by Kathryn M. Schreiber
When an indigenous gathering place and burial grounds along the Carquinez Strait were threatened with development in 2011, Ohlone and Miwok spiritual leaders gathered in prayer, lit a sacred fire, and began a 109-day encampment at Sogorea Té (Glenn Cove, Vallejo). “We learned that being on the land is really important to our young folks. Being on the land heals people,” commented Corrina Gould, Chochenyo/Karkin Ohlone leader, Co-Founder of Indian People Organizing for Change and Sogorea Té Land Trust. Everyone feels a sacred connection to the land “when we walk outside, or sit on the ground, or listen to water — we know this.”
Water is Life. “We all have a connection to water, too. This is not an indigenous matter; this is for all human beings. Everybody has a right to water.” Gould invites supporters to gather on the banks of the San Pablo Bay at Sogorea Té this Saturday morning, September 17th, for the 10am Opening Ceremony for “Run4Salmon” as the Ohlone people welcome the Winnemem Wintu people. The service will bless the two-week prayerful journey to restore salmon runs, protect the waters, and respect indigenous lifeways. Please bring food for the potluck and help with setup and clean up; also, participate in the journey and ceremonies along the way. The shared ministries of Community Presbyterian Church of Pittsburg and First Congregational Church of Antioch, UCC will host walkers overnight this weekend.
In late August, the UCC’s Collegium of Officers issued a “Statement of Solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation” citing racial justice, honoring sacred spaces, and climate impact as prime reasons to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), while calling for prayerful solidarity and signatures on the UCC’s Justice and Peace Action Network’s petition. To date, more than 1200 letters have been sent to the Army Corps of Engineers and President Obama.
Last week, ministers from many traditions traveled to Standing Rock, including the Rev. Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo, Pastor of All Nations Church in Minneapolis and Interim Executive Director of the UCC Council of American Indian Ministries (CAIM) “We are out here on the Standing Rock Reservation in solidarity with the tribe who are asking people to stand with them and be defenders of the waters.” Being in solidarity taught The Rev. Brooks Berndt, UCC Minister for Environmental Justice, tools for on-going justice work. Updates and calls to action will continue to post online at http://www.ucc.org/news and on Facebook “Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ” page.
While activity at the four camps on Standing Rock Reservation receives the most notice, Helgemo notes, “Really, the effort of the legal work is where change will happen.” Toni Buffalo, Chairperson of CAIM from the Dakota Association of the UCC, commented on Monday: “Where do we go from here? How do we continue pushing the government to make a permanent stop in this Dakota Access Pipeline? One of the most positive aspects from this issue is bringing up treaty awareness.” Committed to the long-term work of protection, Buffalo said, “Our water protectors are not leaving this land until we know that the Black Snake is dead.”
While support grows on the frontline in North Dakota, indigenous leader Corrina Gould reminds us there are many frontlines, including here in the Bay Area. Currently, Ohlone cultural sites are threatened by the development of a 300-car parking lot on Mission Peak. Supporters are asked to write to the East Bay Regional Parks District and attend the District’s Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday September 20th at 1pm, the last discussion of the planned parking lot. In West Berkeley, an indigenous burial ground was disturbed this spring during commercial development construction. Gould anticipates renewed efforts to protect ancestral remains. Local churches and parishioners can support the Sogorea Té Land Trust and Suumi Land Tax, host screenings of “Beyond Recognition”, and learn about regional shellmounds and current efforts to protect them.
We are all called to be peaceful warriors working together to protect the waters, the sacred places, and the well-being of all peoples here at home and around the world.
With gratitude to Corrina Gould, Chochenyo/Karkin Ohlone, Oakland; Rev. Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo, Ho-Chunk, Minneapolis; Toni Buffalo, Lakota, Eagle Butte, SD; and UCC national staffers Rev. Brooks Brooks Berndt and Derek Duncan in Cleveland and Jessie Palatucci in Washington, DC.
September 25th is “American Indian Ministry Sunday.” Local churches support the UCC’s Council for American Indian Ministry.
Do you have a great story to tell about life in our conference? Please contact Kathryn at: firstname.lastname@example.org