a survival plan based on what people think it will take, and what they’re willing to do.”

To that end, the petition, which integrates the United Nations principles for Internally Displaced People (IDPs), sets forth demands and guiding principles meant to be a moral compass to make sure that sweeping changes aren’t enacted without the people’s voice being central to the process. The petition asks for a plan of return: “If you’re going to evacuate people, how are they going to get home?” Bradberry asks. It further demands that any evacuation plan must adhere to the UN’s guidance for IDPs — for example, people must be evacuated as close to home as possible and families must not be separated.

Louisiana Activists Mobilize to Prevent “Shock Doctrine” Policies in Wake of Ida by Frances Madeson, Truthout, Sept 2, 2021

Organizers and activists in Louisiana and Mississippi are regionally coordinating their relief response in the wake of Hurricane Ida, and linking the immediate survival needs of people with a coherent set of political demands expressed in a petition to lawmakers including President Biden, calling for a humanitarian approach to evacuation and evacuees. Both initiatives draw on lessons learned from past disasters like Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Hurricane Ida has been another devastating blow to the New Orleans region and we would like to make sure that a just and equitable recovery is implemented. In the rush for basic needs, there are many important things that can get overlooked in the rush. We must TAKE ACTION NOW to ensure that the recovery efforts support the people in the region.

There are many organizations in Louisiana that were developed due to the failure of the government to act during Katrina. It is our goal to facilitate collaborative efforts and not attempt to override or minimize them.

Here are some things that will get lost in the rush to help. But these are no less important than clothes, food, etc.

  • Utilize United Nations Human Rights Commission Regulations Governing Internally Displaced Persons: Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement
  • Establish a communications network for messaging in and out 
  • ***Establish a network for collection and disbursement of medication, Insulin, etc***
  • Engage the support of local, state & national organizations
  • Mandate alterations for Insurance Code & Conduct after the disaster to motivate assistance over bureaucratic delay
  • Enforce 1st source hiring
  • Enforce prevailing wages in recovery
  • Simplify the process for reimbursing churches and individuals housing evacuees
  • Pass Gulf Coast Civic Works like legislation to fund the rebuilding of coast following storm
  • Uphold universal voting rights – UN
  • Moratorium on rent, utilities, etc 
  • Evacuation, use models provided by National & International Allies
  • Evacuation response and procedures must be humanitarian and not militaristic
  • MUST include a plan for citizens to return – unlike Katrina plan
  • Evacuation must be in line with United Nations principles for IDP
  • People should be evacuated as close to home as possible
  • Must have access to participate in processes governing the recovery/return home
  • Establish governing rules to maintain families connections (no breaking up of families)

For more information contact:  Stephen Bradberry,
Stephen Bradberry is a founder of Bennu Advisory Group,, and is a New Orleans-based advocate and organizer. He is a recipient of the RFK Human Rights Award in recognition of his work in the Gulf Coast post-Katrina and Rita.

Louisiana Activists Mobilize to Prevent “Shock Doctrine” Policies in Wake of Ida by Frances Madeson, Truthout, Sept 2, 2021

Even as President Joe Biden and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards continue to send federal aid relief to the southeastern states, grassroots organizations have taken up the mantle to secure resources and offer localized help to those affected by the storm. As we’ve seen during the Covid-19 pandemic and in the wake of last year’s George Floyd protests, mutual aid groups and other local organizations are able to directly respond to the needs of their communities in times of crisis, thanks to volunteer efforts and donations. Here are just a few of those groups assisting in the relief efforts for Hurricane Ida.

This non-profit consortium of indigenous tribes in Louisiana has provided regular storm updates for Ida on their Facebook page and set up a Relief and Recovery Fund for local tribe members. Other tribal groups in the Delta area with Ida relief funds include the Point au Chien Tribe, United Houma Nation, Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, and the Atakapa Ishak Nation. A longer list and map of tribes who were affected by the hurricane, along with their individual aid efforts, can be found at Bvlbancha Public Access’s Ida Relief Doc.

Hurricane Ida: How to Help Louisiana, Other Areas Hit Hardest by the Storm. Mutual aid funds are helping communities in the southeast that were devastated by the storm — and they need our help by Claire Shaffer, Rolling Stone, Sept 2, 2021

This article discusses three groups using mutual aid for disaster response.

As climate change continues to produce more intense hurricane seasons, many communities have stopped relying on federal money, which is slow to arrive, and started looking to their neighbors for hurricane relief. Here are three groups using mutual aid as a tool for natural disaster response.

Hurricane Relief Through Mutual Aid. Three groups using mutual aid as a tool for natural disaster response by Isabella Garcia, yes!, Nov 3, 2020