Saturday, March 7, 2015

Plunging into "Shibleen"

I’ve been asked to help spread the word that I’ll be among the presenters at the upcoming Great Plains Writers' Conference at South Dakota State University. I know you'll forgive my dutiful self-promotion. Perhaps you’ll even come to my presentation and let me put you to sleep. Great cure for insomnia.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

To Winter ... in California

I'm on a working vacation in La Jolla, California.... Okay, so I needed to get away from winter for a while. Yesterday while I was writing at the beach my guys were battened down back at home for what was supposed to be a blizzard. (Fortunately for them, it fizzled, but I rubbed it in anyway.)

The beach was a three-hour hike, round-trip, from where I'm staying. When I first arrived, some journeyed shoes resting on a rock caught my attention. Don't you wonder what stories they could tell?

And these rascally birds! They look so innocent, don't they? But just a few minutes before, when I'd stepped away momentarily from my beach towel, they tried to steal the remains of my lunch. They also appeared to be voracious readers. I found the book I'd been reading (about fiction writing) a few feet from where I'd left it, open to a chapter on "Point of View."

A bite was missing from a page on "Character."

No kidding.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Windmill in Breeze


Quite the weekend. A writing retreat at the home of my good friend and fellow writer (and poet) Ruby Wilson. Her husband Jim being away, her home out in the country, maybe 20 minutes from my own, become our little retreat, complete with a big pot of stew, lovely views of the prairie, a four-mile walk around a country block, late nights and long hours of quiet work and sharing.

Sunday morning I got up to a fresh dusting of snow. This was the scene when I stepped out the back door. I wish you could hear the gentle creaking of the little windmill, the dripping of melting snow from the trees, the distant squawking of birds, the huffing of the dog in the yard....

Somehow the stillness of this scene, with the ceaseless motion of the windmill inspired by breeze, feels like a metaphor for the creative work we were doing in the warmth of the house.

Thanks, Ruby.

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Come Home, America"

"Beyond Vietnam": Summons to America from Phyllis Cole-Dai on Vimeo.

Four years ago I created this video presentation for a commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death, held here in Brookings, SD. I thought it worth sharing again today, in remembrance of MLK's profound work and our own ongoing efforts to continue it.

Martin Luther King, Jr., first delivered this speech, "Beyond Vietnam," at the Riverside Church of New York on April 4, 1967. A year later to the day, he was assassinated in Memphis.

In this presentation King preaches basically the same text of "Beyond Vietnam" at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on April 30, 1967. The award-winning recording was edited for length.

During the last year of his life, King suffered widespread condemnation and was abandoned by many supporters, white and black, because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. Despite the rejection and the risks, he never stopped summoning America to a "radical revolution of values." He challenged the nation he loved to "come home" from the far country of "racism, militarism and economic exploitation."

Today his call is ours to answer.

My thanks to all the photographers, graphic artists and archival sources for the images used.

Note: If you can't see the video player above, click here to watch.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Upward Trek, and a Signature

A little celebration today: I just completed another major portion of my novel-in-progress about Sarah Wakefield. Onward and upward!

As a little marker in this climb, I thought I'd share with you this photograph of Sarah's signature, from a document she signed in early November, 1862, around a month after she returned to her husband following her captivity among the Dakota. That reunion was not a happy one.

If you're interested, you can see lots of other images related to my novel-in-progress on my ever-expanding Pinterest page.

Be well, all!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

TransCanada, Step Aside

On Tuesday, October 28, the Public Utilities Commission met in Pierre to decide who can formally weigh in on whether it should re-certify TransCanada’s permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline through our state. As you likely know, that proposed pipeline would transport toxic tar sands oil (not crude oil) down from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast, primarily for export. TransCanada’s original PUC certification expired this summer.

Nearly 45 individuals, tribal nations and non-profit organizations petitioned for intervener status, opposing re-certification. That number is three times more than it was four years ago when TransCanada’s permit was first approved. “Not a record number [of interveners],” said PUC Chair Gary Hanson, “but certainly quite a roomful.” Among them were Dakota Rural Action, South Dakota Wildlife Federation, South Dakota Peace & Justice Center, Sierra Club, and the Cheyenne River, Rosebud, Standing Rock, and Yankton Sioux Tribes.

This was an important meeting in the fight against Keystone XL. That’s why I traveled to Pierre to lend my support to those seeking intervener status. As interveners they or their legal counsel would be allowed to testify, call witnesses, submit evidence and cross-examine TransCanada “experts” at the eventual PUC re-certification hearing.

Those applying as interveners cited a range of concerns about Keystone XL, including violations of property and treaty rights; environmental risks, especially to the Ogallala Aquifer, the Missouri River, and innumerable other South Dakota water resources; the threat to sacred cultural sites of tribal people; the pipeline’s contribution to climate change; the social ills associated with man-camps (e.g., human trafficking), and more.

Tuesday’s meeting lasted nearly three hours. By my count, TransCanada’s lawyer, Mr. William Taylor, contested the standing of half the petitioners. For some reason, he was allowed to remain at the microphone, seated before the panel, even as the Commissioners were hearing testimony from petitioners. In other words, he was seated directly beside those persons opposing his corporate client.

This seemed to me a clear intimidation tactic. I almost applauded when Dallas Goldtooth, one of the last petitioners called forward to defend his right to intervene, asked the Commissioners, “Does Mr. Taylor need to be sitting right beside me while I testify?”

TransCanada’s attorney then rose from his seat and stepped aside. But with all due respect, Mr. Goldtooth should never have had to ask the question.

Dallas Goldtooth objecting to the presence of TransCanada's lawyer.

Everybody in that room knew where TransCanada’s loyalties lie. They don’t lie with farmers and ranchers, or tribal people. With anyone wanting to protect water and land resources from contamination that can’t be cleaned up. With anyone trying to protect the planet against climate change due to human activity, like the extraction and use of tar sands oil and other fossil fuels. Clearly TransCanada’s loyalties don’t lie with South Dakotans.

But what about the PUC's?

I'm happy to report that at least on Tuesday, despite enabling Mr. Taylor’s subtle intimidation, the PUC was loyal to the people of South Dakota. The Commissioners voted unanimously to grant intervener status to every petitioner. By statute, they explained, this process is meant to be fair, democratic and broadly inclusive.

I can only hope that I’ll be able to report the same after the re-certification hearing. The date of that hearing is yet to be determined, but as Chairman Hanson observed, it’s likely to be a “protracted” event.

And well it should. Much will be at stake. And we South Dakotans should be at that hearing in great numbers, to make sure that TransCanada is finally made to step aside from this odious pipeline project, once and for all.

(Photo credit: Chas Jewitt, detail.)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Interested in the US Dakota War of 1862? Check This Out!

Sarah Brown Wakefield
For those of you who enjoy photographs and are interested in the U.S. Dakota War of 1862, here's a heads-up!

I've just started "Sarah Wakefield Fictional Biography Project," a Pinterest board where I'll pin images that relate to the writing of my historical novel-in-progress, a fictional biography of Sarah Brown Wakefield, infamous survivor of the US-Dakota War of 1862.

You can check out the board at this link even if you don't have a Pinterest account. If you have an interest in the topic, however, you might want to sign up for a free account in order to follow the board.