Thanks to partnerships they formed at the Oceti Sakowin Camp, where Native Americans and their allies protested the construction of a natural gas pipeline through Standing Rock Sioux land, UU groups were invited to participate in an indigenous-led convergence this summer.
The event in the sacred Black Hills (Paha Sapa) of South Dakota, “InterNātional Grass Roots Gathering: ‘For the Generations to Come,’” August 22–25, 2019, brought together more than 100 people, including about ten youth, said Deva Jones, senior associate for service learning and volunteer placements at the UU College of Social Justice, who attended the convergence.
The InterNātional Initiative for Transformative Collaboration (INITC) invited the UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) to become a collaborative partner through the indigenous-led Stories & Songs of the People. INITC and UUMFE hosted the convergence, said Aly Tharp, program director for UUMFE and a member of the UU Council of INITC. The UU Service Committee, which has been connected with INITC for the past couple of years, was also involved in shaping the gathering, which drew cultural knowledge keepers, elders, water protectors, youth, environmental scientists, environmental lawyers, and visual and performing artists.
“Perhaps as many as thirty Unitarian Universalists participated in the conference as presenters and as participants,” said the Rev. Clyde Grubbs, one of the conveners of the Native Caucus of DRUUMM, a UU people of color ministry and collective. Grubbs, who attended the convergence, has worked on indigenous activities in the UU realm for decades. “Deep conversations about decolonization in the wake of the resistance of indigenous peoples was possible,” he said, “and we were able to hear activists share experience and insights into the profound social, legal, and environmental issues that we are facing in this time of crisis for our Earth and all her children.”