Let Us Stand Together

NBC News, Oct. 17, 2016

“The largest gathering of indigenous nations in modern American history has set up camp on land belonging to the Army Corps of Engineers at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers in North Dakota. Tents and teepees, now home to whole families, stretch the plain.

 They have come by the hundreds to protest construction of the 1,172-mile Dakota Access oil pipeline, which would run within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and cross beneath the Missouri River. Opponents say the pipeline will adversely impact drinking water and disturb sacred tribal sites.

 Supporters say it would enable crude oil from North Dakota to reach major refineries while reducing more dangerous rail and truck transport.”

A map of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Courtesy Paul Horn, Inside-Climate-News

A map of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Courtesy Paul Horn, Inside-Climate-News

What is happening at the Standing Rock Sioux nation located in the rolling grasslands of remote south central North Dakota is truly historic.

And things are changing hourly.

The tent/tipi “protest city” that fluctuates between hundreds of people and thousands on the weekend flies the flags of 240 native nations. A sign at the entrance to the Sacred Stones camp declares they are unarmed. Walking through the gate, one is greeted by a member of this united nation who offers burning sage as a smudge of welcome and intent for peace.

Photo of Oceti Sakowin Camp—internet photographer unidentified

Photo of Oceti Sakowin Camp—internet photographer unidentified

Like many of you, I have been hearing bits and pieces of this story since summer when the protest city began to grow. I recently attended a local forum where clergy and several island activists called a meeting to inform us of their experiences visiting Standing Rock. They offered tangible stories of what is happening at the encampment.

• Two semi trailer loads of firewood were sent from the Yakima nation in eastern Washington to keep people warm as winter approaches. The Yakima also sent their entire legal department to help sort through the growing complexity of federal orders and injunctions.

• The Lummi tribe from western Washington carried their salmon catch to the encampment to help feed people. Earlier, in August the 22-foot tall totem pole carved by master carver Jewell James arrived to be a presence as part of its 5,000 mile journey to call attention to the impacts of fossil fuel development in Indian Country.

• People from all walks of life are coming to witness and support.

Some of the many folks coming to show their support for Standing Rock. Photo by Jim Seda/NBC news

Some of the many folks coming to show their support for Standing Rock. Photo by Jim Seda/NBC news

As winter begins to settle onto the plains, law enforcement personnel are becoming increasingly edgy. On Saturday, October 22, 127 protesters were arrested on suspicion of criminal trespassing on private property, according to new figures released Sunday by the Morton County Sheriff’s Office. As part of a prayer ritual, the water protectors are walking to the end of the pipeline construction site, sitting, and praying. Morton County sheriff, Kyle Kirchmeir said in an Oct. 24 news conference that personnel from neighboring states have responded to his call for more support.

Recent arrest of protestors by local police. BY Rob Wilson Photography for YES magazine.

Recent arrest of protestors by local police. Rob Wilson Photography for YES magazine.

I write this blog to honor the request of the Standing Rock Sioux to “keep us in your prayers and consciousness”. Daily updates are available on social media and on the web.

Follow this one folks! It is a powerfully symbolic issue where people are taking great risks to show their support of Native American and environmental issues.

Give money as you feel called. Here is one site: legal defense fund: https://fundrazr.com/sacredstone. This is enabling things like the flight of leadership of the Oceti Sakowin Seven Council Fires Camp to meet President Obama on Wednesday, Oct. 26 to request intervention of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Keep conversations active. On Monday, October 24, 2016 the United Nations communicated with the Oceti Sakowin Seven Council Fires Camp that they are now recognized as a nation. UN Marshals will be arriving to observe and help. Facebook and other social media are full of information, as are an increasing number of more mainstream media.

I believe this is a powerful turning point event for the future of indigenous people in this country and everywhere. I believe this is a powerful turning point in the mentality that “we will keep taking fossil fuels out of the ground no matter what the cost to the environment and people.”

A deep bow of respect to the Standing Rock Sioux and all who are stepping forward to be of help. And, of course, prayers also for the peace officers that they might act with dignity and respect under trying conditions.

