Activism opposing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has often taken place on social media or in courtrooms, but the battle took a different form Monday.
Off Va. 56 in Wingina, about 75 people from Nelson County and the surrounding area planted sacred Ponca Tribe corn — or “seeds of resistance” — in the proposed path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a move Friends of Nelson President Joanna Salidis called a “tangible way to express our connection with the land and the people in Dominion’s crosshairs.”
They were joined by Mekasi Horinek Camp, a member of Ponca Nation, and two others associated with Bold Alliance, a multi-state coalition with the goal of promoting environmental responsibility and clean energy.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is being proposed by Dominion Resources, would run through Nelson County as part of a three-state route of nearly 600 miles. The pipeline, which would measure 42 inches in diameter, would transport natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina.
Camp and his allies are participating in several plantings this week along the proposed paths of the Atlantic Cost Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia.
The plantings draw inspiration from a similar event that took place in Nebraska in 2013, when members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance planted sacred Ponca corn in the path of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which since has been rejected.
“I really felt like we needed an action to do … and all these things started to fall into place,” said Jane Kleeb, president of Bold Alliance. “We thought it was a beautiful action for us to plant these seeds in Nebraska on the [Keystone XL] Pipeline route, and we should be doing that all across the nation, and let’s go to these two very important pipeline fights in West Virginia and Virginia.”
Camp, who is also the director of Bold Oklahoma, explained some of the meaning behind the phrase “seeds of resistance.”
“These seeds would become not only a symbol of resistance, but that they would stand there for us, put their roots in the ground and be there and stand strong while we couldn’t be there,” Camp said. “… The times that we weren’t there, the plants were gonna stand there in front of the pipeline for us.”
Before the approximately 80 attendees lined up to plant the blue corn seeds on the property of Samuel Woodson Sr., Camp offered tobacco as a sacrament and prayed and blew an eagle bone whistle to summon the spirits of the Woodsons’ ancestors to “give them strength” in the fight and as they planted.
“We’re resisting everything that they try to do to harm our mother earth,” he said. “We belong to the land. We don’t own the land; we belong to the land that we farm. We belong to the land that we live on. We belong to the earth and the sky and the water that we drink.”
Kleeb explained the purpose of the corn-planting tour, which includes six total stops over the next few days, is both practical and spiritual. Bold Alliance aims to create a sense of solidarity among pipeline opponents and to offer prayers to stop the pipelines as the sacred seeds are planted as “medicine” to the ground.
Guests also heard from Rhamonia Woodson-Moore, Woodson’s sister, during Monday’s ceremony.
“We want to preserve [our land]. We’re gonna stay here,” Woodson-Moore said. “We don’t want anything touching this piece [of history] that we have.”
Woodson-Moore explained when she conducted research as part of previous efforts to stop the pipeline, she found a deed for the land dating to 1898. The small Wingina community is made up of mostly African-Americans whose history includes a long line of slaves, many of whom are buried in the area. Hebron Baptist Church, which also is in Wingina, was even a stop on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War.
Woodson-Moore said she hopes by allowing the sacred corn to be planted on her family’s property, they are a “vessel” and “part of the continuation” of the pipeline resistance movement.