VIDEO, AUDIO, TRANSCRIPT: BPF Reportback from Standing Rock
Video, audio & transcript now available from
BPF Reportback from Standing Rock
December 7, 2016 Video Call
Just released! Hear from a diverse crew of BPFers who went to Standing Rock this fall in solidarity with indigenous leaders against the Dakota Access Pipeline — including YiLing Cheng and Aaron Goggans from our 2016 Block+Build+Be retreat, and socially engaged dharma teachers Venerable Dr. Pannavati and Thanissara.
As part of our growing attention toward expanding access, the video also includes our first live ASL interpretation. Immense thanks to our volunteer ASL interpreters Annie and Sierra! Apologies for the occasional loss of ASL video — we learned a lot and welcome feedback!
Our speakers explored questions like:
- How can we be an ally and accomplice in indigenous-led movement, including as non-indigenous people of color?
- What is the utility of having a visceral experience outside of US empire — loosening tension in the body, the mind, and larger systems?
- How is the prayerful resistance effort at Standing Rock different than other movement work?
We were grateful to celebrate the Army Corps of Engineers denial of the permit to drill under the Missouri while further routes and environmental impacts are assessed — an impermanent but powerful win to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline
While camp bunkers down during the worst of winter while construction is halted, fierce water protection continues as the 550 people arrested begin to head to court and other indigenous communities are inspired to begin their own resistance. The water protectors have their own civil rights suit against North Dakota police response, as protectors like Vanessa Dundon face potentially permanent harms exacerbated by failed healthcare systems for indigenous people.
Want to lend your support against the Black Snake? Move your money out of banks that support DAPL and get your organizations and local governments to divest — like Seattle’s plans to move $3 billion out of Wells Fargo.
LiZhen: I am LiZhen and I’m with BPF to do some network building. I have coordinated the first national BPF retreat – the Block Build Be retreat — and I coordinated the BPF contingent to standing rock this November.
We use emojis: We use a heart image to send love to a speaker or if you love something being said. The Lightbulb emoji is if a lightbulb goes off in your head or I drew a sparkler emoji for when the conversation sparks something in my brain.
The third emoji is if something difficult is coming up: you can draw an emoji to show you are holding space for something that is difficult or challenging – mine has a group of people holding each other close.
Tonight we’ll hear from panel of speakers who all went to Standing Rock recently, and then have a Q and A, followed by a fishbowl discussion with some folks who went for our latest delegation to Standing Rock, then finally hear a report back from a BPF member who is doing local solidarity work.
I’d like to introduce Katie Loncke, who is BPF’s Director of Direct Action and Media.
Katie: It’s an honor and a privilege. You’re so beautiful, thanks for your emojis. It’s a privilege …this call is a first since I’ve been with BPF – a report of this fashion trans-geographically, and inviting so many people to come and reflect together …especially to report on the significance of a movement as inspirational and incredible as Standing Rock.
I want to start off with some grounding…From a BPF perspective, why was this such a special contingent of 15 people that traveled to the territories of the Lakota Peoples to participate in the protection of sacred water…and also the really really vital satellite and offsite solidarity work that has been happening in the bpf network and beyond in a lot of our communities around the world.
So… This year we had our first ever Block Build Be leadership retreat for BPF. Later this year, in 2017, we will be sharing more and welcoming more of you to join us to explore more of the Block Build Be framework.
But in short, it’s trying to get at a really special combo of collective liberation that can happen when we get together to BLOCK the harmful and oppressive, BUILD the inspiring alternatives that we want to see, and BE in our highest most grounded selves. Sometimes with our backgrounds as activists we get caught up in the block or the build to make things happen…. just dealing with everything that comes at us. And so sometimes we neglect time for the Be. To know that we are enough and listen to the interconnectedness of all that we are.
It’s particularly through the lessons and legacies of the Buddhadharma that offer us concrete skills and wisdom to bring in the BE element …and in the teachings of the Buddha in what is now India, there is the most distilled and crystallized instruction for a path to liberation….At times he is said to have advised to block out or eradicate that which is toxic to our happiness….the three poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion; to build up and cultivate wholesome qualities like tenacity and compassion, and to purify the mind, to be in a state of crystal clear awareness…of everything that is arising or passing, to understand and know the true nature of this life that we are part of . It’s been wonderful to meet people from all over the country who are interested in this combo of BBB as a lens through which to do our collective liberation work… and a group of these people wanted to be in solidarity with the SR movement by joining indigenous people on the ground in North Dakota.
