Reporting by Lora Jost, Deputy Agent, Lawrence KS Field Office and Photography by the USDAC Lawrence, KS Field Office.
On a beautiful early fall afternoon in Lawrence, KS, around a hundred people from the Lawrence area came together for “The People’s Climate March Maker/Speaker Party,” an afternoon of artful sign making, prayers, ceremonies, speakers, and a march.
The event was one of thousands worldwide on that day showing solidarity with “The People’s Climate March” in New York City. The local effort was sponsored by local environmental, business, and church groups and was coordinated together by the USDAC Lawrence field office, LETUS (Lawrence Ecology Teams United in Sustainability), and Oyate Wahacanka Woecun, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe's “Shield the People” project.
Gary Dorr, Nez Perce, of Shield the People, opened the event. Dorr had previously helped organize the Cowboy/Indian Alliance ceremonies and demonstrations in Washington, DC against the Keystone XL pipeline. He explained that South Park had once belonged to the Delaware tribe, and that he had asked for and received the blessing of a Delaware elder to meet there for our event. Gary led a prayer and then a moment of silence timed to coincide with New York’s moment of silence. After this, at noon sharp, the group joined together in “sounding the climate alarm” by blowing party whistles, drumming, rattling cans filled with rocks, and shouting.
After this opening, participants joined in a “maker party” by making colorful signs about their climate-change concerns. Organizers suggested that participants illustrate things that are threatened by climate change and are worth saving, encircled by a green heart as suggested by the group Avaaz (a coordinator of the New York march) . While participants made these signs and many others, an MC wandered through the group and, using a microphone, interviewed people about their creations.
Participants then stood in a large circle as Pastor Thad Holcombe made introductions and asked people to think about what they would like to remember in the future given the threat of climate change. People called out things like “the squirrels in the fall and the rabbits in the spring.” After each contribution, the whole group responded, “we remember.”
Theresa Milk, Lakota, and Gary Dorr then led a water ceremony. Milk is the author of Haskell Institute: 19th Century Stories of Sacrifice and Survival (2007, Mammoth Publications). After the water ceremony, Professor Daniel Wildcat, of Haskell Indian Nations University, spoke, drawing on themes from his recent book Red Alert: Saving the planet with Indigenous Knowledge. Gary Dorr concluded with a powerful reflection on the devastating environmental impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline, particularly its threat to the Ogallala Aquifer.
Then we marched around South Park led by the speakers, event organizers, and Native American drummer Grace Denning. In the day’s finale, participants held hands in a circle that we transformed into the shape of a heart. Then, marking next steps, participants drew around their hands on a large sign and added their signatures as a symbol of commitment to further action to stop climate change.
Note: This event is part of a series of climate change events that the USDAC Lawrence Field Office is helping with. Events include the Climate Change Pray-In Teach-In, and a series of three talks to include information about the science of climate change, the local impact, and what we can do to change climate change.