As we pulled into Denver CO, we were warmly welcome by a great rally on the Amtrak platform. A wonderful crowd cheered us on as more folks joined the train with a great send off from their community. Ayya Santussika spoke – “If they don’t pay attention to our March, we’ll be back with more marches, and more….”
As the train chugged on through the magnificent landscapes of the Rockies, we passed a meadow on our descent. Amma Thanasanti stood with a friend holding a wide banner cheering us on (picture will be uploaded later!) A very sweet moment!
Today 1st Nation Elder John Pappan of the Omaha Indigenous Council NE spoke about time to listen to the First peoples of this land. They are the ones who have always been connected with the earth and who are guided by spirit to protect it.
His work with the Indigenous Council on Tar Sands involved making an unlikely alliance with Nebraska farmers. As a group they organized a great activist happening earlier in the year at Washington DC; the Indian-Cowboy Alliance. He spoke of the importance of being in equal alliance, and the patient work of communication. Listening to the farmers complaining that Oil companies come onto their land, uninvited, to assess the possibility of extracting oil. How disempowered they felt. “Ah” said an Indian Grandmother, “I get it. You are now the Indians.”
We are all now the “Indians” as our rights to a healthy environment are stripped away. And we are also all part of the same gathering, known for time immemorial by the 1st Nations, of deeper spirit who now moves within us to reclaim the sacredness of the earth, of the children, and of all living things. John spoke with great gentleness, honesty and encouraged us all to take the most difficult journey from “head to heart.” He said sometimes he gets “goosebumps” when he feels the new world that is on its way, as to the prophecy of his people.
The next workshop was with Peter Clay who joined the train last night. He is part of the Great March for Climate Action, a group of about 30 walking across the country, from LA (from March 1st) to arrive in DC on November 1st. This is a huge and inspiring undertaking. (When I have more internet connection, I’ll post a most inspiring speech from one of the Marchers.)
The last workshop I attended, and was part of, was a “panel” of interfaith representatives, hosted by Ayya Santussika. (I say a “panel” but it was a 30 people squeeze in a small train car, with everyone invited to speak.)
Represented were Christian, (Unitarian, Catholic, Quaker, Episcopalian), Buddhist (Theravada, Insight, Thich Naht Hahn), Jewish, Mohawk 1st Nation and others. Many points were raised which generated a web of connection that led us into a discussion about our times where there is no “other.” Yet at the same time, there are those who oppress. The core issue of how to meet violent oppression without enmity was spoken to extremely powerfully by 1st Nation Cherokee Pennie Opal Plant. She has been on the front line, with many other activists, doing prayer circles outside of the Chevron plant in Richmond East Bay, a traditionally marginalized community. (Pennie noted that prayer circles rattled the industrial folks more than demos.) Pennie spoke of making a point of warmly greeting every police officer and Chevron worker before their acts of prayerful resistance. Over time some of the police have become their protectors.
A young man in the meeting spoke passionately about how the police function as the oppressive arm of the corporate empire. How he witnessed tear gas cans being thrown at children during Occupy in Oakland. Pennie spoke of the need for the grandmothers – the grey haired ones – to lead, to be in front, to create the least violent atmosphere. It is hard for police to beat up a grandmother. She apologized for not being at the Occupy, that they were caught unawares, however, she stated, they would not be caught unaware again.