“…One humanity with one creation. One creator that helps us know that we’re the stewards and that we’re to work together…”
On Saturday the Climate March for Kansas City took place on the Plaza with a march around the Plaza in the rain and a following rally at Unity Temple. Over a thousand people attended the rally.
Several speakers at the rally addressed climate change.
John Reyna’s remarks at the rally:
John Reyna: There’s some power in this room today. [cheers] I’m glad to be here. So, uh, in my Lakota tradition, uh, most oftentimes when we would talk to the people you could use your language. And oftentimes as a young person you would apologize to your elders for not, um, for speaking in front of them when they had more experience in their life. And, uh, today I’m in a group where it isn’t probably appropriate for me to speak Lakota. But I do know that I all my elders, but even more so, my nieces and nephews, particularly my English nephews, because they do speak Lakota, and they are working on that.
So, just a little bit about myself. As Manny [Abarca] mentioned, there, um, I’m Húŋkpapȟa Lakota. Uh, same band as Sitting Bull, from Standing Rock. I grew up in the community called Akicita Hanska, which is Long Soldier, and uh, in true American revisionist history, it was renamed Fort Yates [laughter] for a fallen soldier in the Battle of Little Bighorn. So, talk about insult and injury, uh, for our home district and town.
So, my place on this, uh, day is to talk to you about indigenous rights. And I, uh, could spend a considerable time talking about relatives, talking about important actions and things at Standing Rock. But, but there’s a lot of polarization after what happened in this last year at Standing Rock. There are a lot of hard feelings. There’s a lot of people out there with PTSD, so I just, I chose a different strategy. I chose a different approach. I just wanted to, uh, beg you patience while I do that.
So, what were we really talking about here. For us, we’re talking about this western hemisphere, right? And we’re talking about, what about this, uh, western hemisphere. We’re talking just about human actions and the impact of those actions, but even more so, what are we impacting? How has that, how has that happened and why has it happened?
It happened because it was a clash of cultures. We all had history taught to us from grade school, middle school, high school. And they told us the high points, right, the high points. They usually don’t talk about our dirty laundry, or talk about the tragedies or any of those uncomfortable truths. But, the reality is that we’re here because we’re in an uncomfortable truth. And the thing about it is that it’s economically driven. Has been from the inception of the United States of America, has been from the European contact to the indigenous peoples here in the western hemisphere. And what I mean by that is there was a system. It was an economic system that was already in play. And you all learned about it just as I did. It was called Mercantilism. It was evolved to a place where it was the Molasses triangle, it was human trade for goods and things. And that continues. Only today we’ve renamed it. You know, we, we want to say it’s the Trans Pacific Partnership, or is it NAFTA, or is it some other trade mechanism? Whether we’re for it or whether we’re against it the truth, the uncomfortable truth is that mercantilism is alive and well. And there are industries and there are decisions being made that are impacting humans, and our ecosystem, and our creation, and our creatures.
So, the thing about it is the difference of the inhabitants, my people, my ancestors. We were at a survival subsistence culture. And it, if there’s any economics professors in, in the crowd they’ll tell you it evolves from survival subsistence, we learned about feudalism, and we ended up at mercantilism. But, the reality is, is that we all know as individuals, as families, as we listened to the gentleman talk about labor and fair living, we’re all survival subsistence. Collectively we work as something different, but, in the end it really is truth that as families and individuals we’re at a survival subsistence level.
So some of these things that may help you understand a little bit about the perspective from the indigenous people, from my tribe in particular, I can’t speak for all tribes. The thing that strikes me most is that when you talk about trade, when you talk about, uh, fair and just economics the people of the western hemisphere that were already here really got the raw end of the deal. [voices: “Yeah.”] And we kind of have an awareness now, more so than when I was a kid. When, when we were young we had encyclopedias. There was no mass communication, social media. People know the truth much quicker now. And as a result those of you in this last year may have realized Standing Rock exists. Standing Rock is a place. And they made a stand.
The real emotional and hard part for me, I came to Kansas City in nineteen eighty-nine. And up until about two or three years ago I’d introduce myself, I’m involved in patient care, I’d introduce myself and they’d say, where are you from? And I’d start to tell them a little about myself and say I’m from Standing Rock. No one knew where Standing Rock was. Hardly anyone. Now if I say I’m from Standing Rock there’s a pause and there’s a recognition. And fortunately in this room there’s a cheer. [applause, cheers]. So, I’m in [inaudible].