I’m really excited to hear back from the people who came from all over the country to Spirit Rock.
Finally, to draw out a theme that has been on my heart and many of our hearts … As a person who is not indigenous to these lands (I’m calling from the Ohlone territories of Turtle Island, in the Bay Area, which was colonized by the United States), what does it mean to be in solidarity with indigenous struggles for decolonization and how do we bring our fullest, most creative, alive, and accountable selves to that collective struggle?
I’m not here to say BPF, we not saying “perfect your solidarity” but I’m so honored to be part of a network that is engaging in these questions in humility and sincerity.
Thank you so much for being with us. I invite you to find a comfortable, relaxed and alert place to stand or sit or lie down for the remainder of the call. If it’s in your practice, keep staying with your breath as well as tuning into the gems that are about to come forth from our glorious speakers. Thank you.
LiZhen: Katie, thank you for the beautiful grounding and reflection. I’m remembering At SR, you would always begin every action and with a prayer or a song, something to remind us that everything there is ceremony. So it feels very fitting to begin this meeting with a spiritual practice.
ASL interpretation …
Our first speaker is the Venerable Dr. Pannavati who recently returned from SR. She is a black Buddhist monk, She is co-founder and co-abbott of Hermitage, and co-director of Heartwood Refuge, which is a new intentional community and retreat center in North Carolina.
Venerable Dr. Pannavati: Thank you so much. I would like to start by taking us back to the conversation we had before…I took a delegation to Standing Rock in September, Sept 25. And I sat down with Dallas and Tommy Goldtooth and all of these guys and we talked about things. I sat with the young boys…who at that time they were ready to fight but they were trying to listening to the wisdom of the elders. By the time I arrived, they had closed themselves off from the rest of the camp, saying the time for talking is done, and we’ve been trying to talk for hundreds of years, talking has not worked. Over that span of time, there was a conscious effort effort to raise the consciousness level of these who felt there was no action left but to fight. We have to now do something physical, lay our bodies down, yes, but maybe even more physical.
When people started coming there was a very active component — they kept imploring us, not to co-opt their movement.
Now some questions may have arisen in our mind, such as… What does that mean THEIR? Is it only their movement? Is it only their planet? But that is not what they meant. They came together to first restore fellowship and harmony among themselves, which had not been done…and they needed to arouse a level of deep commitment even committing to losing the short term battle, but for the heart to be perfect in every thought, every action, in every word.
That’s what struck me when I was there—that commitment to losing the short term battle to leave the legacy of peace. It reminded me of the Buddha, in talking with his own clan – he kept imploring them not to go to war over the water, and he was able to allay a battle several times but in the end they went to war and they were completely wiped out. And many people stopped walking with the Buddha after that – he could not even save his own clan. But he said everybody is the owner of their own karma. He was pointing to something more than just the immediate moment, even though the moment is so important. …And that we each have a different station and place to hold, and the Lakota were certain about what their station and place to hold.
The Lakota were sure that if we came there, we should hold that space in the way that they had stepped forward. Now a lot has happened since then. But it was wonderful to me what stepped into place.
Now I have no illusion that whether the business people are going to say ”Fine me, I’ll pay the fine” – I don’t know what will happen with that part. But I went as a spiritual representative.
I went to suffer loss, temporary defeat, for a greater good… in order to arouse the heart and mind toward perfection. And so I stand with them in that aspect. And I know my place. It’s not everybody’s place, but it’s my place.
BAD SOUND GAP….appealing for the sake of this movement…Asking people to return home, and everything’s so fluid, and I’m listening to hear their guidance about what they would like to see there and what their position will be. And then I will decide what to do next. BAD SOUND GAP…..
I do agree that it’s bigger than them but if we’re talking about SR specifically, I stand with them. They were standing offering forgiveness for their own hatred of people who have hated them. It was so powerful that it brought out the veterans.
I know my time is up, but I remember, I was the product of the ‘60s, and everybody talks about the great work that Martin Luther King accomplished through nonviolence. But I want to tell you, it wasn’t just that movement – there was also Malcolm X and the Weathermen. And Martin would say, I’m trying to make something happen with you. But when I leave the room, you’re going to have to deal with Malcolm, and when Malcolm is gone, you are going to have the Weathermen. It took a number of things, causes and conditions…But we have to decide what part of those causes and conditions do we choose to be a part of and help create?
