The land holds memories

The Council Tree was a well-known gathering point for Arapaho and other Native people on what is now the southeast side of Fort Collins. The tree is referenced in names for a city library branch, a street, and a church. Photo: Colorado State University Libraries, Archives & Special Collections

By Doreen Martinez, Ph.D., and Lindsey Schneider, Ph.D.

This was originally written for CSU, and has been edited and appears here with the permission of the authors.

Where the prairie converges with the plains, the foothills watch. They have long been the relatives of these lands and witnesses to all adventures, explorations, and settlings. The plains and prairie have also long been partners in this space; they are the original innovators, the knowers and teachers. The foothills remain present as protectors of those west winds and incubators of the snow and rain that feed these spaces, peoples, and purposes.

Our sense of this place, our sense of this land, is beckoned through this convergence and their an­cestral traditions. Waters flow in snake rivers, are cradled in valleys where corn and long grasses, such as Indian ricegrass and needlegrass, grew and grow, dozens of flowers, includ­ing prickly poppy, yucca, rabbitbrush, and prairie sunflowers, bloom and nestle; these are the homes for the bison, prong­horn, and deer, as well as swift fox, burrowing owls, and gold­en eagles.

These lands, siblings of the Rockies, hold many lessons and ways of being. The clay still holds knowledge and foot­prints of beings, events, and experiences. It, the clay, waits for new stories and new understandings. Communities were here over 12,000 years ago; those were the times of the mammoth. And, although they are often called the Paleo-Indians, they were here: relatives, ancestors of societies and knowers of land, sensors of place, and practitioners of purpose.

“These lands, siblings of the Rockies, hold many lessons and ways of being.”

What is now Larimer County, and the lands from which Colorado State University was born, come from these histo­ries, from this place, these knowers that are thousands and thousands of years old. Let us also recall some of those who were here before and adjacent to CSU’s birth: the Apache, the Arapaho, the Cheyenne, the Pueblo, the Shoshone, and the Ute are named by the Colorado Department of Education to be those earlier neighbors, residents, and citizens.

As we also know, in the time period we recognize peoples historically, they were the original inhabitants, the interspecies kinship knowers, the original land-grant stewards. Furthermore, the Coman­che, the Kiowa, and the Navajo/Diné, were frequent travel­ers, regular knowledge gatherers, and recurring residents, as well as the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota and the Pawnee. All these nations, tribes, and peoples have walked, laughed, and learned in these lands. Some of us can still sense their presence as their stride walks within us, their laughter continues to feed us, their knowledge is still teaching us; and we, their relatives, still call this place home.

Most historical records of CSU, Fort Collins, Larimer County, and the United States suggest that history began with the arrival of white/European settlers, the structures they built, the religion they practiced, and the economic endeavors they undertook. Only certain people, cer­tain cultural formations, are positioned as the agents of history and thus, they wield the tools to capture, create, and acknowl­edge historical records. Indigenous people, when we are mentioned in such histories, are too often portrayed as obstacles to the inevitable march of progress. In such accounts we exist as mere historical pre­cursors to the stars and stripes of democ­racy – an era of improvement manifested in land-grant institutions.

While this may be typically accepted and understood as truth, we seek through ethical and edu­cational obligations to enhance our sense of place, this place, and our histories. We must teach the fallacies, inaccuracies, and continued legacies of this singular history, this one-dimensional knowing of land, chronicle of memoirs, and erasure of life.

CSU’s 150th anniversary is a cause for celebration; yet, it is also a critical oppor­tunity to reflect upon the dire cost paid by the original people of this place and these lands. We must call to, recognize, and re­quire the University’s ongoing obligations to that legacy and to the Indigenous com­munity today. For we do know the original peoples of this area cultivated a profound sense of place, and a wealth of history, tra­ditions, and lifeways for thousands of years through the learning that came from, on, and through the land, water, and all the inhabitants.

In recognition of place, histo­ries, and our relationships, there needs to be acknowledgment of the more dynamic realities of people, nations, education, and sociopolitical demands and desires as well as the writings, the recordings of truth of these histories. All of the past living and learning on what is now CSU’s campus are what give it its presence and sense of place today – including what and who existed prior to those 150 years.

