Inspirational Gifts from the Tar Sands Blockade: Foytlin, BC First Americans and Stein

During a dark time like the present one, some days the massive forces arrayed against us can seem so overwhelming and almost physically oppressive that it’s hard to even imagine turning it all around and building a just and ethical People’s Nation in place of … this.  Logically we know that we’re involved in a marathon to save our nation for its people, and to save the planet to the degree that it’s still possible.  We know that it’s incumbent upon us to stay resolute and committed while we avoid the depression or lethargy that can come with our acute awareness of the closing windows of opportunity to fight for what we believe in, and to win.  It’s likely we all have different strategies to push away despair, but some days the overload can knock our pins out from under us.

For me this week it was the knowledge that came along with this administration’s ‘Disposition Matrix’; it all made me sad and depressed instead of angry, which in turn leaked my personal power to pretty low levels.  At times like this that it takes a Story of Magnificent Love and Courage to act as the Bright Candle in the dark to bring my flagging spirits back.

Yesterday’s news from the Blockade cheered me a bit, but when I dug more deeply into the story of one woman’s dedication and glorious activism, I cried in love, respect and awe for her, and for the spirit she represents. If you’re in need of a jolt, my hope is that Cherri and the others will provide you with one.  Please meet Cherri Foytlin, and I hope you’ll soon fall in love with her:

This chapter of her story came to me via Censored News a week ago, and I reckon that you’ll never forget her once you hear more.  Cherri is an indigenous Louisiana mother of six, a ‘bayou woman’ some call her, and is speaking to the camera before chaining herself to the Keystone XL pipeyard gate in Winfield, Texas on Oct. 24.  Cherri’s husband was a Gulf Coast oilfield worker, and was working at the time of the BP Oil disaster in the Gulf in 2010.  Hers was a solitary protest against TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on Oct. 24.

From Brenda Norrell at CN:

“Effectively blocking pipe from being shipped to construction sites along the controversial pipeline’s route, Foytlin’s action coincides with the Defend Our Coast activities in British Columbia, where more than 60 Canadian communities are protesting a proposed tar sands pipeline through their region. Hers marks the 32nd arrest since Tar Sands Blockade’s actions began over two months ago and today marks the 31st day of sustained protest at its Winnsboro tree blockade.”

TransCanada workers threatened to cut her chains with a grinder, but at 10:00 a.m., two sheriffs cut them off with bolt cutters and arrested her.

UPDATE 3:30PM – Cherri’s Bail is set at $2,500. We expect her out within an hour.
She’s being charged with Class A Misdemeanor Criminal Trespass of a Habitation/Shelter/Superfund/Infrastructure… This is a new one for us. There are obviously some special designations attached to this charge. We’ll chat with our lawyers and send some details soon.

UPDATE 1:00PM – Cherri is expected to see a judge before the day ends – Donate to her bail
Demonstrate your support Cherri’s action to defend our coast and stand with indigenous and affected communities with a donation to her bail fund.
UPDATE 11:00AM – Cherri was threatened with Felony Use of a Criminal Instrument…
…for using chains and locks anyone could purchase from a hardware store. Confirmation of charges pending.”

Oooh, this Inconvenient Woman seemed familiar, and indeed it turned out that she was, although I didn’t begin to know the extent of her activist history.  It turns out that she co-founded Gulf Change and blogs for  A year after the BP oil spill, Cherri Foytlin walked 1,243 miles from New Orleans to the Washington D.C. to send a message to the President and the world that the Gulf is still suffering, and residents are mobilizing for change.  She was accompanied by Project Gulf Impact founders Matt Smith, Heather Rally, Gavin Garrison and PGI team members Hunter Chapman, Sami Abdou, Justin Daly, and Lamar Billups, and musician Drew Landry, whose song “BP Blues” has been an inspiration for residents and activist all along the Gulf coast.  Two trailers carried a camera crew.  Get our your hankies and hold on to your hats ;o) :

Cherri’s blog can be read at the link; Yes Magazine printed an open letter of hers back in the day that narrates some of the worst effects of the explosion and spill including health risks, deaths, and the utterly inadequate response and financial remuneration by the federal government.  If you can possibly make the time, read her Jan. 2011 ‘Letter to My People’.  You may see some of it as a bit naïve, but even so (my bold cuz it’s so wonderful):

Our founders, not one, were a perfect people – a fact that is not to be ignored. They were multi-dimensional, just as we are today. And yet in their daily life, by living, they changed the course of human events – just as we are today.

They, every single one, left in their will a silent and compelling promise to us each. Whatever they were, they left to us a future of ability, we are their living testimony to survival and love. And within that legacy, a society hosted by individual talents and the abilities of a free, self-governed people that could come together, harnessed to the service of a collective goodness and dictate their own future.

America’s first principles are basic and simple: that we govern ourselves. These principles are lighthouses to us in the process of doing so. They are keys we have been entrusted to, and someday will pass on to our own children.

These principles are not partisan issues, they are emancipation proclamations.

Citizenship means more than paying taxes and voting; it is a powerful expression of self, and in the absence of our participation and exaltation, we are now giving it away.”

Remember that Cherri’s solitary protest was in solidarity with the Defend Our Coast demonstration in Victoria on the same day.  Several thousand people from various affinity groups joined the First American organizers in a day of mass action at the legislature building.  Two days of over 70 actions across British Columbia followed.

I never discovered which of the many Louisiana tribes Cherri belonged to, and there are many First American tribes in British Columbia, and as many Native languages.

My personal long-time bias has been that the Indigenous, both locally and globally, and especially the women, will be the ones at the vanguard leading us to new societies based on honoring each other and our planet.  They’ve faced corporate rule and death by neoliberal economics, the cynicism of ‘green economics’ and REDD far longer than we have, and are familiar with the enemies we all face.  WE are THEY now, and we need to understand this.

Kevin Gosztola has already covered it but, if you’re unaware of it, you’ll enjoy knowing that Jill Stein delivered supplies to the Tree Sitters in Winnsboro yesterday to connect the link between hurricane Sandy and the XL pipeline.  She was arrested and taken to the Wood County Jail.  She was released after five hours and charged with Criminal Trespass, a Class B Misdemeanor charge. You can read more at the website, see photos and watch Jill’s video on what stirred her to go to Texas.

I hope you’ve laughed and wept and grinned with the sheer wonderfulness of all these people laying it out for all of us and our planet, and that it’s renewed you in some small measure if you needed it. Would that the world had a million Cherris and millions of the others!  And perhaps it does, and we will:

 “Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number —
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you —
Ye are many — they are few.

 ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

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