I love seeing the young people going down there and you all taking the full front on this, and thank you for letting me be a part of this, And I want to thank you for what you are doing for the hearts and minds of young Buddhists in America.
LiZhen: Thank you so much Venerable Pannavati. So, next on our lineup if Aaron Goggans, a BPF member who went with the BPF delegation to Standing Rock. Aaron is an organizer, artist, writer, and facilitator based in DC, organizes with Black Lives Matter DC and is the founder of the collaborative social justice consultancy Emergence Transformation and Consulting. Aaron is a black queer feminist and self-proclaimed organic intellectual. You can find him shutting down a highway and writing his own comic book. He’s also currently single and looking for love and I can testify that Aaron is amazing.
Aaron: Thanks LiZhen!
Got back from SR last week and has been a whirlwind to acclimate back to the pace of life outside of SR. I’ve been trying to pare down, making time to do report backs and write. I still am at a loss of words to say what SR was like.
Come from black radical tradition that talks about these sorts of moments as uprisings in which ordinary people decide that the way the world is operating does not give them what they need and they need to come together to stop it. These moments are gloriously beautiful and it’s hard to put them into words. It reminds me of Baltimore — emotionally very different but still transformed me.
The image that sticks with me from SR: the first thing you have to contend with in the plains states is that you can see in every direction for 10 miles. No big cities around. Can see the stars in freezing cold, very aware of your body. You can look into the universe, understand yourself a very small fragile singularity in a large universe, but also deeply connected. For me, SR was able to offer that. And to thousands of people. That outweighs the ways in which it was amazing in terms of the standard left analysis of uprisings.
SR cost the company upwards of 300 million $. (Raised $2 million).
Folks who come from a criticism of capitalism, we talk about making the system unworkable, so that the path of least resistance is actually a more holistic way — SR was able to do that.
SR really put together the political analysis of direct action and needing to stop capitalism and solidarity with native people, along with the invitation to show up in a prayerful way. Remarkable.
LiZhen: Our next speaker is Thannisara, just came back from SR a little over a week ago and raised the funds to establish the dharma dome that is currently at SR to house Buddhist activists. Thannisara is originally from London and trained in the Thai Forrest tradition of Ajahn Chah for 12 years as a Buddhist nun. She has been teaching meditation retreats internationally since 1992 with Kittisaro, her husband. She is also the author and co-author of several books. Her new book is “Time to Stand Up: a Buddhist Manifesto for the Earth.” Welcome Thannisara.
Thannisara: Really honored to be here, thank you all so much.
Still something in process re: SR, so impactful. It works on a cellular level. So out of the current flow of our contemporary world, which is so threaded through with destructive oil culture and oil industry.
To see this small group activated from the ancestors who put prayers in that very land of the Lakota and Dakota, who predicted this time — to draw on that energy and be invited in — my response was to the invitation to people of prayer to come in and join. I experienced this as a call of the heart, didn’t have a lot of agenda, didn’t feel I was representing Buddhists in any way. It felt like an appointment with destiny.
As I was meditating one morning, I really felt that a space for dharma people was what was important. It went very well and so much funds and support have come in, in addition to lots of interest across the world.
Everyone feels so tremendously threatened by our new political realities, in the US, through Europe, through the Middle East and South Africa, incredible sense of crisis and destabilization, underpinned by colonialism and patriarchy.
Coming into SR you’re stepping out of the empire, stripping down. It’s very elemental, it demands total authenticity from each other, lots of generosity, invites sharing and sacrifice, also configures itself around this sacred spiritual prayerfulness. To understand that as a deeper power than the force of aggression against which the protectors are standing up.
These resistance movements are an old story — whether in India, Poland, civil rights movements here, anti-apartheid in Africa — this version is powerful because it’s led by indigenous peoples.
Deep wound that is fueling the destruction of the earth comes from a profound separative consciousness, ripped out of the web of life.
Indigenous peoples never forgot that they were a part of the web of life and that life is sacred, they have stood up to colonialism and patriarchy for so long. They were generous to invite us all in to share in that knowledge and support the resistance.
This time of awakening, having to really struggle, having to restore equity, justice, fight for sustainability during a time when we stand to lose everything — feels very important to me to honor all of this being led by indigenous elders.
