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Stand with Indigenous Peoples, Stop the Pipelines

By Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance
Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who first published this article.  The following Editor’s Note is theirs.

Editor’s Note: This week SD Free Press will be re-posting past articles relevant to our War and Peace theme. Given that Mary Landrieu (D- Gonna lose her senate seat) is asking for a vote on the XL Pipeline during the lame duck session, we thought this was appropriate. 

As so often happens, Native Americans are leading the fight to save the world.

Moccasins on the Ground workshop where participants are trained in the skills, tactics, and techniques of nonviolent direct action.

By Will Falk

While half of the world’s species are disappearing, while the remaining 48 hunter/gatherer societies are literally fighting for their survival, while 32 million acres of rainforest are cut down a year, and while three hundred tons of topsoil are lost a minute, we are again at war with those who would destroy the planet.

There have been many wars fought on behalf of our life-giving land in North America. The overwhelming majority of those killed in defense of the land have come from peoples like the Sioux, the Cheyenne, the Nez Perce, the Sauk, and the Apache. Native Americans have long stood in the way of this destructive culture. It is time that we join with Native Americans and other dominated peoples around the world who are at war. It is time that we, the privileged in this settler culture, step off our pedestal and onto the battlefield to place our bodies in harm’s way like so many indigenous people have before us and continue to do today.

***

As a young white radical, I have admired the long traditions of resistance found in Native communities. I find myself wondering what could have been had Tecumseh won or if Crazy Horse was not betrayed. I find myself wishing I could have been there with Geronimo or King Phillip or Chief Joseph to shoot back at the pale skin and pale blue eyes I share with so many of the soldiers, miners, and settlers who have butchered Native peoples over the centuries.

But, mostly, my heart just breaks. And breaks and breaks again when I recall the long list of lost battles and cold-blooded massacres.

My heart breaks when I think of that frigid morning in December, 1890 when Lakota Sioux led by Spotted Elk woke up next to Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota to find themselves surrounded by 500 soldiers of the US 7th Cavalry. Some of the older women and the frailest children would have been wrapped in robes made from the skins of buffalo hunted to near extinction by the very soldiers taking positions over the camp.

They look up at the four rapid fire Hotchkiss guns pointed down on them from the hills above with their frosty breath foreshadowing the thick fog of gun smoke that would blanket the field in just a little while.

My heart breaks again looking at the photographs of Lakota men, women, and children strewn across the frozen ground. I see Spotted Elk’s body frozen in a half-sitting position in the snow. His legs bent one way, and his bullet-riddled torso bent another way. His arms curl up as his dead biceps tighten in the cold.

indigenous1My heart breaks when I read eyewitness accounts from the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864 where Colorado-territory militia killed 200 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women, and children who thought they occupied their camp under the protection of the US Army. I read of soldiers putting six-shooters to the heads of infants and “blowing their brains out.” I watch as white men jump off their horses with knives in hands to cut ears, noses, fingers, and testicles off corpses to take home as souvenirs.

***

Lierre Keith, the brilliant environmental and radical feminist writer, often diagnoses the problem with modern mainstream environmental activism saying, “We’ve got to stop thinking like vandals and start thinking like field generals.”

If we are to have any chance of surviving the devastation, we must espouse courses of action based on strategic objectives. In other words, we have to act like we’re fighting to win a war.

Even mainstream environmentalists recognize that one of the biggest threats to life on Earth is the use of fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide – the worst of the greenhouse gasses responsible for climate change. Scientists predict an 11 degree Fahrenheit average temperature rise by 2100 due to the effects of runaway greenhouse gas emissions.

If we are going to win this war of survival, we are going to have to stop both the present use and spread of fossil fuels. Many argue that the task is impossible. Many argue that we’ll never get people to voluntarily give up fossil fuels. We fill our cars with gas. Homes are heated by coal. The plastic screens we read the daily news on are made with oil. Giving up fossil fuels means giving up our very way of life.

But, what if the world is forced to give up fossil fuels because they cannot get access to them?

***

indigenous3The truth is the fate of the world is bound up in wars like the ones being fought by the Sioux and their allies and the Wet’suwet’en. The United States was built on stolen land and is maintained through the theft of indigenous resources both at home and abroad. So, not only should mainstream environmentalists pledge their support to indigenous peoples to reverse genocidal historical trends, they should throw their bodies down next to indigenous peoples in order to survive.

The brutally brilliant Confederate cavalry general, Nathan Bedford Forrest explained the simple key to winning battles when he said, “Get there first with the most.” On a Civil War battlefield, this meant identifying strategic locations to be controlled and then arriving with more soldiers and firepower than your enemy. At the Battle of Gettysburg, for example, Union forces recognized the way two hills – Little and Big Round Top – on their extreme left flank commanded a view of the entire battlefield. Robert E. Lee and his right hand infantry general, James Longstreet, recognized it, too. Whoever controlled those hills could place artillery on their heights and rain deadly cannon fire on enemies in the fields below.

Ultimately, Union forces arrived at the top Little Round Top just minutes before Longstreet’s infantry and were able to beat off a Confederate attack, turning the tide of the battle in favor of Union forces in what many historians call the pivotal moment of the entire war.

The goals of these camps line up perfectly with Forrest’s idea to “get there first with the most.” The camps are being set up in strategic locations to stop the ability of the pipeline to function. If the oil is going to flow, big oil pipelines are going to have to defeat activists dug in at these camps.

Right now, indigenous peoples and their allies are there first with the most. They can win if we help them.

***

As so often happens, Native Americans are leading the fight to save the world. Battle lines are being drawn in British Columbia and South Dakota where indigenous peoples and their allies have vowed to prevent the construction of pipelines carrying fossil fuels across their lands.

In South Dakota, the Oglala Lakota and Rosebud Sioux (many of whom descend from the survivors of the Wounded Knee Massacre) are building resistance camps to combat the Keystone XL pipeline. They are calling the pipeline “the Black Snake” and are operating the Moccasins on the Ground project where participants are trained in the skills, tactics, and techniques of nonviolent direct action. These skills include blockading heavy equipment, workshops on strategic media, street medic training, knowing your legal rights with respect to civil disobedience, and building solidarity and alliances.

In British Columbia, the Wet’suwet’en have dug into the path of seven proposed pipelines from the Tar Sands Gigaproject and LNG from the Horn River Basin Fracturing Projects in the Peace River Region at Unist’ot’en Camp.  Unist’ot’en Camp is calling for volunteers to help patrol their land, build permaculture, and raise permanent bunkhouses in the path of the pipelines.