But, but why is Standing Rock so important? And why I [inaudible] is that I get to tell you a little something else. And that is, there were good people, too, that came in that European contact. That’s evident from this room. There were good people that were at Standing Rock who were not indigenous people. There were white people, there were brown people, there were people from every walk that stood along with my tribe, along with my family members,. And I know for myself I wouldn’t be up here talking if there wasn’t a voice at the river who came when I went to pray. And that’s John Kerman. He has been a voice in Kansas City for some time. [applause, cheers] So, so, I don’t want to give you a sense of a different justice, but I do know that there is cohesiveness that we can achieve. And that is what we are doing today.
So, that is my next point. Is that, what’s the difference with indigenous rights? Why were they usurped and why were they taken? A lot of it was because we didn’t understand the systems. We didn’t understand what was happening. And for those of you who were here when Manny started to talk this morning, when he introduced he did a timeline. What he didn’t mention in his timeline is that just last night the executive order 13754, which was granted, I believe in two thousand eight by the previous executive office, gave the native Alaskans a voice at the table in the petroleum decision making. That was repealed last night. [voices: “Boo.”] [voice: “Stand up, fight back.”] So, so the, so the difficulty is, is that we can’t, it’s a minute by minute thing with this executive occupant now. And for, for me it’s really important that we understand what it means, especially for indigenous people. He hung a picture of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office. [voices: “Boo.”] For me the thing is, is that for those of you who didn’t learn history you know that there was a an Indian Removal Act and that, that previous president was responsible for the largest number of deaths prior to nine eleven. More than the number that were lost in nine eleven were lost in the Trail of Tears. Fully documented, well over three thousand, almost four thousand, who lost their lives just in the trek from being displaced.
So, for me, what I want you to understand about indigenous rights is that they are to this day the most vulnerable. And if you look at the banner over here, it hangs, it has a beautiful, beautiful flowers. But it has a truly American symbol, and that is the American flag wrapped around a water protector. Not in disrespect, but in distress. There are Americans who are saying we are in distress. And they’re calling to the other Americans to say we need help.
So, I’m thankful that you’re here today because I’m asking you along with all of your local concerns, all of those things as well, that we start to consider and re-look at some of the history. But, also some of the other dimensions which you may or may not understand, I think most of you do, is that indigenous people have a tremendous different world view. This was brought to light by a Christian priest, an Episcopal priest, at Standing Rock named John Floberg. He presented the story, uh, a lot of the Facebook posting and things. But he helped a lot of people understand that basically indigenous peoples have no enlightenment. There is no era of enlightenment like the Europeans. We did not get a different philosophy about our connections, our, our connections and our kinship to the creation, to the creator, and to all of our natural fauna. We started to be symbiotic long ago and even when there was contact five hundred years ago we still had no enlightenment. We don’t know that in our world view. We don’t have this quibbling and fighting over science. Yes, I’m party to it now, but as a culture and a people part of our kinship to nature and to the creation is because we have not taken that world view. And we won’t.
And so, that helps us understand differently our science and our laws, and especially the difference between laws of nature and natural law and manmade law. When those things start to be understood from the indigenous people’s perspective, without the enlightenment, without kind of this self-centric manmade perspective on self it starts to become very clear how we save our planet. That we recognize that in this industrial age in the last couple of hundred years we truly have lost our spiritual connection. We’ve stopped thinking of things as sacred. We stopped thinking of every flower, every person, every movement, every effort, every rise in the morning had a purpose and was connected in a way that we understood that was prayerful and that a kinship existed. And so, for my part today I just beg that you look at it from the perspective that, it doesn’t matter what religion, whether you’re believer, non-believer, part of what the world view we have tells us that we are connected that way.
So, that’s what I have for you today. Not so much about Standing Rock, but about being related. One humanity with one creation. One creator that helps us know that we’re the stewards and that we’re to work together.
Thank you. [applause, cheers]
A sign from the march and rally:
Climate March – Kansas City – April 29, 2017 (April 29, 2017)
Climate March – Kansas City – April 29, 2017 – Sergio Moreno (April 30, 2017)