LiZhen: Stripped down, yes, felt that a lot at SR: fearless self examination of who we can be.
As people in the audience listen to our panelists, start thinking of your questions and put them in the chat.
Moving onto our 4th and final panelist, Yiling Cheng, comes from a family of academics, monastics, midwives and fishermen. She has been thrown out of academic and religious institutions for challenging presidents and abbots. After publishing her memoir, coming out in 2017, she’ll be writing about the economics of karma, playing tennis, and drinking tea, because a world of justice begins around a cup of good tea.
As Yiling is dealing with some technical difficulties, we’ll take some questions. This question is for our panelist Aaron Goggans: what at Standing Rock bolstered some faith in you about doing political organizing, especially for those of us who are feeling burnt out?
Aaron: SR offers the importance and rejuvenating power of being deeply held by a community.
When we organize within mainstream society to block it, it’s incredibly draining. The only things that get credit are the incredibly draining, dangerous action. The only time we offer the opportunity to debrief or ask if people are ok if after we’ve doing those things.
Prayerfulness and intentionally at SR made it so that doing dishes and watching someone’s kid were essential parts of native sovereignty.
Intentionality of it, asking people to bring their best selves, allowed thousands of people to come together and have decolonization meetings. I facilitated a men’s group there, don’t generally do that in interracial spaces, this was mostly cisgendered straight white men, went very deep and really held eachother — that provided me with a lot of hope.
If you ask people to show up their greatest selves, you can bring a lot of strangers together and do something beautiful.
YiLing: Calling from Houston TX, right down this road we have some refineries going, nice to recall a time of a fight for water. Fighting for clean air and water here too. Going to SR brought back a lot of rejuvenation as others talked about.
I’m specifically going to talk about water. I did a lot of bodywork with POC and indigenous folks, that was a way I could be useful. I noticed the effects of being there: people got stuck in their bodies, need to move through that on a somatic level.
Lots of people stuck in shoulders, cold, anger, grief in their chests. A lot of people as we did work shared that they were having very vivid dreams, esp of their ancestors dying. Something was having resurgent migraines.
When I was young I grew up around monks — was taught that everything you see is a reflection of your mind, there are many levels of your mind.
Doing bodywork means getting on many levels with people.
What does it mean to decolonize bodywork? And the dharma?
Sometimes the dharma is described as the living water.
As we did the work to loosen the body up it made me think a lot too about loosening the fetters — there are 10 fetters in Buddhism. To become a stream you loosen up doubts, the belief that ritual alone will get you to freedom, the illusion of self.
SR demanded of us a complete embracing. It’s very dangerous doing bodywork to completely loosen everything at once — especially in cold. Hard to bring warmth during a blizzard. We are tense from a different of cold: the blizzard of white terror. I don’t want people to just loosen up unsafely in those moments.
There’s really an opportunity to decolonize the dharma: asking what does it mean that the dharma brought over here is a “foreign” one — it’s not native to this land. This place is already rife with ways of understanding the world that are integrated with this land. What do we do to establish a relationship with guardians of this land and its spirits?
We are at the advent of the possibility of (on this side of the ocean) getting to ask indigenous folks, what does it mean to have a reciprocal relationships, what are the rituals to heal that relationships, what is a dharma that serves you, serves everyone — my auntie always says “don’t be the sun, be the moon, reflect the sun.” What would it be like for buddhism to be the moon that reflects the sun of indigenous spiritualities and faiths?
LiZhen: So powerful, thank you. The balance between loosening people up to have tenderness of heart while still staying strong enough to face the problems of our world.
So this question is for all the panelists: it’s how are you bringing the work that you engaged in at SR back home, and how do you see it as a continuation of your Buddhist practice. I’m going to throw this question over to Thannisara first. So, how are you bringing SR back home and how do you see it as a continuation of your Buddhist practice.