Water protectors from the Oceti Sakowin Seven Council Fires Camp marching. Photo by Andrew Cullen, Reuters

Water protectors from the Oceti Sakowin Seven Council Fires Camp walking to their prayer site. Photo by Andrew Cullen, Reuters





Seventy-the bridge to somewhere



It’s heartwarming to be welcomed home; to have people notice that Ann and I are more in residence in our community than we were a year ago. However, when well-meaning people inquire, “does this mean you’re retired?” something weird happens inside me that I have been sorting for months.

It may be my own outdated stereotypes of the word that are getting stirred up, but my unabridged Random House Dictionary of the English Language informs me of the following definitions: “retire; 1. To withdraw, to go away or apart from; to remove from active life,” or “retired; no longer occupied with one’s business or profession;” or “retirement, …2. Removal or withdrawal from service.”

This sure doesn’t fit what goes on around here where the work of sustaining island life is hugely augmented by volunteering and vibrant 60-70-80-year-olds—and my still volunteering and vibrant 96-year-old father!

Okay, I am 70 years old. We have publically and proudly announced passing our circle facilitation trainings to TheCircleWay.net. BUT— I am still teaching my memoir class, The Self as the Source of the Story, two times a year, along with selective mentoring with other writers. Ann Linnea, Deb Greene-Jacobi, and I are still leading our annual Cascadia wilderness quest. PeerSpirit, Inc. is still a half-time job.

writing w/ tea

writing w/ tea

Alongside remaining work commitments are family commitments, community service, gardening—writing—singing in the community choir, helping friends and neighbors in even bigger transitions than we are, and occasionally even relaxing over coffee/tea or dinner with folks we haven’t seen in way too long a time! The days do not feel “retired”—unless all this busyness IS retirement. If so, we need another word.

Boomers are trying to make a new word. “Refirement,” “rebooting,” “ruppies” (retired urban professionals)—cute, but not satisfying. I saw a man in the grocery store wearing a tee-shirt that proclaimed, “I’m retired, but I still work part-time as a pain-in-the-ass”— sort of funny, but also not the definition I’m seeking.

I feel myself on a bridge crossing from one stage of life to the next. It feels important. Not only to me, but to others in the generation of Boomers. We have been both championed and chastised for changing expectations about our lives at every stage of aging, from puberty on. The 70s decade is our last big chance to discern what remains for us to do.


In my unwillingness to “withdraw from active life…to remove myself from service,” I am not yet certain what I expect of myself, or what the world hopes I will step into for another ten years.

When I was 21 and a junior in college, the head of the English department plucked me out of his advanced Shakespeare course and told me he thought I’d make a good English professor. I was flattered, but stunned—academia had never occurred to me. I blurted out at him (this was 1967), “I can’t do that, there’s a war on! I am more likely to be in prison by age 25 than in graduate school.”

It was a defining moment in my life: I chose the path of the outsider rather than the insider. I did not go to prison, though some of the men in my class went for draft resistance while others went into the draft. Before I was 25, I moved to California and worked for the American Friends Service Committee. I went to Europe and worked for the British Friends Service Council. I went to Gaza and Israel and worked with Quaker-based child and youth programs. I came back to the US and began figuring out how to be an activist writer. My mantra for all my work has been, “Inform-Inspire-Activate.”

I am still asking, what is my remaining life mission? I see the vibrant years of elderhood, (however long we have the health and energy to remain engaged) as an invitation to radical attention and thoughtful action.

Now, instead of getting ready to leave college for my work years as I was in 1967, it is suddenly 2016, and I am leaving my work years for my “X” years—a redefined involvement that goes deep, perhaps goes smaller in scale, and hopefully harvests my years of experience.

On this bridge to somewhere the world’s needs press around me as I contemplate my choices and I bow to the incredible privilege to have a life that supports choice. I want to stay more local, to support the next generation, to tend to the final years of our beloved parents, and the childhood years of our beloved grandchildren. I also do not feel done making contributions to the world outside my friends/family.

I am looking for what gestures I can make into the world’s need that will be most effective and impactful. I watch the events at Standing Rock, see things go by in social media, and I want to serve as a catalyst and supporter of catalysts as we go through this agonizing process of “changing our minds” about what we will tolerate and what we will save.

I vow to stay awake. I vow to listen to the pleas for justice. I will place my actions where I dare. I will use my elderhood as an opportunity for taking risk.

Join me?

Anyway you want.

Let me know your thoughts.