***

There’s another feeling I get when I think of the massacres of indigenous peoples. It is even stronger than the staggering sadness. It is the desire to do whatever it takes to stop this culture from destroying indigenous cultures and destroying the land.

I used to imagine that I could go back in time and offer my help. I would learn how to shoot and offer my rifle to Crazy Horse or learn how to ride and ask Chief Joseph if he could use my help. As I listened to the rhythmic thump of soldiers’ boots marching on where they thought my friends’ village was, I would imagine approaching a fat officer in a powdered horse-hair whig with a smile coming from my white face. I would tell the officer I knew where the Indians were, only to lead him on a wild goose chase while he trusted me because I was white.

I have grown up now. I realize that there are wars being waged against the land and those who would protect the land. I realize that I can work to stop the black snakes that are being built to slither through this land, to choke her original people, and to wring the last few drops of oil from her.

All of us who have benefited from the rape of the earth and the destruction of so many of her people are being called. We are being called to kill the black snakes by those already engaged in mortal combat. We must do whatever it takes to stand with indigenous peoples and stop the pipelines.

DIY Resistance: I love you, Dad

IMG_0744By Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance

“Your mother and I are worried about you,” my dad said looking down into the beer his hands cradled on a wood table in the Morris Inn at the University of Notre Dame.

We came to Notre Dame to honor two now decades-old father and son traditions. The first, seeing Fighting Irish football games together, serves to support the second, honest face-to-face communication in a comfortable environment.

I traveled all the way in from Victoria, BC. My dad came in from San Francisco. For a family that has moved as much as ours, Notre Dame comes as close to representing home as anywhere.

“We’re just worried about you,” my dad said again. “We’re worried you’re not going to be able to support yourself.”

I understood his concerns. In fact, no one worries more about me than, well, me. I’m a volunteer activist in a foreign country living completely on the goodwill of others. I rely on others for sleeping space, for food, and even for the beater bike stuck in the same gear that I grind up hills in Victoria. Someone at US Bank must like me because it’s a minor miracle they haven’t shut my account down by now for being perpetually overdrawn.

Every time I come home, my mother presents me with a stack of unopened bills that have arrived for me at their address. The student loan companies never stop. The Milwaukee ambulance company wants the $1,000 they decided it cost to transport me the two miles from my bedroom to the emergency room one of the nights I tried to kill myself. Of course, I was unconscious and couldn’t possibly consent to the ride.

I often ask my parents for money and they’ve been wonderful about helping. I am sure it is beyond annoying to see my name appear on their phone and automatically wonder if I’m calling to ask for money. On top of this, my dad’s older brother – unemployed, uninsured, and living with my grandparents – just suffered a severe stroke that is going to leave him paralyzed.

I write this Do-It-Yourself Resistance series to encourage individuals – especially young settler individuals from middle class backgrounds – to take the personal steps necessary to free themselves for serious resistance.

I write this Do-It-Yourself Resistance series to encourage individuals – especially young settler individuals from middle class backgrounds – to take the personal steps necessary to free themselves for serious resistance. One of the biggest impediments to engaging in full-time resistance that I hear from young settlers is a worry for the anxiety it will cause their families.

It is true that engaging in serious actions against the dominant culture could cause your family to worry, could cause your parents to be angry with you, could even cause your family to desert you, but, in a time when your family’s well-being is at stake, is it more important that your family is happy with you or that the possibility of a healthy future for your family is protected?

***

My father is a Type-2 diabetic. I cannot pretend to know what that feels like. I’ve seen him prick his finger with a mechanical needle to draw a drop of blood to measure his blood sugar thousands of times. I’ve seen him wince as he inserts a syringe into his belly to deliver the effective insulin his body cannot produce. I’ve heard him describe the dizziness that accompanies low blood sugar and the strange tingling sensations he sometimes feels in his feet. I’ve imagined the fear he must feel when we get the news that a diabetic family member has had some toes amputated.

If there was any possible way to take this disease away from my father, I would do it. Of course, there is nothing I can do to take diabetes away from him, so I work for the next best thing. I combat the economic and agricultural system that causes widespread diabetes.

Diabetes has been described as a disease of civilization. While many scientists claim the causes of diabetes are unclear, they explain genetics, physical activity, and diet are factors in the development of diabetes. Additionally, type-2 diabetes has been found to be extremely rare in pre-Western dominated indigenous cultures around the world. The active life-styles of non-civilized peoples with diets high in proteins and low in carbohydrates meant diseases such as diabetes were virtually unknown.

It would be one thing if civilization and the destructive agriculture that accompanies it were simply an inevitable development in human evolution. If diabetes was simply an unfortunate coincident with the so-called comforts of civilization, then perhaps I could live in peace with my father’s disease. My dad would simply be unlucky enough to bear one of the bad side effects of the culture of progress. But, this is not what is happening.

The same omnicidal processes that massacre indigenous peoples on their lands, that require mass deforestation of old growth forests to fuel this ever-starving machine, that produces the pollutants that are poisoning so many around the world are responsible for both the diet and the difficulty to maintain regular physical activity characterizing life in this culture of death.

Civilization is at the root of the problem. Derrick Jensen’s definition of civilization in two-volume work, Endgame, most accurately describes the predicament we find ourselves in. He defines civilization as a “complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities.” He goes on to explain what’s wrong with cities defining them as “people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life.”

People living in cities exhaust the resources where they live and then are forced to constantly acquire the necessities of life from somewhere else.

People living in cities exhaust the resources where they live and then are forced to constantly acquire the necessities of life from somewhere else. But, what happens when your neighbors – both human and non-human – are unwilling to give you what you require? What happens, for example, if your way of life depends on fossil fuels that you cannot access from the land you occupy? The answer to these questions form the history of colonization.

Agriculture is nothing more than the colonization (and annihilation) of non-human communities. Author and activist Lierre Keith often encourages her audiences to think about what agriculture does to the land with a simple, common sense progression. I’m paraphrasing her ideas, but she asks audiences to picture a healthy natural community.

Take the prairie lands of the American Midwest, for example, where thousands of plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria once thrived. It’s not too hard to remember the tens of millions of bison that once thundered through the prairies. It’s not too hard to hear the cheerful conversations of hundreds of millions of prairie dogs. It’s not too hard to feel the song the wind played on never-ending seas of grass. And, what has agriculture done to these prairies? It has cleared the soil of every living thing – all the way down to the bacterial systems – to grow one crop (often corn or soy or wheat) on land that used to teem with life.

Is it so hard to believe, then, that many of the products spawned in this destruction like high fructose corn syrup are linked to the causes of something so damaging to humans as diabetes?