Thannisara: Well, I really, (laughs) I really had a, I mean it’s such a whirlwind, I mean to tell you the truth since SR I mean I’ve been out of the country, I just came back in from South Africa into all of this: the elections, SR, and it’s just felt like a complete vortex. So I really haven’t had the time to sit down and think cognitively about those very important questions, I have to say. It just feels like hitting the ground running. The world is changing very quick, dramatically, and everything about SR affected me on a cellular level so I can’t just – it’s like the cells of my universe, internal universe, have been changing , and all I can say, perhaps, is that I have to listen in to my own heart, I have to listen, I feel an intelligence is operating through us all, actually, that’s a part of the Earth, a part bringing us into this crisis in a much deeper way, waking us up because She needs our help and bringing us very strong feelings, very strong discomfort which many communities, most communities that BPF are affiliated and serving are so profoundly aware of…
I’m speaking also… from the white community perspective that have a comfort that can no longer be afforded (or the illusion of comfort). So, I think it terms of – I think it’s very radical, what’s happening, I think everything is up for question, how we’ve done everything, how we’re doing everything, what is actually community, what will it need to really pull through what we’re facing this next decade, I have no doubt it’s going to be an incredible impact to all that we hold dear. And, because of that, it will probably change the face of Buddhism and I think the seeds of the new ways forward, for us to actually find a guidance through all of that emerges from you–comes–you know, I was only there 10 minutes and I thought “This is very real, this is where we really need to be.”
What that translates into, I don’t even really want to go there yet because I still feel I’m digesting it and it’s still moving, it’s still unfolding. My task is just to keep listening.
LiZhen: Thank you, Thannisara, for such an honest reflection, that the task of the moment is just to keep listening, and I loved when you said that everything is up for question. So, there are some more questions that come up for our panelists, but we’re gonna pivot for a moment because we do have another share from three folks who came on the BPF contingent. They’re going to do a fishbowl discussion, so we can bring back questions about this fishbowl discussion, as well as some other questions that come through from the audience members.
So, just to start with I’m going to introduce the three people who are our fishbowl speakers and they are Sierra Pickett who is also our board member, Kazu Haga and Julia Rose. They were all with the BPF contingent at SR over Thanksgiving week. So I’ll introduce each one first before I ask them the first question for the fishbowl.
Sierra Pickett has a passion for accessible sangha building. At the East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC), Sierra is a long-time coordinating committee member of the People of Color Sangha, which is a weekly sitting group offering safer space for practitioners of color. She also sits on the program committee of EBMC. As a recent addition to BPF’s board, Sierra sees networking as an intentional act of love that connects each of us together in reciprocal support. As you can see from tonight, she is an American Sign Language interpreter by trade who loves expanding linguistic and cultural accessibility within a social justice framework.
Our second speaker in the fishbowl will be Kazu Haga, who is Founder and Coordinator of the East Point Peace Academy. There, he is a trainer in the Kingian nonviolence tradition, a philosophy developed out of the teachings of Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. He has received training from elders including Dr. Bernard Lafayette and Joanna Macy and he teaches nonviolence, conflict resolution, organizing and mindfulness in prisons and jails, high schools, and inside of activist communities around the country. Kazu’s also co-founder and board chair of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice. He is the recipient of several awards, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Award and the Gil Lopez Award for Peacemaking.
And finally, our third speaker in the fishbowl tonight is Julia Rose, who grew up in New hampshire where she spent much of her childhood romping among trees and water. The natural world is fundamental to her sense of connectedness, groundedness and at-homeness in the world. In recent years she’s been living in the East Bay, where she works as a mediator and facilitator.
So, welcome and thank you, Julia, Kazu and Sierra!
So, as you guys get together in your fishbowl, the first question is, you know, in your experience, what about the prayerful resistance work of SR was different from other movement work you’ve engaged with? One of our audience members has asked if you could speak a little bit more about the nonviolent direct action that took place there, and maybe a little bit later also how we can do that type of direct action in organizing we do elsewhere. But first, yeah, what about this nonviolent, prayerful organizing at SR stood out to you and how can we incorporate those lessons into the movements that we are taking on locally at home? Sierra, Julia, Kazu, I invite you to just pick up where you feel inspired to, thank you.
Kazu: First of all I think it’s important to note that there’s–it’s not like all indigenous people or even all indigenous people at SR have this common, homogenous world view on things. I’ll just speak to what I have heart.
One of the things that I really appreciated was the messaging, the constant messaging from the elders to slow things down. The way I interpreted that is like slowing things down and really seeing that our work is part of work that has been going on for generations and generations and it’s gonna continue for generations and generations and so our work isn’t even just our work, right, we have to see the big picture. In a lot of indigenous traditions they talk about everything that we do we’re doing for the seventh generation.
My organization is working on developing a 250 year work plan — understanding that we’re listening to wisdom of last 250 years and passing it on.
