Why We Need a Poor People’s Campaign: Peace Camp Devotional by Lois Swimmer

This devotional is a part of the June 2020 Presbyterian Peace Camp: A Virtual Week of Learning, Prayer, and Action. Lois Swimmer lives in Kansas City, MO where is on the Elder’s Circle, a 1001 New Worshipping Community.  She is a leader at Cherith Brook Catholic Worker, has been involved in The Fight For $15 & a Union, The Poor People’s Campaign.  She is on the Board of Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom. 

I am a Lakota Native-born woman raised on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation in South Dakota. I’m a mother and a grandmother. Currently, my income is only $470 a month from disability. My partner works for the same property management company as me, and has for 15 years. He makes $10.50 an hour. Our rent is $600 each month, all utilities paid. That means close to 50% of our income goes to housing. I share my one-bedroom apartment with four other people — my partner, my daughter, her husband, and my grandson… 

In South Dakota, I own, on paper, hundreds of tract acres of land. The names of my ancestors are still on the titles for that land, much of which the federal government today leases for pennies on the dollar for grazing, roads and utility lines. It doesn’t make much money, and the land itself needs water and electricity to be ready to live on. It saddens me to think that for all that has been taken from the Native people of this country, this is what we have been given in return — land worth too little in the reservations, generations of people trapped in a cycle of poverty. (reprinted from Poor People’s Moral  Budget:  Everybody Has a Right to Live)

When we first heard of The Poor People’s Campaign, a few of us were like, “Hey, that sounds like something we should get involved with.” We did, and it is a truly great experience!

We got our homeless guests involved and they thought it was a good idea too.  To me, they felt, “Wow, now we got other voices to help us be heard.”  Some felt they lacked power and voice.  Maybe they had a felony and had no right to vote.  Or maybe because they were houseless, with no address, they felt unimportant.   

The faces of our next generation are looking up to us for knowledge.  Knowing this, we should be respectful to one another, as well as come together.  It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin, your nationality or creed, we all have to have a great love and healing to stop this violence in our society today, especially for our next generation.  I am glad to see how many young women and men are at the protests.  

As a Lakota Native I’ve seen all the four evils – poverty, racism, an economy based on war and environmental destruction, plus more by now!   I’ve experienced great poverty on my reservation which is still going on today.  And it is going on across all Indian nations. The Choctaw Navajo nation was in despair with this virus.  The government didn’t step in right away to help.  Ireland didn’t forget them.   It took a good deed that the Choctaw did many years ago for the Irish. They helped out the Navajo at their time of need, and when our own government would not. Now that is a real act of kindness.  This gives me more reasons I am glad to be part of The Poor People’s Campaign to stop systemic racism, poverty and inequality, an economy rooted in war and especially ecological destruction.  We all need unity for all sacred life upon precious Mother Earth.  

A Prayer by Lois Swimmer

Standing in prayers and unity for all sacred life
upon our precious Mother Earth.

All sacred nations,
All Father skies
All sacred waters
All sacred life

I ask for you, Creator, to watch, hold, and love
each one of your children in this circle,
and leave our discussion in each other’s mind
to carry on to others with much love!

Bless us for this day!

A’ ho’