As we approach the transition to a friendlier administration, I am reminded that there are many challenges ahead in our climate justice work. Even as I write this text, Indigenous peoples are fighting for their treaty, land and water rights in Ojibwe territory in Minnesota and Gwich’in territory in Alaska.
History tells the First Nations that a new administration won’t make much difference for them, and certainly only if they raise awareness through visible actions of civil disobedience and resistance. Early in December, 22 water protectors were arrested blockading construction of the drill pad for Enbridge’s Line 3 to go under the Mississippi River. One of them was a tree sitter who blocked construction for 10 days straight in the cold of Northern Minnesota. (See the Giniw Collective’s Facebook feed here.)
I don’t know my ancestors’ specific roles in our nation’s terrible history with its First Peoples. I suspect it is not a happy story, given that my first ancestor on these shores was one of the earliest settlers of Plymouth Plantation. William Shurtleff was an indentured servant upon his arrival, but his race and gender enabled him to receive a plot of land after completing seven years of service. His contract was honored, where our nation’s contracts with First Peoples were not.
I find myself drawn to the powerful and long-standing resistance of America’s First Peoples. I am humbled by their courage. I have much to learn about Indigenous ways of relating to the Earth, which I believe is a key piece of our climate justice work.
I have a sense that I owe a great debt to First Peoples: one that I cannot ever possibly repay. This is why I am called to make a contribution to First People’s resistance of Enbridge’s Line 3 and oil drilling permits in the Arctic Wildlife National Refuge. I feel called even though it is a stretch to make even more contributions in 2020. Supporting today’s Indigenous resistance is a small payment on my debt.
I also feel called to make a matching donation to EcoFaith Recovery because this community enables me to do this work. Our practices as a people of faith sustain me in this journey that we take together. See our EcoFaith Recovery web page www.EcoFaithRecovery.org to join me in making matching donations to these courageous Indigenous leaders and EcoFaith Recovery!
- Scott Shurtleff (EcoFaith Leader from Waverly Heights UCC)