That kind of world view that we’re so far from alone in this — it gives us the strength that comes with militant direct action and all the pain and suffering that comes from that and still be grounded. Not coming from anger/hatred.
One of mentors once said “our capacity to accept suffering outweighs your capacity to inflict harm.” The internal strength of that allows us to participate in NVDA in a spiritually rooted way.
Sierra: Everything was based in ceremony at SR — felt like being on meditation retreat, everything was sacred, all rooted in practice, could be called prayer, rooted in practice.
That looks like many different things but its in some ways all the same, that’s how I felt it there.
What makes SR different is that level of connection to land and to open-heartedness. It’s all connected around coming in with what you can give/share. Also such a clear sense of indigenous leadership, such a powerful wakeup call to put my ego aside and learn new things, follow instructions. I went there to serve and to be of use.
LiZhen: As a POC and child of immigrants in this indigenous led movement, I had to grapple with the fact that I feel the effects of US domination and oppression BUT I myself am a settler on this land. Adding to that, there were tense racial dynamics at SR. It was mostly white: “colonization all over again” or “the gentrification of SR.” How did you navigate that? How did you navigate potentially being a settler and being in solidarity?
Sierra: I resonate with the complexity of that. What I found in navigating that balance and adjusting myself in that new terrain was I took the elders’ advice around slowing down, I tried to try less. Be present. Realize where I could fit in, what I could do.
I had to wait and find the right place for me. For me that was the decolonization talks: I was able to cultivate and honor these indigenous led discussions about how to take colonization out of our hearts and minds. Recognizing a different type of privilege in myself, I’m still grappling with and thankful for the opportunity.
It was hella hard to have a lot of ignorant white people walking around. There were people there trying to have an indigenous experience for their Thanksgiving which was nauseating and traumatic in its way.
Julia: White folks we have to create spaces to educate ourselves and learn history that’s different from what we’ve been talk, learn what decolonization could look like from different indigenous perspectives.
I felt a lot of anger at the history I’ve been taught growing up and seeing how different it is from histories that have actually unfolded. Esp being in that deconolization discussion that Sierra referenced: there were a lot of white folks asking basic questions. It’s ok to ask basic questions and the emotional labor of answering those questions shouldn’t fall on indigenous folks or POC. That’s why it’s so important for white folks to create spaces to learn and unlearn.
Kazu: I’m an immigrant to this land, but I’m Japanese so I’m a colonizer back home, the white man of Asia.
The majority of the work I do is in prisons, every time you go into a prison you see both the racial disparity of who is in prison and the racial disparity of who is volunteering in prisons. There is something similar happening at SR. A lot of the reasons for that in prison is that you can’t volunteer if you have a family member in prison or if you have a criminal record, it means something more for black and brown people to go into prisons.
People going to SR really need to be careful and think about who has access to going and who doesn’t. Being intentional about that.
LiZhen: When the call is over, those of us who are able to stay will, and folks can also answer questions then.
A lot of people have questions about how to bring SR home. I’d like to introduce Amy Hutto who is doing local indigenous solidarity work. She’s a carpenter and electrician by trade. Welcome Amy.
Amy: It’s very important to support local indigenous struggle because of the question of the connection to land. Think globally act locally. For me it just makes sense to work here. Everytime I think about going to SR I turn back to local work.
Sogorea Te Land Trust started by Corinna Gould who is Ohlone and a good friend of hers who is also indigenous. The Land Trust raises money to buy back Ohlone land because they don’t have a land base, are not a federally recognized tribe. The trust will buy land to be used for ceremony, to reinter bones of Ohlone people that are currently in museums in the Bay Area and also to build a lodge and be together and pray.
Shuumi Land Tax: people who live in the Bay Area can pay a volunteer tax once a year to recognize what we’ve gotten from this land that was taken from someone. Make reparations towards that.
BPF members created a presentation that we’re offered to Buddhist Bay Area sanghas to explain about the land trust and the tax and talk about the Buddhist precept of not taking what’s not given, and we ask people if they want to participant in the tax.
Creating our presentation it was really important to us that Sogorea Te approved of the presentation.
When we presented at the SF Zen Center we asked people: when did you realize you were living on colonized indigenous land and one of the people said that it was just then, that moment.