***

It was not until I visited Unist’ot’en territory in central so-called British Columbia that I truly understood the connection between civilization and unhealthy diets.

It was not until I visited Unist’ot’en territory in central so-called British Columbia that I truly understood the connection between civilization and unhealthy diets. One of the first things that struck me about the forests in the region was the number of dead and rotting trees. I do not believe I am exaggerating when I say one in three trees standing in Unist’ot’en forests are dead – killed by beetle infestations.

Climate change is producing winters that end earlier allowing the pine beetles to spawn earlier and at greater numbers. These beetles are literally destroying the forests. This destruction is keeping moose from ranging into Unist’ot’en territory depriving the Unist’ot’en of a staple winter protein. Traditionally, the Unist’ot’en were able to live in balance with their land eating food that they could find on their territories. But, now they’re forced to get their food from somewhere else.

This is, of course, why there are supermarkets everywhere. Civilization has progressed (in the way cancer progresses) to the point where most of us simply cannot survive on food we produce on our own land base – if we even have access to soil to produce our own food. The destruction of the land’s ability to support us and the conversion of the land from self-sustaining natural communities into monocrop dead zones results in high fructose corn syrup being cheaper and easier to acquire than moose.

Just like we know that civilization requires the combustion of fossil fuels creating climate change, we know that civilization requires destructive agriculture creating dangerous diets. Unist’ot’en forests are under attack from fossil fuels in the form of beetle infestations caused by climate change and Unist’ot’en homes are under attack from fossil fuels in the form of proposed pipelines that would gash through their territories if not for their incredible bravery.

The processes threatening the Unist’ot’en threaten my family, too. The processes threatening the Unist’ot’en are undermining the world’s ability to sustain life. I cannot take my father’s disease away, but I can join people like the Unist’ot’en on the front lines as they combat the destruction.

***

Environmentally induced cancers are murdering our loved ones at staggering rates, suicide is taking too many of us, and widespread social collapse is not so much a question of if, but when.

I began this series weeks ago imploring my readers to fall in love. I think most of us are already in love with someone, though. We love a partner, a child, our parents, our siblings, a dear friend. We love them so much we worry how our activist lifestyle might negatively affect them. The truth is our loved ones are literally under attack. Environmentally induced cancers are murdering our loved ones at staggering rates, suicide is taking too many of us, and widespread social collapse is not so much a question of if, but when.

I listen respectfully when my parents express their worries to me. I’ve put them through a lot over the years. They gave me life and have loved me unconditionally. But, at this time of crisis, I cannot help but think of the lessons my dad has taught me. My father is a man that gets uncomfortable when I say, “I love you, Dad.” He rarely says it back and that’s ok because his actions have shown me he loves me.

I hope that families supporting those who want to devote their lives to activism can see the love in our actions. I love my parents, I love my sister, I love my friends, and I love this magical world filled with so much beauty. I refuse to see my family destroyed. I refuse to see this living world drained into a lifeless desert. That’s why I can tell my dad I love him, or I can follow his example and let my actions speak for me.

Browse Will Falk’s DIY Resistance series at the Deep Green Resistance Blog

DIY Resistance: Fall in Love

Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who first published this article

By Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

Three months ago, I packed up my 80-litre pack with my tent, sleeping bag, four t-shirts, two pairs of pants, two pairs of thermals, five pairs of underwear, my toothbrush, and six collections of poetry (only the essentials) and made the journey from San Diego, CA to the Unist’ot’en Camp on traditional Wet’suwet’en land in so-called British Columbia.

Salish Sea

Salish Sea

I fell in love with the Unist’ot’en Clan, the Camp, and their work. I decided it was time to dig in to defend the land and I’ve been in Canada working to support the Camp ever since. It took me 27 years, two degrees, two suicide attempts, a failed romantic relationship, and a deserted legal career to finally devote myself to radical resistance.

It is becoming increasingly clear that one of the many reasons the environmental movement is losing so bad is we suffer from a lack of committed individuals determined to resist for as long as it takes. I am committed to saving what’s left of our burning world because I am deeply in love.

I have finally arrived at this commitment and I hope you will, too. Here is the first in a series of pieces I am calling “Do-it-Yourself: Resistance.” These are my reflections on my path to resistance. Everyone’s path will be different, but people who embark on this path should know that the trail has already been blazed. They should know they will not have to walk the trail alone and in darkness. There’s a community of us and we are growing stronger.

***

The first step is falling in love.

It is true that falling in love may make you vulnerable. Destruction rages on around us. When you’re in love and you shed the armor of denial, the truth might wound you. When you’re in love and you seek the filthy corners of this culture, the truth might stain you. When you’re in love and you dare to peer directly into the flames consuming life on this planet, the truth might burn you.

When you’re in love and your beloved is dying, how can you do anything but try to protect your beloved?

Opening yourself to love may make you vulnerable because destruction rages around us. With global temperature averages rising, clean water disappearing at astonishing rates, and human population growing exponentially, the planet’s ability to support life is in serious jeopardy. Every thing we love is under attack.

I must be honest: learning how to love dragged me into the deserts of severe depression. I think many are too scared of the truth and their own reactions to the truth to visit this desert. It can be dangerous.

Sometimes depression will not quit. Mine won’t. It’s been 16 months since my first suicide attempt and just under a year since my second. Because depression is characterized as an illness I reasoned that I would eventually recover from my illness and live a healthy life. The darkness would simply be a tough time in my life that would fade in my memory as the course of my life pushed forward.

In many ways, this view was encouraged by my therapists and doctors. After my second suicide attempt, I was checked into an intensive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) program. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) describes the methodology of CBT in treating mental illness, “By exploring patterns of thinking that lead to self-destructive actions and the beliefs that direct these thoughts, people with mental illness can modify their patterns of thinking to improve coping.”

What were the “patterns of thinking” that lead me to “self-destructive actions?” As a public defender, I loved my clients so much the thought of them in jail compelled me to work harder and harder, longer and longer hours until I was exhausted. As a member of a natural community, I loved my land base so much that the continual degradation of Lake Michigan by industry sometimes caused me to weep.

And, “coping?” Through CBT I was taught that if I could just learn how to cope, I’d heal myself of depression. The popular proverb “If you can’t change the world, change yourself” comes to mind. I’ve always hated this expression for the way it encourages inaction. If the world doesn’t change, so much of what I love will be destroyed. Therapy based on changing individuals instead of our destructive culture puts the patient in the horrible position of either ignoring her love or changing what she’s in love with.