The removal of tribal nations and era­sure of this original sense of place within these lands was neither an inevitable result of Westward Expansion nor was it simply an unfortunate, if violent, phase in histo­ry. It was the intentional work of national policies and the enforcers of edicts and dictates, including Colorado Gov. Freder­ick Pitkin, who held the state’s top office from 1879 to 1883 and ran on a campaign of forcible Ute removal and extermina­tion. And yet today, Pitkin Street is one of the main campus thoroughfares. Pitkin’s violent legacy is only one example of the erased histories we are obliged to uncover and name, since such truth is fundamen­tal to the University’s nature. Otherwise, the ongoing erasure of Native American and Indigenous presences goes unnamed, their/our lifeways positioned as antithet­ical to growth, evolution, and, ironical­ly, freedom. Practices such as street and building naming glorify and historicize, once again, those responsible for that ini­tial removal under the auspices of progress and triumph of knowledge advancement. Celebrations of history can serve to re-sto­ry familiar and beloved places as having been established on a blank slate, rather than located on stolen territories through violent, forceful, and vicious means.

In an effort to begin to challenge that erasure and to recognize the original stew­ards, knowers, and protectors of this place, CSU has recently adopted a land acknowl­edgment process. It aims to recognize that these lands CSU now occupies, and thus CSU’s founding, came at a grave cost to the nations and peoples who were (and are) here. The acknowledgment affirms the on­going ties Native nations and peoples have to this space. As a land-grant institution, CSU has an obligation to rewrite and more fully understand our sense of place.

Doreen E. Martinez and Lindsey Schneider are members of the Native American Studies faculty in CSU’s Department of Ethnic Studies.

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Linking Climate Protection and Peace

Speech delivered by Kevin Cross at the Fort Collins Peace Festival on September 28, 2019

The Fort Collins Sustainability Group/FCSG was formed back in 2005. We’ve spend the last 14 years focusing on climate action at the local level. We’ve also been involved with coalitions that focus on regional and state level climate action. The names of those organizations are Northern Colorado Partners for Clean Energy and the Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate, respectively.

What does local climate action look like? It’s included advocating for setting ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals for the City of Fort Collins. If those goals had been adopted worldwide back in 2007 and then implemented, we could have met the target of limiting the average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. At the regional level, it’s included advocating for getting the utility that provides electricity to Fort Collins, Longmont, Loveland, and Estes Park to set a goal of providing us with 100% carbon free electricity by 2030. It’s also included advocating for programs like incentive payments from Ft. Collins Utilities to make existing homes and businesses more energy efficient, and to help residents and business owners install solar panels. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I hope that you have a chance to visit our table before you leave to learn more about us and think about whether and how you might want to get involved in this work.

However, we have recognized since our inception that local climate action will not be enough to address the climate crisis – even if all the cities in the world were to successfully follow the example of Ft. Collins. That’s because there are so many greenhouse gas sources and sinks outside of cities. Think, for instance, of where things like industrial agriculture, industrial meat production, oil and gas extraction, and the protection and expansion of forests take place.

Reducing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and establishing new carbon sinks quickly enough to meet the 1.5 degree C target will require a major international effort, led by those countries that have historically emitted the most greenhouse gases. Why is that? For one thing, those are the countries that have the resources commensurate with what’s needed for solving this problem. For another thing, the most significant greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, remains in the atmosphere for hundreds and hundreds of years after it’s been released. So the carbon dioxide that was emitted when the U.S. was developing into the industrial powerhouse that it is today is still around, contributing to Earth’s intensifying fever.

The FCSG is therefore very excited about the push that began earlier this year for a Green New Deal. That push originated with young activists in the Sunrise Movement and their newly-elected allies in Congress, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Northern Colorado’s Joe Neguse. They have since been joined both by more established organizations, including 350.org, Greenpeace, and locally, by the FCSG. They have also been joined by more established elected officials, including many of the current Democratic candidates for President. All of these organizations and officials understand that an effort on the scale of the original New Deal is what’s needed to address the U.S.’s very significant contribution to the climate crisis.

For many years I was active in both the FCSG and Strength Through Peace, another local organization that formed shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center and other targets by Saudi nationals back in 2001. Strength Through Peace, which continued its work through 2018, advocated for taking a legal approach to bringing the perpetrators of 9/11 to justice, and vehemently opposed the invasions and occupations of both Afghanistan and Iraq.