Tonight I’m thinking about “emotional labor” — the emotional labor of addressing colonization and how that is white people’s responsibility. Also remembering that piece about how important it is to slow down. This is really sticking with me: the education part is really important. Trying to educate people is different than trying to get people to do something specific. I’d love to talk with anyone else doing this kind of work.
Katie: Thank you for the reminders to slow down, everyone. In the spirit of that I’d like to invite you all to take a breath. And now switch to gallery view and just drink it in for a moment, all the people who are here.Such a beautiful, powerful coming-together tonight. Thank you for making the the time to slow down and be here with your full heart and your attention. A few shout outs to people who aren’t with us tonight:
Buddhist leaders and teachers have been doing decolonization work with indigenous folks on Turtle Island. Including Reverend Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, bridging African indig knowledge and indig people to Turtle Island. Gratitude to folks in different lineages who have been taking that work so seriously.
Indigenous People’s Power Project (IP3) by and for indigenous people training up in skills for direction action. Admired their work at the Portland bridge action, and how they bridge NVDA with indigenous community networking. Offered daily NVDA trainings for everyone coming to Oceti Sakowin and made BPF’s visit feel like we could be useful.
SR is not a tourist experience, not an activist missionary trip — a deep privilege to be able to go. We tried to take that very seriously in our contingent. Our fundraiser raised 5k over what we needed to go, so we were able to contribute it to the legal support for the camp.
Because of charitable industrial complex, it takes a little bit of diligence to know what kind of contributions are really useful. For example, please do not send cotton clothing in arctic conditions. Funds are most useful so that people can purchase things that they most need.
I encourage all of you here tonight — if you are excited by this work — to contribute to BPF to help us continue the work into 2017, open education sessions like this one, trainings, leadership work with folks in trusted relationship to support some of the biggest movement moments of our time. Tonight anything donated we will split 50/50 with legal support for water protectors at SR.
We filled all 50 spaces of the call tonight. Thank you to all our speakers, especially for your patience with trying to fit so much in. Treat your heart tenderly tonight, like you were under a sky full of stars.
LiZhen: As I mentioned earlier, a few of us can stay 15 minutes longer to answer questions.
Just before that, I invite all of us to sit together in a few moments of practice.
LiZhen: Feel free to come off mute, share voices, say hi to some homies.
Thannisara: Just wanted to express enormous gratitude for hearing everyone, and being here tonight.
Re Dharma dome: people are not being encouraged to join SR unless they can go for 10 days to 2 weeks, bring extreme weather gear, chains for cars, etc. We’re now holding back on the dharma dome, checking to see if it’s in service of what’s happening and we will keep people posted. We may save the dome to belong to a loose knit group of dharma activists to go to other places.
Unist’ot’en Action Camp in Edmonton BC, have been building villages as blockades to oil companies for some years and have won some great battles — just bringing attention to that and knowing there are many other versions of what we see at SR, indigenous folks claiming space to block desecration of sacred lands.
Ven. Pannavati: So this is Pannavati. So I did want to make a couple of comments because I have an active sangha and some of the pathos and the fear that is generally emerging in our country is there right there in the dhamma. To see the dhamma is to see the whole world. And what I loved about what I experienced there is in Christianity they have a teaching that says “I show my face by my work. I show what I believe, what I embrace, what I live…it’s easy to love people that love you but can you love people who don’t love you.”
And there I experienced in a real-time way the difference between loving the person and hating the thing that they do. And the Budhha described it as being the difference between one of an understanding nature or temperament and one of a hating temperament. And we think that they’re 180 degrees diametrically opposed but actually they’re not. They’re side by side, it’s just where the emphasis is on hating the thing, loving the person.
And I saw that really in action there. And I tried to bring that back to my spiritual community here. Asking us to really go deep into ourselves in our outrage to see if we could make that distinction between the action and the person. Staying totally open to the person and yet condemning and looking for a way out of unwholesome actions. And so that was the example and it’s been very useful in our sangha.
The other thing was the question about…as a person of color going there…and there are a lot of things that are said and done. If you don’t understand the pathos of our country it can aggravate you, irritate you, make you angry. But if you do understand then you see the confusion and the ignorance that is there. And you can parlay that into a way of being with others who don’t see clearly from a position of strength. And so there I never felt ‘less than’. I never felt…it’s more like caretaking children..because they don’t understand. But I myself if I come into an environment there’s no fear in me. I don’t consider myself less than anybody present. And when you stand in your own seat of power that way you can be anywhere, with anybody. And you find the space of personal, internal authority that allows you to not be overwhelmed by people’s basic ignorance. So that’s all I wanted to share on those two questions.
