7 Directions of Service (7DS) was founded by Indigenous activists Crystal Cavalier-Keck and Jason Crazy Bear Keck on Crystal's ancestral Occaneechi-Saponi lands, the rural Piedmont region of North Carolina. 7 Directions began as a culture class and youth program, and has grown into a regional grassroots mobilization platform. Everything changed when Crystal and Jason learned that a pipeline was slated to go through their backyard and they began dedicating their lives to resisting, building coalitions and creating campaigns to support the working-class and farming families located along the proposed route. Today, the pipeline is on its last breath.
The approach of 7 Directions is intersectional and life-honoring. They recognize that the harms faced under the settler state are not new, and consider their work as part of a legacy of grassroots leaders who have risen up to end state violence against their communities. Every campaign, community project and education program is guided by the 7 Directions teaching, which proclaims the sanctity and vitality of each direction: children, women, men, elders, the earth, the sky (which is also symbolic of culture and the mind) and finally, the direction within.
7 Directions of Service focuses on:
- Protecting traditional pre-US treaty areas (NC/VA/SC)
- Educating Indigenous community members, tribes, surrounding communities, and youth on current environmental issues
- Developing the next generation of leaders in the environmental movement
- Promoting activism within our tribes and Indigenous communities
- Empowering Indigenous community members to effect change
"The destructive force of racial capitalist economies continues to harm all life and sacred kinship systems, beginning with our beloved earth, and extending all the way into our intimate family relationships. We are living in uncertain times, and yet the moment is ripe with opportunity to make a radical change. Now is the time to look to the leadership, wisdom, and experience of those who ARE the frontlines."
-Crystal and Jason
The 7 Directions teachings are at the core of every campaign, community project, education program and partnership we choose to nurture. These teachings have a multitude of interpretations across Indigenous cultures. For us, they proclaim the sanctity and vitality of each direction: children, women, men, elders, the earth, the sky (which is also symbolic of culture and the mind) and finally, the direction within. While we refer to the binary of “women” and “men”, we recognize the spectrum of gender (a fact of life well-known to our ancestors), and honor the sacredness of our nonbinary and 2-spirit kin.
Well before we became a nonprofit, the 7 Directions teachings were guiding our leadership and volunteer work. We started out with culture classes and lacrosse for kids, and expanded our efforts to MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) after a life-altering incident, where Crystal witnessed an Indigenous woman escape from being trafficked. Jason has been a life-long mentor to men and boys, and leads martial arts workshops to encourage their healthy expression and mental wellness. We show up for our elders with sincerity and willingness, and support them through hands-on work and deep listening. We save seeds, protest, pray, educate and organize to Defend the Sacred, and defeat destructive projects, like the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
We are campaigning for legal action to grant Rights of Nature to our beloved relative, the Haw River. Ancient life-giving cultures of compassion, prayerful action, humility and solidarity are in our blood, and through initiatives like Community Build Days, we are working to re-establish our ancestors' ways of community care and collective action. For us, the 7th Direction within is nurtured by being in service of each of the 6 Directions mentioned above, as well as spending time with family, the land, being creative and re-learning our languages.