As a former and in all likelihood future peace activist, it’s not difficult for me to wrap my head around the connection between peace and protection of the environment. For one thing, a society confronting or preparing for organized state violence is generally not able to focus much attention on less immediately pressing matters like reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Think, for instance, of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, for whom life under the continuous violence and humiliation imposed by the Israeli occupation of their land is enormously difficult. How much attention can anyone be expected to pay to the relatively long-term problem of climate change when daily life is an endless struggle? Think also of the Israelis, who put a great amount of energy into keeping the Palestinians under their control. They also have little time and attention left over for dealing with climate change.

Part of the reason that Fort Collins, other communities in Colorado, and the State government itself have been able to make at least some progress in addressing climate change is that we are not living under military occupation, and are not at a significant risk of being attacked militarily. We have the space, the time, and the resources to at least contemplate doing something about the climate crisis.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower recognized the ways in which war and preparations for war limit social development and justice eloquently in what is often referred to as his “cross of iron” speech. I want to quote from that speech and then put it in the context of the climate crisis that we are facing today.

In 1953, Eisenhower said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, [and] the hopes of its children.”

Eisenhower then went on to compare the cost of various pieces of military hardware to other things that governments provide, such as hospitals, schools, roads, and power plants. Updating that approach, we could compare the cost of modern military equipment to the cost of wind turbines, solar panels, homes insulated, and trees planted. A comprehensive Green New Deal is anticipated to cost in the neighborhood of 1.0 to 1.5 Trillion dollars per year. Military spending costs us around $750 Billion per year, or 50% to 75% of Green New Deal costs. Imagine diverting even half of the military budget to the Green New Deal. That’d be a whole lot of new windmills!

Eisenhower concluded his speech as follows: “This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” The stakes now are even higher than they were back then. In the 1950s and ever since, we have been able to avoid the calamity of nuclear war. But we shall not be able to avoid the calamity of climate breakdown in the coming decades if we do not begin to act decisively now to wean ourselves off fossil fuels entirely and reduce all of our greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in the next 15 to 20 years.

Many other nations also spend quite extravagantly on their militaries. However, the U.S. spends nearly as much on its military as all other nations combined. Given the dire threat that climate change poses to all nations, we need to reduce our collective military spending dramatically and pool our resources in order to achieve both the emissions reduction goals that are needed and to make our societies more resilient so that we can survive the climate change impacts that we already know are coming. It is at last time to heed the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., who said over 50 years ago that “We must learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools.”

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Action Items For the Start of Autumn

We recently had our healing justice workshop at The Growing Project Farm, and enjoyed celebrating the Autumn Equinox with the community. From those gatherings we’ve complied a simple but soothing balm that is the following list of recommended ways to spend the start of the newest season… have anymore suggestions, feedback or ideas? Send them our way.

If you are white talk compassionately with family and friends about whiteness and racism. Be compassionate to heal ancestral cycles of trauma and abuse.

Invest in loving, reciprocal relationships, let go of toxic ones.

Balance your drive for activism with taking care of your internal world: we can’t heal or change anything without healing and helping ourselves at the same time – it’s a never ending dynamic process but they must happen simultaneously otherwise nothing will get done.

Reject white supremacy culture as you’re working to expose it and heal from it. Try not to recreate it as you work.

When anxiety overwhelms you about the terrifying state of the world look to the groups and people who are still fighting, still loving, still going, still living, still exuding life and vitality.

Always remember that you are not alone. We got this and we can build the world we want to see. We are in this together. We are here for each other. When you feel alone remember this. And remember and take seriously the action items in the photo. Repeat what works, release what doesn’t.

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Healing Justice as Community Organizing

What is the glue that binds our resistance work? How does healing justice fit into our resistance for the long haul? With the return of our healing justice monthly workshops, we sat down together to discuss healing justice as a foundational part of organizing and activism work.

The medical and health care system says that healing happens away from your life- in a sterile, ahistorical, apolitical space- in which you are helped to go back to work tomorrow and be able to cope. That’s the first thing that we need to challenge.

With FCCAN, we are intentionally creating healing justice spaces that center Black People, Indigenous People, and people of color, committed to forms of healing that counteract the impact of oppression. For the collective of queer, cis, trans women organizers and healers, ancient traditions of medicine and wellness are a path to liberation.