And what could be more depressing than that? In some senses, isn’t denying the love you feel a sort of death in itself?

To me, the only true therapy will come from stopping the dominant culture. We all know what the consequences might be for seeking to change the world.

Sister Dorothy Stang, a Roman Catholic nun standing up for indigenous peoples in Brazil, received perpetual death threats from logging companies before she was shot six times on her way to a community organizing meeting in Anapu, Brazil. Anna Mae Aquash – a Mi’kmaq activist with the American Indian movement – was found on the Pine Ridge Reservation with a bullet in the back of her head. Fred Hamptom, the Deputy Chairman of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, was drugged by the FBI before they sprayed his bedroom with automatic gun fire and fired two shots into his head at point blank range to make sure he was “good and dead, now.”

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think Sister Stang, Anna Mae Aquash, or Fred Hampton developed mental illnesses through their work. I can even imagine a therapist asking them if their habit of demanding justice might be causing some of their anguish. But, Sister Stang, Anna Mae Aquash, and Fred Hamption never gave into the comforting acceptance encouraged by coping. They were in love with oppressed peoples. They wanted to change the world and they went about doing it.

***

I still feel suicidal sometimes. Death is a seductive whisper at the edge of my consciousness. I suffer from situational and spiritual vulnerabilities. I’m completely broke. I’m not sure where I’m going to live in three weeks. I’m not sure when my family is going to get sick of me being away and make their anxiety felt. I’m afraid that my new Canadian friends may discover the darkness my mind tends to and decide its too much work to be around me.

My heart turns the shade of gray that comes from profound weariness. I’m haunted by the sight of forests at Unist’ot’en Camp decimated by climate-change induced beetle infestations. The worst part is the way the once proud, tall, green pines are left standing when the beetles are done with them. The pines stand as towering grave-markers warning of the disaster this world faces if we cannot stop the destruction. My stomach fills with the gnawing acid of anxiety and anger as the radio lists the dead in Palestine. When the mangled bodies of children make it to my newsfeed I wonder how my stomach will keep the acid from burning a hole through my guts.

Besides being suicidal, you know what else I am?

Alive. I am, despite feeling all this, still alive.

Being alive lets me strip to my underwear and dip in the freezing Salish Sea. I step on sharp rocks watching crabs with delight. They play their own version of “King of the Hill” competing over pieces of seaweed on a submerged stone. As the green shadow of seaweed approaches their perch, crab siblings bump one another off the stone before snatching the seaweed in their pinchers and gobbling it down. I cut my heel on a rock and a gang of fish comes to investigate the blood. Their mouths are soft as they press against the cut. Before long the blood stops, and the fish settle in the warm spaces between my toes.

Being alive lets me enjoy the contrast of the hot sun on my back when I emerge from the cold sea. Being alive lets me taste the fresh ginger molasses cookies we brought to snack on. Being alive lets me hear the cries of wheeling sea gulls overhead.

Most importantly, being alive empowers me to be in love. I will not give into suicide because I’m in love with the Salish Sea, the crabs, the school of fish, the sun, the taste of ginger molasses cookies, and the cries of sea gulls on the beach.

Love will give you the strength to travel through the spiritual deserts of depression and even suicidal ideation. My continuing survival is proof of this. The continuing survival of countless others struggling with the emotional ailments facing us in these times is proof of this. Stand with us. Fall in love. Learn how to love at whatever cost. Love may make you vulnerable to feelings of despair. This is natural. It means you’re alive – and being alive is everything. It means you can resist and resistance gives your beloved a chance.

Browse Will Falk’s DIY Resistance series at the Deep Green Resistance Blog

From Unist’ot’en Camp: What Does Solidarity Look Like?

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Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who originally published this article

By Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

Each night Unist’ot’en Clan spokeswoman, Freda Huson, and her husband Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Toghestiy fall asleep on their traditional land not knowing whether the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are going to storm their bridge in the depths of night.

Each winter, when Freda and Toghestiy ride their snowmobiles down forestry roads to bring in supplies, to hunt, or to check their traplines, they don’t know whether they will find piles of felled trees maliciously dragged across their paths.

Each time Freda and Toghestiy leave their territory for a few days they don’t know if they will return to find another attack in an old tradition of cowardly arson perpetrated by hostile settlers on Wet’suwet’en territories leaving smoking embers where their cabin once stood.

I ponder this as I sit in a workshop with other settlers during the 6-day Unist’ot’en Action Camp – a series of workshops hosted on the traditional territories of the Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation to promote strategic planning and co-ordination in the struggle against the spread of fossil fuel pipelines. This particular workshop is designed as a discussion to promote understanding about how settlers can work in better solidarity with indigenous peoples struggling to protect their homes and carrying out their responsibilities to the land.

Most of the ideas discussed revolve around decolonizing our hearts and minds to learn to see the role non-indigenous peoples are playing in the genocidal processes threatening the survival of indigenous peoples. Some of the ideas involve material support for indigenous peoples engaged in front line resistance like the Unist’ot’en. A few even suggest that settlers become physically present next to indigenous peoples on the front lines.

But, I am troubled. We have skipped something. What exactly do we mean by “solidarity?”

***
A common scene from my life as a public defender shows me – a white man in a suit and tie – sitting next to a shackled African, Chicana, or indigenous mother in a courtroom. In front of us sits a judge – an older white man in black robes. Across from us sits the prosecutor – another white man in a suit. Directly behind us, where he is felt more than seen, stands a big white man in the brown uniform of a sheriff’s deputy. He has a gun on one hip, a taser on the other, and the keys to my client’s shackles on a loop on his belt.

My client stares at the judge in a mix of horror and hatred as she is sentenced to prison for stealing from a supermarket to support her children or for lying to a police officer about her name because she had outstanding parking tickets and had to get the kids to school or for punching a cop when the latest in a long list of arbitrary stops by police officers finally caused something inside of her to snap.

As the judge announces how many days in jail my client will be spending, she reaches for my arm with tears in her eyes and asks, “Mr. Falk, won’t you do something?”

I cannot meet her gaze. I tell myself there’s nothing I can do. There’s no argument I can make to sway the judge. There’s no way to stop the sheriff’s deputy behind us from leading my client back down the long concrete tunnel connecting the courthouse and the city jail.

I try to comfort myself. What does she want me to do? Yell at the judge? Tackle the deputy? Spit on the prosecutor for his role in sending this mother to jail?

***
We gathered to sit on wooden benches arranged in a half-circle on a hot and sunny morning during the Unist’ot’en Action Camp to listen to two indigenous men speak about their experiences on the front lines of resistance. Each man had been shot at by police and soldiers, each man had served time in jail, and each man received utter respect from each individual listening.

