The Field Trip 10
June 17, 2016
I pledge allegiance To all life In its interdependent diversity.
And to the planet Upon which it exists
One world, under the sky, Undividable,
With harmony and balance For all.
~ Tom King, 2001
I went on a field trip with friends on June 11, 2016 to study the biodiversity of the open land adjacent to the Utah Tar Sands Mine. We ended up being arrested. We are dubbing ourselves “The Field Trip 10”.
This field trip was not a direct action with anticipated legal consequences. This field trip is an annual family tradition. Plants are studied and data are recorded in a field journal. Comparisons are made from the previous year to witness the impact of mining on the land.
The Intergenerational Campout has been held at PR Springs on the Tavaputs Plateau for four years. The campout is designed for people of all ages to come together to experience the beauty of the land, reflect on the legacy of future generations, witness the threat to all life forms as a result of man’s destruction, and provide education on the effects of industry on those life forms. By holding this gathering in the heart of the land that is victimized by destruction, citizens experience the direct impact on every living thing.
“Our kinship with Earth must be maintained; otherwise, we will find ourselves trapped in the center of our own paved-over souls with no way out.”
― Terry Tempest Williams, Finding Beauty in a Broken World
Equipped with balls of string, journals and pens, “field scientists”, adults and children, conducted the biodiversity experiment in an open forested area utilizing the “transect” method. This involved using a pre-measured string to identify a randomly chosen area of study, counting the number of different types of plants as well as the total number of all plants and arriving at a biodiversity index using simple division to determine the diversity of plant life in the measured area. The closer the result is to “1”, the greater the diversity.
We walked out of the forest, data in hand, excited to review it back at the camp.
The Field Trip 10 never got the chance, however, to take the data back to camp and compare it to the previous year’s data. Instead, we were detained for four hours along the road by three law enforcement officers and then carted off to the county jail in shackles – a two hour trip. The charge: criminal trespass.
During the time we were detained, we consistently asked why the wait and what was going to happen. Only when the Sheriff’s van pulled up were we then made aware of our fate. Intimidation tactics were used to instill fear into our minds – particularly to the parents of the children. Threats of reckless endangerment and involvement of DCFS were made, needlessly aggravating the circumstances.
The Earth is our Mother.
From her we get our life,
and our ability to live.
It is our responsibility
to care for our mother,
and in caring for our Mother,
we care for ourselves.
– Winona LaDuke , Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe)
The ride to the jail was long. As the sun set and the landscape dimmed we took delight in seeing Elk partake in their evening grazing. We laughed. We sang. We chanted. We cried. We wondered.
“We only have One Water, One Air, One Mother Earth.”
~ Corbin Harney, Western Shoshone Spiritual Leader, 1920-2007
Near the end of our journey to jail one of us expressed the desire to use the bathroom as soon as we got there. The response? “You are adults. Hold it.” Still, we were promised that as soon as we arrived at the facility our comrade would be immediately taken to relieve himself. Yet when we arrived, the officers left the van and went into the building, leaving us sitting and one of us in pain. He couldn’t wait. During profuse apologies he managed to unzip and pee, despite the shackles. When he said “Don’t worry, I’m not peeing my pants, I’m peeing on their van”, we laughed loudly and heartily. It was a light moment in an otherwise dark situation.
The rest of the night involved all of us getting booked, surveyed, photographed, and finger printed. We were sent to holding cells, men separate from the women. The women’s holding cell was filled. With us. And one other woman who hid in her blanket the entire time. We couldn’t sleep. Throughout the night, people were brought in who were intoxicated from the local carnival being held. We witnessed some aggressive man-handling by jail personnel that hurt one man. One compassionate female guard checked on him several times to make sure he was o.k. In our holding cell, we shared stories, worries, happiness…..people who did not know each other prior to this event became close. We chuckled over the questions they asked us. Why was one of the medical questions “Are you homosexual?” What are “female problems”? Why were some of us asked certain questions and others not?
We found out our bail had been paid and we were released at 4:30am the next day – into the dark with no car and our camp family back at the camp with no cell reception. The kind bail bondsman made trips to transport the hungry Field Trip 10 to a 24 hour restaurant. The parents of the children were very distressed over the unknown welfare of their children. What we didn’t know was that our loved ones had already put things in motion and not only had our bail been attended to as we were being transported to the jail, attorneys being secured and the children well cared for but transportation was already on its way to fetch us. Hours later, we all were reunited, tired and happy to be alive.
What makes me most proud is that our UTSR camp family became surrogate parents and supports to not only the Field Trip 10, but to those precious children. It was magic.
The arrest of the Field Trip 10 was unnecessary. Obviously no harm was intended. One of us witnessed the officer who regularly polices the area as stating that this was being done to set an example to those who *were* planning direct action in the near future. To use a group of caring people, concerned about life on the planet, who merely wanted to observe the impact of extraction and mining and destruction, not intending to break the law or do harm, is an act of violence itself. The criminals are not those who innocently crossed the line. The criminals are those who created this situation out of greed.
In this time of turmoil, of greed and selfishness, of destruction, there is persistence. Ultimately life will win. It always does.
“The Eyes of the Future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.”
― Terry Tempest Williams, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert