I spent the morning on Thursday of last week at Ramapough Prayer Camp, with members of the Ramapough-Lenape tribe. Chief Perry couldn’t have been more accommodating. I also met Two Clouds, Little Wolf and Owl, three Lenape men (a lawyer, an environmentalist and a veteran, by the way) currently sitting in prayer and tending the fire and keeping watch over this 13 acre plot—surrounded by a polo club of all things. Those 13 acres are all that remains of their tribal land. This is sacred space.
When I asked the three men why they’d recently returned to this plot, the response was, “they’d been called back.” When I asked when it would be time to stop keeping vigil Little Wolf said, “when my prayers are answered.”
I came to meet the Lenape specifically because I’m concerned about Pilgrim Pipeline, and other pipeline projects in New Jersey. I’m concerned about above ground pipelines carrying crude (Pilgrim) and I’m concerned about underground gas pipelines too, such as South Jersey Gas Cape Atlantic Reliability Project in the Pinelands.
Pilgrim Pipeline is proposed to run through lands once belonging to the Lenape, and very close to the 13 remaining acres. As a gubernatorial candidate I was looking for guidance, for direction, in policy.
But instead of specific answers about the pipeline I was given some very clear words that I hope guide my campaign, especially as it concerns the environment.
“White privilege always comes in and wants to give answers” said Little Wolf.
I decided it was time to sit down on a log and listen.
If I wanted to be legit as an equal citizen in this world I needed to enter “slow time,” I was told. I needed to listen and not to speak, not to try to rush to conclusions.
To enter “slow time” isn’t to be so slow as to miss the opportunity for impact. It is, instead, to realize that by rushing to offer knee-jerk reactions, full-speed, sometimes people in positions of power asks the wrong questions, or, they oversimplify and fight an incomplete battle.
Plans for a short visit turned into 2hrs.
“It is about water, land and air. Right now everyone wants to talk about water. But life is about water, land and air. We will not find solutions until we can think clearly about all these things.”
It’s going to be hard to stay faithful to “slow time” in the Trump era. As I write this Trump has just signed executive orders to move forward XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline. As I write this there are pipeline fights going on at town halls in South Jersey.
Let’s commit to “slow time.” Let’s make that commitment fast, right now.
The Last Are First