The first man faced 7,7000 rounds fired by the RCMP at the Gustafsen Lake Stand-off in 1995 when a group of Original Peoples occupied a sacred site on a cattle ranch on unceded Canoe Creek First Nation land because the rancher tried to prevent their ceremonies. For his part at Gustafsen Lake, he was sentenced to five years in prison. During the Oka Crisis in 1990 when the town of Oka, Quebec sought to build a golf course over a Mohawk burial ground, the second man and his comrades blockaded several small British Columbian towns shutting down their local economies. He, too, was convicted and spent time in jail for his actions.

The second man said the blockades were carried out “in solidarity” with the resistors at Oka. This was the only time either of the men mentioned the word “solidarity.” They spoke of supporting resistance, praying for resistance, and helping with ceremonies. But, it was only when engaged in actions where co-resistors placed themselves in similarly dangerous situations that the term “solidarity” was used.

***
I got back from Unist’ot’en Camp earlier this afternoon and checked my email for the first time in days. My inbox was inundated by emails from various list serves proclaiming “Solidarity with Palestine!”

Meanwhile, in Gaza, occupying Israeli bulldozers are demolishing the homes of Palestinian families with suspected ties to Hamas while colonial Israeli bombs are indiscriminately falling on men, women, and children adding to the pile of dead numbered at well over 500 corpses and counting.

“That’s terrible, Will,” you may be thinking. “But what do you want me to do about it?”

Put yourself in Gaza right now. Dig a pit in your back yard, turn your ear anxiously to the sky, and keep the path to your back door clear, so that when you hear the hum of jets overhead you can sprint to your makeshift bomb shelter.

Look down the street for bull-dozers. When you spot one, grab the nearest bag in a panic, shove as much food into it as possible, scramble for some clean underwear, find your toothbrush, and sprint out the door without a look back for the nearest safe space.

Stand over the broken corpses of your children in the pile of dust and ashes that used to be their bedroom. Moan. Weep. Wail. When you wake up for the first time without crying, feel the anger burn through your chest and down your arms into your clinched fists. Ask yourself what you should do next.

Ask yourself: What does solidarity look like?

***
Maybe there really was nothing I could do to stop my clients from being hauled to jail in those courtrooms of my past. Unfortunately, I tried not to think about it too much. Placing myself in that vulnerable of a situation was too scary for me. If I argued too strongly, too fervently the judge could fine me. If I yelled at the prosecutor I could be held in contempt of court. If I spit on him, I certainly would be held in contempt of court. If I tried to stop the deputy, I would be tasered and taken to jail. I might even be shot during the scuffle and killed.

The truth is indigenous and other resistors are being dragged to jail, tasered, and even shot and killed every day on the front lines. And, they’ve been on the front lines for a very long time. I’ve realized that freedom from the vulnerabilities frontline resistors experience is a privilege and the maintenance of this privilege is leaving resistors isolated on front lines around the world.

It is time we understand exactly what solidarity looks like. Solidarity looks like the possibility of prison time. Solidarity looks like facing bullets and bombs. Solidarity looks like risking mental, spiritual, and physical health. Solidarity looks like placing our bodies on the front lines – strong shoulder to strong shoulder – next to our brothers and sisters who are already working so courageously to stop the destruction of the world.

Lessons from Unist’ot’en Camp: Is Your Integrity Intact?

Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who first published this manuscript. 

Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

Will-Falk-Integrity

Resistance is often lonely.

I learn about loneliness waking up on a cold, hard storage room floor at 3 AM in a new friend’s house after a nightmare involving confronting all my old co-workers in the Kenosha, Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office, hanging my head again in defeat and shame as I explain that I will never come back to work there. I stare at the ceiling asking myself just how in the hell I ended up in Victoria, British Columbia to stop the spread of fossil fuels in Canada.

I learn about loneliness watching the supply of my daily anti-depressants dwindle in the bottom of the orange pill bottle. I’m too embarrassed to ask how I would go about refilling my prescription. I’m confused about whether I even want to re-fill it after forgetting to take my medications for a few days and feeling the welcome return of swift, spontaneous emotions welling up to heat my body like a touch of whiskey on a winter day.

I learn about loneliness when I unexpectedly run into the ex-partner I left in San Diego to come to Unist’ot’en Camp after close to 3 years together while  making my bus transfer in downtown Victoria. The unlikeliness of this encounter sinks in and I look around for friends who understood the relationship to help me laugh about it. Obviously, those friends are not here.

I learn about loneliness sitting in a living room on a foggy, rainy night with people I just met gazing across the Salish Sea south from Vancouver Island. Two beautiful American women are singing American folk songs while I look at America from Canada and ponder the meaning of home. There’s a mandolin hanging on the wall next to me that reads “Made in Kentucky” and I think of my Kentucky-born, Kentucky-raised mother. I miss her. I miss hearing southern accents. I think of my father teasing my mother about her accent all while developing his own southern accent from decades of loving my mother. I miss my father.

I learn about loneliness as I realize that spending too much time pitying myself for my loneliness while the world burns is a luxury the world cannot afford. Then, I learn I’m lonely for a world where I can sit with my melancholia for as long as I wish.

I’m lonely for a world that isn’t burning.

***
A few nights ago, I sat in a crowd gathered for a Unist’ot’en Camp fundraiser in the Fernwood neighborhood of Victoria listening to Unist’ot’en spokesperson Freda Huson and her husband, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief, Toghestiy speak about the mission of the Camp.

I spent the few days before helping to prepare for the fundraiser. I was tired from moving tables, loading vans, and riding my loaner bike all over Victoria hanging posters on telephone poles and in coffee shops. As so often happens to me in large gatherings of people who seem to all know each other, but who don’t know me, I was feeling very lonely. I wanted to share hugs with people I’d hugged before. I wanted to talk about football – American football in this time of the World Cup – with someone, anyone.

It was in this emotional place that Toghestiy’s words found me. He talked about the Camp volunteers who had turned their back on mainstream middle-class lifestyles to make their way off-the-grid to Unist’ot’en Camp. He explained how recently Camp volunteers woke in the early morning before dawn to the sound of a low-flying helicopter. Helicopters often try to land equipment and men on Wet’suwet’en land to establish work camps to begin pipeline construction. They jumped in a pick-up and took off down a forestry road to chase the helicopter off.

Toghestiy told a story about an indigenous friend who was called to the offices of a pipeline corporation so they could offer her a job and ask her to encourage support for the projects with her people. The woman took a drum to the office and beat it every time a pipeline executive tried to speak until they realized her answer was, “No.”

