When I last wrote on this blog I lived in Madison, Wisconsin. I was in the middle of the progressive haven in the midst of the crushing regime of the man considered by many to be the worst governor in Wisconsin history, and I was tired of being an activist and organizer. I was taking a break and mostly just being a pessimist and trying to get through a diagnosis of epilepsy.
I had to get away. After months of searching I came across a position with the Toxic Taters Coalition in northern Minnesota. I had been looking at Minnesota, but I hadn’t thought I’d move so far north. Still, I was drawn to this group with the name that made me laugh. I got the job and suddenly I found myself living less than an hour from Fargo. Who would have ever thought I’d go to North Dakota when I need to go to a city?
I find myself organizing again and enjoying it again. My work is bringing together Native and non-Native people in a fight to cut the use pesticides by RD Offutt, the largest potato producer in the world. The work is growing by the day. I love to see people who aren’t daunted by the idea of taking on a huge corporation. They’re just doing what they need to do to keep living, quite literally.
My growth here is in bringing together people across the divides and understanding who I am. I’ve worked with Native people for a long time, but until now I’ve always lived far away. Now, my office is on the White Earth reservation and my home is about 13 miles away from the reservation boundary. The racial divides are clear.
Generations of genocide have destroyed so much of the family/ community structure and created such a sense of despair. I have met some very strong people who are working so hard to rebuild and foster the seeds. There’s a lot to do. I ask myself what role I play. I am not Native. I can’t be that nor do I want to. I have my own history. I do think I have a role as an ally to act as a bridge connecting people who otherwise do not meet and understand each other. It is a role that requires both delicacy and strength and a lot of figuring out.
Which brings me back to Madison. It was just a few weeks ago that the one who has been considered the worst governor in Wisconsin history won again and people started talking about leaving and moving to Minnesota or other more progressive places. Yes, Minnesota’s government is currently more liberal than Wisconsin, that’s true. I will give you that. But, I wonder, to what degree does it matter? I’m working with people right now who are fighting for the air they breathe. They’ve watched the insects, birds, and frogs die away. They all know someone who is sick or they are sick themselves because of the pesticides. The other night I went to a meeting and learned about elders heating their homes with their kitchen stoves. I’ve heard many stories already of families struggling with addiction in their midst. I wish my home state could have gotten rid of Walker. I hope to god he doesn’t get any further in politics. But, someone else in the governor’s office isn’t the answer. I wish it were that easy.
Those are my thoughts for the moment. I hope now that the winter is upon us that I might take up this writing assignment more consistently again. I look forward to developing my thoughts through it and to reading yours.