Mother Earth has been calling me for many years. I haven’t always been able to decipher her messages. A few years ago I started to understand a little bit better. I traveled to the far reaches of Southern Patagonia where I learned the story of the aboriginal Yaghan people, and it was the first time I really thought deeply about colonization and the destruction of ancient ways of life that were built on our human connection to nature. But it wasn’t until a few years later that it would really sink in what my role could and should be in this fight.
I felt the pain of Mother Earth and her children and heard the rallying cries from Standing Rock. I had to go there, to stand up to environmental racism and destruction. It was a short stay, but once I returned, I knew I had to keep that place—the sacred lands and sacred waters and the people protecting it—in my heart forever. Otherwise, my presence there would have been in vain after all. The seeds were planted at Standing Rock, and now many of us have dispersed to spread the message and the action wherever we all are now. Standing Rock is everywhere.
So I’m still fighting. One of the ways I’m doing that is by actively participating in the divestment movement in Los Angeles. An organization I’m involved with, Divest LA, is leading the charge along with partners like the American Indian Movement, March and Rally Los Angeles, and California for Progress. We want the city of Los Angeles to divest our funds, worth $40 billion, from Wells Fargo, which is helping to finance Dakota Access Pipeline and other pipelines. (So are many other big banks, including Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Citibank, and Chase.)
We also want our city council members to amend the Responsible Banking Ordinance to raise the standards for any bank that wants our business—the banks should have to comply with rigorous ethical criteria. Two council members, Paul Koretz and Mitch O’Farrell, are already on board—they introduced a motion last week to look into divestment. We’re hoping that the Budget & Finance Committee will put it on their agenda as early as next week. We need to move fast because our contract with Wells Fargo is up in July.
This is all so important, and this is how we can incite significant, long-term change in a country that’s currently being run by billionaires and their political pawns. The dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency puts both our public health and the entire planet at risk—the dangers are so grave I can’t even begin to list them here—and it’s all so billionaires can maintain control. Seattle has already divested $3 billion from Wells Fargo; imagine what a game changer LA would be with our $40 billion. The banks, billionaires, and corrupt politicians would not be able to ignore that we, the people, will not stand for our money being used to finance the fossil fuel industry and other unethical business ventures. It seems like an uphill battle, I know, but we don’t have a choice. We need to divest for our future and our children’s future.
So if you’re wondering what you can do, wherever you are, call your city council members and let them know that you want your city to divest from big banks. If you live in Los Angeles, find your district here, and your council member’s contact info here. Also call the Budget & Finance Chairman, Paul Krekorian, and let him know you want the city to divest. Make a public comment at any city council meeting—for LA, those are at City Hall every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10am.
We can defund DAPL as individuals, too, by ditching the big banks that we personally do business with. Wells Fargo is known for predatory and fraudulent practices that prey on innocent, hard-working people. But the aforementioned banks are no better. Now is the time to divest personal funds and switch over to banking with a credit union.
Whatever you’ve heard about oil already flowing through DAPL, know that the Standing Rock Sioux are still engaged in legal battles against Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline. This is not a loss, nor will it ever be even if DAPL becomes fully operational. You know why? Because I’ll never forget the beating heart of this movement: Standing Rock and all the thousands of indigenous nations that converged there to rise up. These indigenous people have always been the greatest stewards of our Mother Earth, yet they’ve been treated with little regard for their lives for 500 years. Building pipelines on or near their reservations is a death sentence. We must break the cycle of colonization, human rights violations, environmental racism, and genocide toward these indigenous tribes. I will do everything I can to amplify their voices now and forever. So will the many thousands of allies who now stand with them.
Wake up: The revolution is happening. It’s happening in city hall chambers; it’s happening at resistance camps at other pipeline construction sites across the country; it’s happening in courtrooms; it’s happening on the streets. But you can’t just show up once and hang it up; 750,000 women stepped up to the Women’s March in Los Angeles, which was incredible, but that energy has been noticeably missing from other actions. We need that people power every day. We have to keep showing up again and again and again. Many of us will not stop fighting until indigenous rights are recognized, fossil fuels are kept in the ground, and water is protected for all. Join, or die.
I do this because I love this planet and all the wildlife that call it home; and I don’t want my young nieces or any children to live in a post-apocalyptic world. Mother Earth has spoken to me in many ways, and I’m listening without question. There are a lot of nuances to what’s been happening in my life to lead me here, but all signs point to elevating indigenous people, who’ve always had many of the answers to questions we’re afraid to ask, or don’t know to ask. If you keep your eyes, ears, and heart open, you’ll know deeply how to fulfill your own role in these crazy times. I’m here if you want to reach out for inspiration or any guidance I’m able to give!