We see our work as a continuation of our ancestors efforts to uphold the dignity of oppressed people. We move beyond the rhetoric of “self-care”, exploring the links between recovery, spirituality, activism and self-determination by reconnecting with the practices of our ancestors and confronting institutional, interpersonal and internalized oppression.

We like to think of the monthly workshops as seasonal community healing gatherings, where we offer yoga, plant-based medicine, essential oil therapy, embodied movement, bodywork, spiritual divinations, guided meditation, on a sliding scale payment. These spaces are a deliberate response to violence, therefore these spaces are trauma-informed, rooted in anti-oppressive practice and affirmative of all genders and body types.

We all navigate a society that works overtime to sell quick fixes, but together we are committed to self-care as a kind of generational, political resistance.

Food as Medicine, Growing Roots during September Workshop

On September 14th, we are teaming up with our friends at The Growing Project, to connect with our plant communities. Understanding and identifying plant communities can inform us what herbs we can expect to see in different environments, and which plants have similar growing conditions and needs. Simple foraging, hands-on techniques will be incorporated into this workshop, as well as some food and embodiment work.

When: Saturday, September 14th 4-6pm

Where: The Growing Project Farm, 1502 N Shields St.

RSVP and find out more here

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What is the Climate Emergency Resolution and Why Does it Matter in Fort Collins?

As residents of Fort Collins and surrounding areas, we all need to show up at the Fort Collins city council meeting on Tuesday, August 20 at 5pm for the rally and 6pm for public comment to show our support for passing the Climate Emergency Resolution, which we hope will inspire other communities to get more active in the face of climate chaos. Here’s the address: City Hall West, 300 LaPorte Ave. Fort Collins, CO 80521.

The evidence is overwhelming that, despite the fact that Fort Collins has an ambitious Climate Action Plan, the national and global preparation for climate breakdown is inadequate.

Photo courtesy of Janie Stein

By declaring a climate emergency, City Council will signal the urgency of creating the political will to …

• Mitigate the effects of climate chaos.

• Halt the loss of wildlife populations.

• Include indigenous and underrepresented populations’ voices in climate action planning.

• Educate the public about the climate emergency.

• Initiate a Climate Emergency Mobilization and a Just Transition effort worldwide.

• Confirm the City’s existing climate goals for 2030 and 2050, and establish review of those goals to ensure that they remain in alignment with the best available science.

• Quickly transition to a just, sustainable, fossil-free society.

View the proposed resolution here.

Who is Proposing this Resolution, and Why?

The Fort Collins Sustainability Group (FCSG) has been involved since 2005 in supporting the City’s Climate Action Planning process and urging the city both to meet and improve upon its climate goals.

Extinction Rebellion Fort Collins (XRFC) formed only a few months ago as a chapter of the worldwide XR movement, and they asked FCSG for help in working with the City Council to pass a Climate Emergency Resolution. 

The collaboration has been powerful. Combining their like-minded passion with FCSG’s skills and XR’s actions, the two groups worked with the Fort Collins City Council to create a Climate Emergency Resolution. The final step in the process is for City Council to actually pass the resolution on Aug. 20.

It hasn’t been easy to get this far, and it still isn’t a sure thing. Each step of the way, we must educate. We must show our political representatives how important it is to stay focused on climate solutions for the healthy future of our children and the planet. And the best way to do that is by showing up and speaking out. 

FCSG’s vision has always been that by setting an example of how to successfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions, our community would encourage other cities, states, and national governments to do the same in order to address the climate crisis.

While FCSG still holds on to that vision, we need to acknowledge that so far our efforts – and the efforts of other cities, states, and national governments that have established greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals and are making progress toward meeting them – have not been successful.  Global greenhouse gas emissions have been rising ever since 2005, and just last year, the U.S.’s greenhouse gas emissions began rising again after a period of decline.

Both the FCSG and XRFC believe that Fort Collins – together with other cities that have been leaders in addressing the climate crisis – has a special responsibility to declare a climate emergency.  Those who have been talking the talk and walking the walk – for decades now – need to issue a powerful call to others – including our federal government – to do their part.  We can’t solve the climate crisis by ourselves.

That’s why the FCSG and XRFC tare joining together to push for approval of the Climate Emergency Resolution at the August 20 city council meeting.

Photo courtesy of Extinction Rebellion Facebook Page

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