Toghestiy then told the story of his grandfather. Toghestiy was raised on the cultural lessons of his late grandparents – Madeek and Sa’itne. Toghestiy’s grandfather – also a hereditary chief – held an illegal open-air feast for his people. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested Toghestiy’s grandfather in the middle of the feast and held him in jail for several months. As soon as Toghestiy’s grandfather was released from jail, he gathered his people together to finish the feast. It was through actions and stories like these that Toghestiy was taught that a hereditary chief has a responsibility to ensure there is always something for his people and their future generations.

Finally, Toghestiy described the genocidal processes that are destroying First Nations. What began with murder and rape at the time of European first contact and carried on through the forcible removal of indigenous children from their families to residential schools for cultural whitewashing is perpetuated by the continual dispossession of First Nations land, the slashing of government aid programs, and a nearly complete unemployment rate in many First Nations communities. Unist’ot’en Camp stands in resistance to genocide. The Camp offers indigenous people and the world a glimpse into the power and humility of traditional Wet’suwet’en ways of living while physically blocking the spread of destructive fossil fuels.

Then, Toghestiy said, “These stories are about integrity. Corporations and the government think they can buy our integrity with the right price, but my integrity cannot be bought or sold. I want to ask everyone who is not resisting, ‘Is your integrity intact?’”
***

Is your integrity intact?

It is a simple and direct question. Integrity means being honest and having strong moral principles. In a world where many of us claim to be concerned for the future of our children, it means stopping the forces that will make their future a living hell. In a world where most of us claim to love life and at least some other living beings, it means protecting what we love. In a world threatened with annihilation by economic development and colonialism, it means everything.

We all must answer Toghestiy’s question for ourselves. First, each one of us must decide what to base our moral foundation upon. I encourage you to base your morality on the natural world because without the natural world nothing is possible. The most delicious food you’ve ever tasted comes from a functioning soil system. The most enjoyable learning experience you’ve ever gone through is only possible because your brain is housed in natural minerals (your skull) and nourished with physical nutrients (remember that delicious food?). The best glass of wine you’ve ever had starts with clean water. The most incredible sex you’ve ever experienced would never have happened without the clean air you and your partner shared in those magical moments.

Choosing to base our morality on reality is not enough, though. Regardless of what we say or think or say we think, integrity is demonstrated by action. It’s as simple as my father’s favorite adage, “It’s not what you say. It’s what you do.” Honesty is only proven through honest actions. You honestly love trees? Stop them from being deforested. You honestly love salmon? Knock down the dams keeping them from reaching their spawning beds. You honestly love your children? Ensure that they have a livable future.

This is what integrity looks like.

***
Answering Toghestiy’s question myself has given me the strength I need to overcome the loneliness that so often accompanies resistance because it gives me the articulation I need to remember why I am willing to face loneliness to keep resisting.

Why am I willing to feel loneliness? To keep my integrity intact.

The dominant culture works very hard and very well at nullifying resistance. It pushes capitalism on us to force us to work most of our waking hours to buy food and shelter. It pushes colonialism on indigenous peoples because the dominant culture simply cannot tolerate that there are – and always have been – better ways to live. It offers us money, alcohol, drugs, pornography, television, meaningless vacations, and so-called “security” to encourage us to accept or ignore or deny these terrible arrangements of power.

I could sell my integrity, of course. You could, too. They’re offering some very attractive signing bonuses. I could give up on the pipelines resistance up here and come back to friends and family to alleviate my loneliness. I could use my law degree and legal experience to make a more than comfortable living to salve the feelings of financial insecurity I often feel. I could allow myself to be seduced by the smiling face and feel good ethic of a bourgeois existence that says that being nice, maximizing personal happiness, and spending quality time with friends and family is the ultimate goal of life.

But, I won’t and I hope you won’t, either. My integrity is not for sale. I want my integrity to be intact.

Browse Will Falk’s Unis’tot’en Camp series at the Deep Green Resistance Blog

From Unist’ot’en Camp: No Word for Good-Bye

Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who transcribed and first published the original handwritten manuscript.

Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

June 9, 2014

no-pipelines

Editor’s Note:  Will’s first two essays about Unist’ot’en Camp are here and here.

Leaving Unist’ot’en Camp was hard. As I stepped away from a group of new friends passing pens and notebooks around to share contact information, I found myself on the banks of the Morice River under the pines. Looking up to see their silver and green tops swaying with the sky, I wondered if the pines were discussing the worth of my actions at the Camp. For the first time in my life, I was being watched by trees that I was directly involved in protecting. I studied the splinters still stuck in my hand from the construction site. I rubbed the black bruise under my left thumbnail where I missed a nail with my hammer. My shoulders were sore from holding heavy roof rafters precisely in place so they could be installed properly.

I hoped the trees approved of my efforts. Then, realizing this desire could only mean I was in love, I began to cry.

I was only at Unist’ot’en Camp for a couple weeks, but the first days after leaving felt like something had been pulled out of my stomach. At the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, there is a shopping center with a Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, a corporate bookstore selling $25 copies of hardcover bestsellers, and a chocolate shop selling individually wrapped candies. Still unshowered, smelling of camp fire and sweat, with Unist’ot’en Camp soil under my fingernails, I almost asked my friend, Rusty, if we could turn around and drive the 12 hours back to the Camp. Immediately.

I wandered around in this fog for a few days struggling with a feeling of meaninglessness so far from the Camp. It wasn’t until I was sharing coffee with a Dene friend that I found some peace. He had previously been to Unist’ot’en Camp, so we talked about our experiences. I explained to him how difficult I was finding it to be back. He told me that he always leaves the bush with a renewed sense of the interconnectedness of all things.

“I understand your feelings. It’s easy to feel empty down here. Easy to forget that there is no beginning or end to the connections between all life,” he said. “That’s why the Dene have no word for good-bye in our language.”

***

The night before I left the Camp, I sat with a friend on the forestry road bridge leading into camp. We were watching shooting stars, swallows performing their hunting dance, and sharing poetry. The conversation turned to why we write poetry. The Morice River rushed at us and under us with her powerful current roaring at the concrete bridge foundations we were sitting on. I started with my usual explanation that the land is speaking, my poetry is my attempt to listen to what the land is saying, and, once hearing the land’s language, to write it all down. I quoted some Simon Ortiz lines about his poetry being his attempt to explain as simply as possible his relationship to everything. With my friend’s supportive ear to help me build my ideas, I felt safe enough to tell her about my suicide attempts and the role poetry and writing has played in my recovery.

