A multi-nationed prayer from San Francisco to Dakota land protectors

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by Tiny, daughter of Dee, mama of Tiburcio

“I don’t care if we have half a T-shirt to sell, we have no money and food left so you gotta go out there!” On my mama’s words directing me to sell on the street in our micro-business even when we really had nothing to sell, words which were at a volume loud enough for the whole street to hear, the earth moved and moved and moved again.” It was 1989 and the Loma Prieta earthquake shifted all of our lives, especially those of us already in struggle, never to go back quite the same.

Bay Area solidarity with the heroic Indigenous resistance at Standing Rock in North Dakota was demonstrated at a rally Aug. 24. – Photo: Poor News Network
Bay Area solidarity with the heroic Indigenous resistance at Standing Rock in North Dakota was demonstrated at a rally Aug. 24. – Photo: Poor News Network

This horrible moment of Mama Earth’s aggression and the deeper crisis it caused in me and my mama’s poverty history flooded back to me as I watched, listened, prayed and supported one of the largest gatherings in history of Indigenous peoples from all four corners supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe fighting the construction of a huge pipeline through their sacred burial grounds, rivers and homelands in North Dakota.

Today and every day throughout this struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, I prayed in thanks to the spirit of my orphaned Taino-Boriken mama, the Ohlone relatives of this (Oak)land and so many of our ancestors from all four corners who I pray to every day, as word from Obama came through that he has finally listened to us all and suggested the halting of this corporate desecration called the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“Water is life,” said Dine Nation earth, water protector and mother Wahleah Johns, who spoke along with many other water and earth warriors at a San Francisco solidarity rally with the Indigenous resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline on Aug. 24.

“Since 1990, we have been involved in fighting environmental racism and supporting climate justice efforts in the Bay Area and across the country,” said Pam Tau Lee from the Chinese Progressive Association. Pam and Wahleah were two of many powerful speakers at the San Francisco solidarity rally organized by the NoDAPLsolidaritySF, a group of organizations that include the Chinese Progressive Association SF, Indian People Organizing for Change and Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth.

Since April 1, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has been in a fierce battle to protect their cultural and sacred sites, their drinking water, which comes from the Missouri River, native prairie lands, farmlands and other natural resources from this horrible destruction.

“Water is life,” said Dine Nation earth, water protector and mother Wahleah Johns, who spoke along with many other water and earth warriors at a San Francisco solidarity rally with the Indigenous resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline on Aug. 24.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,168-mile crude oil pipeline planned to transport up to 570,000 barrels of oil daily from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to refineries in Patoka, Illinois. Oil pipelines break, spill and leak oil – oil that has been treated with chemicals that are flammable, toxic and carcinogenic. It is not a question of if; it’s a question of when and where this oil will spill and poison land and water.

“Water everywhere, even in Huchuin, Ohlone Land (Oakland), is connected to the Dakota lands – we are all connected – and that is one of the reasons it is important for all of us to fight this pipeline and other acts of corporate destruction,” said earth warrior and Ohlone sister Corrina Gould as she taught a class of 7-14-year-olds at Deecolonize Academy, a revolutionary school for children in poverty in Oakland started by myself and other poor mamas and uncles.

Since April 1, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has been in a fierce battle to protect their cultural and sacred sites, their drinking water, which comes from the Missouri River, native prairie lands, farmlands and other natural resources from this horrible destruction.

From out of control fires, rising global temperatures, floods, hurricanes, fracking-caused earthquakes, destroyed aquifers, lakes and rivers, climate change is here. But what does it even mean?

Climate change – or Mama Earth’s destruction?

Climate change are two oddly clinical words that really mean nothing, derivative science-speak for the destruction of our Mama Earth, Our Great Grandmama, the one for without whom we would have no water, air or life – so I don’t use them, I try to say what exactly is happening and that our Mama Earth is under attack from the things, poisons, “conveniences” and life-style choices we as humans have made, have tacitly bought into or have enabled just by not caring what happens as a result of our massive consumption.

The most impacted by Mama Earth’s destruction

The fight to save Mama Earth by poor and Indigenous peoples is happening all the time, from water protectors like Wahleah Johns to Chinese elders in Chinatown trying to fight for safe, unpoisoned air and housing.

The multi-nation POOR crew was well represented at the solidarity protest in San Francisco. – Photo: Poor News Network
The multi-nation POOR crew was well represented at the solidarity protest in San Francisco. – Photo: Poor News Network

Similarly, the impact of climate change is felt every day by those of us with the least resources, from unhoused peoples in Arizona and Bangladesh who have nowhere to escape when the climate change impacted temperatures rise to beyond human tolerance and so they literally die on the street of dehydration, to the fisher peoples who live on the Gulf Coast and can no longer fish and therefore have no way to support themselves because of the BP “accident,” to the fisher people and families who fished and lived and raised families and food in Fukushima, Japan, until in 2011 the Fukushima nuclear plant cracked from an earthquake and tsunami and now they live, barely, with multiple forms of cancer and can no longer make their living from fishing and farming, to me and my mama, who really never recovered from that earthquake ‘cause our life was already held together by a string and ended up losing our tenuous grasp on our housing at the time ‘cause we couldn’t sell on the cracked streets of Oakland and San Francisco.

It is clear that climate change is not a good thing for anyone and a lot of people say it’s a class, culture and race leveler – and yet the impact on first peoples like the Dine nation who struggle with the corporate poisoning of their water in their ancestral homelands and the poor Black, Brown and White people of Detroit and mountaintop removed Virginia and thousands of other poor people living in locations of environmental racism and corporate destruction of Mama Earth is deeper than it is for folks who can just move “out of the area” or buy filters for their water or private bottled water, for that matter.

It is clear that climate change is not a good thing for anyone.

Things that peoples with access to resources take for granted every day like clean showers and water to drink are already becoming scarce and therefore creating an even deeper class and race divide in this already frighteningly divided world.

A victory of Indigenous peoples

This is why the move of focused Indigenous collaboration of so many First Nations peoples in the fight to stop the DAPL was so significant. It is not over – we are sure of that – it might not even be halted, but the protectors were listened to and we cannot stop protecting and praying. We cannot water down, philanthro-pimp, fetishize or foundationize this moment in history and let it be rewritten as anything but what it was – an Indigenous resistance, a multi-nationed prayer led by the earth warriors and prayer bringing protectors who have been here since before the lie of colonizer discovery – always protecting, honoring, loving and praying for our Great Mother, Mother Earth.

Tiny – or Lisa Gray-Garcia – is co-founder with her Mama Dee and co-editor of POOR Magazine and its many projects and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America,” published by City Lights. She can be reached at deeandtiny@poormagazine.org. Visit POOR at www.poormagazine.org.

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