Remember the Mine Wars

This Veterans Day, I want to remember a special group of fighters commonly overlooked in military remembrances: our brave ancestors who gave their blood in the WV Mine Wars to secure their livelihoods and our labor rights. Those who fought on the side of right during those battles were soldiers just as much as any other soul who ever wore a uniform, and many of us still carry their fire in our bellies.

“In probably the largest armed labor uprising in American history, perhaps as many as 20,000 miners marched 90 miles and engaged in a two-week battle with more than 5,000 Logan County deputy sheriffs, mine guards, and state police. The Battle of Blair Mountain ended when President Warren G. Harding placed the region under martial law, and ordered 2,500 federal soldiers and a bombing squadron into the state. ” The Mine Wars, e-WV

So I send this song out in memory of the miners and their families. You are not forgotten, and we will never stop in our quest to protect these mountains.

“There’s a hole in this mountain, and it’s dark and it’s deep
And god only knows all the secrets it keeps
There’s a chill in the air only miners can feel
There’re ghosts in the tunnels that the company sealed”

Thank you Steve Earle for writing this; come on back to Mountain Stage anytime.

–Selah Raines

Testament

The biggest testament you can be is action.

Tyler Childers

It’s been an eventful few weeks here in Appalachia. On Sunday, Sept. 22, we went to the Circle of Protection at Bent Mountain, VA, to meet with pipeline fighters from five states. It was a great opportunity to work on building regional solidarity. I got to meet many of the good people from POWHR – Protecting Our Water, Heritage, and Rights, an organization in which I serve as Steering Committee member and one I’m proud to be part of. Bent Mountain was a good, if brief, opportunity for fellowship and checking-in with people from several states who are on the front lines of property rights, cultural attachment, and protecting water.

When you see Maury Johnson, ask him to tell you the story of this WV Water Staff!
I appreciate Maury bearing this artifact dedicated to waters of West Virginia.

A week later, we lost April Pierson-Keating. April was one of my confidantes, and sometimes when I’m half-awake, I’m still thinking about what I can’t wait to tell her when I see her next. I’m holding on to that feeling. April’s family and friends came together to honor her relentless tenacity and loving heart at the Buckhannon Opera House on Oct. 18.

Mara Robbins and MJ Clark, water protectors. Stay tuned in the next few weeks for MJ’s story. She was inspired by April to make this ensemble dedicated to water.

Mara wrote a poem with deep resonance and shared it with us at the ceremony. I share it with you below:

Water
For April Pierson-Keating

Scientists are exploring consciousness
as an alternative to intelligence
when experimenting with communication
between plants. Or a supplement?

The key is water.

Hard to speculate for long, caught between
images or confirmation of whatever it is
you’re doing, through us, so many of us
exploring the option of consciousness

(as if it’s water)

beyond evidence and the evidence of you
beyond the intelligence of assertion that plants
could actually respond in ways we deem responsive…

…and all I can think is water.

We all think “water.”

We all sense the water of your life
coursing through our sore, tired hearts
still lost with the loss of you, yet pounding
with the rhythm of action in the face of grief.

We all feel water.

So forget the citations and the petitions
for a moment, forget the presentations
and the litigation, forget the crucial legislation
and the upcoming election. Forget the system.

We all need water,

a long drink of what you meant to us.
Hands cupped over a sweet spring, dripping
with intimacy and salty with the way
in which these fallible eyes leak into our dreams.

We dream of clean water.

And we will carry your dream like an anchor
over our shoulders into the thick resistance
of one more fracking well, one more pipeline,
one more circumnavigation

with this broken boat

mended by our many hands. Hammer, friends,
and nail. Bring the wood and the warped wisdom.
Bring talk and time and tenacious tactics,
our delicious diversity,

bring our cherished water

into collective containers for our missions
and give us permission to mistake
what we take to be purpose
for our free will to translate into freedom.

May all waters be free.

And may we, your beloved community,
explore your consciousness within our own
as we choose wisely, though your eyes,
though our bodies still flowing with the work

still to be done.