Then, as the river’s voice grew louder, I began to make a connection. I saw that poetry helps me to understand my relationships with natural communities. I realized that the river’s voice was no metaphor. The river really was speaking. And, speaking, the river could be a friend.

One of the feelings contributing to my struggles with depression is a constant feeling of loneliness. Let’s face it, if you’ve read much of my work – especially any of my anti-civilization work – I am in a political minority. Most of my friends and family are supportive, but it is tough for them to share in the intensity of my views. Most people are uncomfortable hearing arguments for the death of capitalism, the end of extractive corporate colonialism, the reality of male hegemonic violence, all coupled with my insistence that dogmatic non-violence may not be the path to redemption.

But, as I recognized the river as a subjective being with its own voice, its own preferences, desires, and destiny, it became more difficult to feel so lonely. Once open to the possibility that the river could be a friend, other beings like the trees, stones, swallows, and moths become potential friends, become potential allies in the desperate, lonely struggle to preserve life on Earth.

***

I travel back to Unist’ot’en Camp on the trails in my memory.

The moss is thick on the forest floor where I sit. Soft with warm greens and browns, this moss makes the perfect seat for contemplation. The sun barely crests the treetops. It is morning. In this space, before my mind fills with the thoughts of the day, I let my awareness seep into the reality surrounding me.

My breathing deepens with the pines. I breathe in the oxygen they breathe out and they breathe in the carbon dioxide I breathe out. I reach to my water bottle still cold from the night. The Morice River water I collected last night is delicious. It wakes up my tongue, flows down my throat, pools in my stomach, and then travels to my cramping legs through my veins. The water becomes my sweat. My sweat will fall from my brow onto pebbles to be filtered through the soil to drain back into the river.

Down at the big kitchen tent they are preparing moose for breakfast. This moose walked the land with heavy limbs, munching on twigs and leaves, naturally tilling the forest floor and recycling the forest’s nutrients. Now, her meat will sustain me as I work carrying heavy loads and hammering nails spending the day in constant motion. The protein from her muscles is used by my muscles. And one day, my meat sustained by the moose’s meat will be returned to the soil where worms and other organisms will break me down to sustain plants.

I begin to dissolve into a collection of relationships. I am the temporary arrangement of physical forces in this particular space. This collection I call “me” is comprised of borrowed materials. The same organic chemicals that are me were once a moose, before that a leaf, a drop of rainwater, and a ray of sunshine. As time works across space, this arrangement will loosen and I will be carried away by animals, birds, worms, rivers, oceans, and winds to sustain this grand process we call life. Time is only a circle transposed over space. There is no beginning and no end. There are only cycles on a land base. It has always been this way and there will never be another way.

Of course, the land could be so maimed as to render these life-giving cycles empty. The natural order of the land could be disturbed to the point where the cycles spin into dangerous destructive processes. In many places this is already happening. This is exactly why the Unist’ot’en Camp must succeed in stopping the pipelines. The extraction, transportation, and burning of fossil fuels involves a process of stealing the decomposing remains of previous lives in the form of oil, coal, and natural gas from their natural cycles. Cycles that should operate in million year revolutions are being combusted into instant explosions. And, as we’re seeing, the results are disastrous.

***

My sadness about leaving Unist’ot’en Camp is beginning to subside. I do not think that it will ever completely ease up nor do I think it ever should. It’s easy to say that a part of Camp will always be with me. Many of us have no trouble with the notion that our memories can never be taken from us. Our tendency to stop at purely mental constructs is due to our willingness to accept our internal psychological processes as the primary proofs of reality. The idea that each one of us is a fundamentally isolated entity doomed to existential loneliness is wrong. The horrible destructive Cartesian maxim, “I think, therefore, I am” is utter bull-shit.

I learned an invaluable lesson at the Camp that can be transferred to everywhere life exists. I do believe that nothing I see can be taken from me. But, it’s deeper than that. It’s not just mental or emotional. It is the literal, physical relationships at work in the world that define us. During the time I was there eating food off the land, drinking water from the river, and breathing air from the forest, I literally was Unist’ot’en Camp. The Morice River is an ally that I do not believe wants pipelines crossing her proud current. The pine trees are being killed by an over-population of beetles stemming from shorter winters due to climate-change. If you listen to the pines, I think they will tell you that they want to live.

dgr-quotes-Falk-NoWordForGoodbyeAnd just as matter can neither be created nor destroyed, when you and your land base engage in the mutual sharing of bodies trading processes, materials, and spirit in the holiest of intercourses, you can never truly leave that land base and that land base can never truly leave you.

In short, there is no word for good-bye in the language of life.

Browse Will Falk’s Unis’tot’en Camp series at the Deep Green Resistance Blog

From Unist’ot’en Camp: Responsibility, Not Rights

stop-pipelines

Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who transcribed and first published the original handwritten manuscript.

Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

May 19, 2014

Not all worldviews are created equal.

I thought this as I sat listening to Mel, a Wet’suwet’en man, explain the ideas behind the establishment of the Unist’ot’en Camp. It was lunch on my first day of the camp. The sun was strong and the few dozen visitors to the camp gathered in a clearing surrounded by tall pines. The quick-flowing clear-voiced Morice River flowed next to our gathering place, ice cold from its glacial source not far away.

My first encounter with Mel was on the bridge into Unist’ot’en Camp. Before visitors are admitted, they must satisfactorily complete the Free, Prior and Informed Consent Protocol – a series of questions that camp elders ask. Mel was quick with a smile, quicker with a hug or handshake, and quickest with a joke. He was the first to clap me on my nervous back after I satisfactorily answered my hosts’ questions in the Protocol. So it was natural I made my way to the small gathering of people listening to Mel at lunch.

“This is about responsibility, not rights” Mel said looking around the sky and gesturing towards the river. He explained the way the land taught his people that they had a responsibility to protect the health of the land. Displaying a mastery of political theory coupled with the traditional wisdom of his people, he weaved a powerful analysis to show how important it is that the pipelines be stopped at the Unist’ot’en Camp.

One of the fundamental rules his people have long adhered to is: take what you need and leave the rest. This rule governed the Wet’suwet’en for centuries and worked very well as evidenced by the health of northern British Columbia’s environment when the Europeans first arrived.

This rule, however, stands in direct opposition to the lifeblood of capitalism – unlimited growth. Capitalism depends on readily consumable natural resources. Capitalism would collapse very quickly without these resources. Mel went on to explain that is why he felt we have to resist the spread of fossil fuel consumption. In a world gone mad with the burning of fossil fuels, in a world being destroyed because of this madness, we have a responsibility to protect the world.

From there, Mel’s analysis took a turn I wasn’t expecting. He explained the way the land we were sitting on – traditional Wet’suwet’en land – was unceded territory. His people never signed a treaty with the British or Canadian government giving them access to Wet’suwet’en land. So, many people might argue the corporations and the Canadian government have no right to build pipelines through the Unist’ot’en Camp and they would be correct.

stop-pipelines-Annie-Morgan-272x300

Artwork by Annie Morgan artsmined.blogspot.com

But, and this is what I found most beautiful about Mel’s words, the founders of the Unist’ot’en Camp view themselves as members of a mutually supportive natural community where members share a responsibility to each other. The river provides life-giving water, the salmon give their nourishing flesh to animals and the forests surrounding the riverbeds, and humans, benefiting from all this, in turn bear a responsibility to protect these relationships.

To go even further, Mel showed that rights are nothing more than privileges given by a government. The Canadian government is illegitimate because it exists through genocide and is only on Wet’suwet’en land by sheer force. So, for the Wet’suwet’en to assert their rights in Canadian courts, they would be acknowledging the power of the Canadian government to decide the fate of lands they should have no power over.

Any government that fails to honor the basic rule to take only what you need and to leave the rest is illegitimate. It really is as simple as that.

As I’ve thought about Mel’s words the last few days, I’ve realized the strength in viewing our role in a burning world as one of responsibility. We simply do not have time to wait for governments to enforce our rights to clean air, clean water and healthy soil.

This gets to the heart of something I’ve been trying to articulate for a long time. Before I left for the Unist’ot’en Camp, I wrote a couple of pieces about why I felt it was important to come here to offer my help to the Wet’suwet’en. I wrote about giving up on home, I wrote about wanting to do more than just write, and I wrote about those of us benefiting from the dominant culture working to stop its destructive cycle.

Some of my closest friends told me that I was resorting to guilt and expressing a need for atonement to motivate people to work for the land. They seem to think that by truly acknowledging the atrocities of the past, I must be living in perpetual guilt. It was never my intention to use guilt as the reason we must act. But I need to be firm. I think that people who mistake the never-ending process of trying to see clearly into the past as guilt reveal nothing more than their own sense that the horrors of the past are worthy of guilt.

Putting aside the questionable notion that all guilt is bad, for a moment, I think it is vastly important that we understand the historical forces producing reality in the present and the future. History – the story of the past – is another narrative that can be used to prop up the current system of power, or used to undermine the current system’s strangle-hold on life on the planet. History, in this way, is just like religion, poetry, mass advertising and science.

You can see the power history holds when you observe someone’s everyday assumptions. If, for example, our historical narrative tells you the United States of America was founded by enlightened European men who came to this mostly empty land fleeing religious and economic persecution, you will view your role as a citizen one way. If, for a different example, your historical narrative tells you that George Washington’s famous wooden teeth were not wooden at all, but were actually real teeth forcibly removed from his African slaves, you may view your role in Washington’s legacy as a citizen in a radically different way. Or, to take this idea even further, if you believe that history is too complex to understand, then give up in the constant struggle to analyze its power over your thinking, denying that the past is real, you will view your role as a citizen even more differently.

– – – – – – –

A simple way to say all this is: You are what you eat. Just as the health conscious person is concerned about the ingredients in her food, the world conscious person continuously challenges the history presented to her.

This is why I incorporate North America’s bloody history into my perspective. It is not about guilt or the need for penance, it’s about understanding the historical ingredients that comprise present reality.

Which brings us back to guilt. Not all guilt is bad. It is important and healthy that humans feel guilt. When you snap at your mother, for instance, you should feel guilty about that. When you are wiping insects off your windshield, counting the number of beings with lives (now ended) that were as important to them as yours is to you, you should feel some guilt. Guilt tells us when our actions are wrong and provides us with the emotional incentive to stop acting in that manner.

– – – – – – – –

Though guilt is helpful for changing behavior, it is through responsibility that society gains its imperative to overturn the current system based on the domination of humans, natural communities and the land. If guilt is rooted in the past, responsibility is rooted in the present and future. To respond implies that there is someone to respond to and in Mel’s words about the Wet’suwet’en’s beliefs about responsibility to future generations, we find those we must respond to: our children, our grandchildren, their children.

Even if it is true that all guilt is bad, the reality is the same atrocities we abhor in the past – genocide, a war on women, the devastation of land and water – are continuing at a dizzying pace.

The question becomes: once aware of these atrocities, once feeling them in our hearts, once we absorb the immensity of the threats to everything we love, how do we fail to stop what would destroy our beloved.

– – – – – – –

Not all world views are created equal.

Some tell us that this world is not real. Some tell us we will find peace in another world in the sky. Some world views tell us that the natural world is here for us to use. Some tell us that humans are naturally destructive and everything we touch doomed to ashes.

Of course, these are all just narratives we tell ourselves. In the philosophic sense, they can not be proven. Meanwhile, the world burns. The ability of the beautiful planet to support life is under attack.

I knew this was true sitting with my lunch listening to Mel crouch on the ground with his lunch. Both his feet were planted in the soil. Behind his bright face, the pines were swaying. And underneath the noise of the Unist’ot’en Camp, the Morice River sang on as it has for thousands of years. Many thousands of those years the Wet’suwet’en have sat on her banks listening to her wisdom.

She sings of responsibility – the responsibility to protect this land for future generations.

Post Script May 30, 2014: I have decided to stay in British Columbia to offer all my support to the Camp. I am helping with fundraising, public awareness, and general organizing. I’ve already been in Victoria, BC for three days and I’ve been really busy running around town organizing for a big fundraiser we’re putting on Sunday, June 1. I have written 2 essays from the Camp that will appear on the San Diego Free Press. I’ve also been working on a collection of poetry.

In order to live and work up here, I do need some financial resources. Absolutely every little bit helps, but if you paypal me $15 I will see that you get a physical copy of a chap book of poetry from the Unist’ot’en Camp I am working on. (Of course, I will probably share the poetry anyway, so if you can’t help out, don’t worry! I’ll still be sharing…)

My paypal account is falkwilt@gmail.com. If this sounds like something someone you know may be interested in, feel free to share.

Will Falk moved to San Diego from Milwaukee, WI where he was a public defender. His first passion is poetry and his work is an effort to record the way the land is speaking. He feels the largest and most pressing issue confronting us today is the destruction of natural communities. If he is not writing in the parklet in front of Caffe Calabria in North Park, he is somewhere in the desert.