Katie: Thanks so much, Venerable. Does anybody else want to offer any questions? I see a question in the chat that. I also wanted to see if someone’s been holding something for a while.
So the question in the chat, which might be a question that other people also have is “What’s the dharma dome and are there people continuously in it now and who can go”?
So the dharma dome was made possible by Thanissara who’s left the call. Essentially it’s offered as a place to land for prioritizing POC and indigenous folks, people of color (that’s what POC is) at Standing Rock. But as Thanissara was also sharing there’s been a call to actually shrink down the camp and include folks who are able to bring the supplies and resources needed to actually winter independently, basically. So I think it’s a little bit unclear whether the dharma dome is going to remain there at Standing Rock, at Oceti Sakowin Camp or move to another place. But it’s becoming…the conditions are becoming so extreme that it’s very important for people who are going there now to be self-sufficient. Again, so as to allow the central focus being on supporting indigenous people to stay there. But for indigenous folks…if you’re somebody who is indigenous who wants to go and wants to stay in the dharma dome I would hit up Thanissara and it could probably happen.
Last call for questions before we sign off for the evening.
Sierra: I don’t have a question but I wanted to say something around being at home and continuing the conversation. Because something we did as a contingent was …we had like a debrief and prior to this call.. Because we did a report-back, we’re doing a report-back now, but we had a debrief also and the idea that going some place and dealing with cultural shifts and coming home and recognizing the power and…what Thanissara said…hitting the pavement as soon as you come back and a sort of grind and I want to support all of us in the sense of solidarity and the sense of slowing down. And continuing the conversation.
This was a week. This was sixty hours in the car with Kazu and Julia…thirty there and thirty back…maybe less – twenty-four each way? – but those days on the land and those hours in preparation and cultivating in community…exploring risk, exploring a sense of safety, exploring a sense of…basically building bonds and kinship with each other in the process of figuring out how to be in solidarity together while looking at issues of patriarchy, gender, decolonization, all sorts of powerful stuff.
That can’t be put down to go do my taxes. That can’t be put down to pay some bills. That can’t be put down to… I don’t know buying a Christmas present for my father. This is some real stuff. And Thanissara continued to talk about it on a cellular level and I agree with her and I think about that – I’m not a biologist but I think we as human beings are made of water. And period. We are made of water. Even saying that I get chills all over my body. We are protecting water but we’re also made of water. So we’re protecting ourselves. And I want to continuing the conversation around supporting and loving and challenging what BPF sometimes call ‘compassionate confrontation’. What does that look like? What does ‘bold compassion’ look like? Because it’s going to to look like a lot of different things in these next few moments, years, days and loving…I keep echoing all this brilliance around me, like with Pannavati talking about the difference between the person and the action. I think in order to act we need an act of love. And that can look pretty harsh and that can look pretty beautiful in the same moment. So I just wanted to bring a sense of solidarity or a sense of connection. Because this is … when I close my computer you’re all still with me. And I just wanted to acknowledge that. Thanks.
Katie: Thank you so very much. Also thank you for Annie and Sierra to be able to stay and continue interpreting. And thank you for all your work on the call as well. It’s been a real honor and a privilege to have you all with us.
Dawn: Yes so if you have people you want to share this call with we are hoping to have the recording out soon – within two weeks. We often recruit some volunteers to help with transcription of the call so that folks have a chance to be able to read instead of watching the video or listening to the audio. Also as much as possible in recording tried to keep the main video on the ASL interpretation so that’s also accessible. I have fingers crossed that the technology worked as expected because this is our first time trying this out. So if you have people that you’re like “oh my gosh, you have to hear this call,” stay tuned we’ll send it out on our e-newsletter so that you can forward it on to share with others. So, yeah, just really appreciate you all being here tonight and staying on a little later.
Katie: If you haven’t already by midnight you can go to bpf.org/donate and support more awesome calls like this one. And bring your friends. And your boos. And your dates. From Tinder.
Dawn: Maybe Aaron Goggans will bring a date next time…
All right, y’all. We’re signing off. Have a wonderful evening and hopefully we’ll connect again soon.
Katie: Good night, y’all.