The Presiding Bishop for the United Methodist Church in Minnesota and the Dakotas has issued a moving statement in support of the protesters attempting to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline and the threat the pipeline poses to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation which spans the North Dakota/South Dakota border.
Support for the protest is growing. There are a number of ways that you can support the protest, too, both financially and by using your voice.
But before getting to the details of how to help, consider the power of a personal story exemplified by the moving statement by Bishop Bruce R. Ough of the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church. His statement is titled: “Mni Wiconi (Lakota for ‘Water is Life’)” He writes:
This is a very difficult and complex issue for our country, and for me personally. I grew up in the oil fields of northwest North Dakota. My father earned his living and supported our family working for an oil exploration company. My grandparents homesteaded on land less than 20 miles west of Watford City, the epicenter of the Bakken oil fields. I have farmed and cared for that land and its precious water resources. I attended a Bureau of Indian Affairs school during my junior high years. After college, I spent two years living and working on the Standing Rock Reservation. I was living there during the American Indian Movement’s protest at Wounded Knee. I grew to love the Lakota and Dakota people, their spirituality, and their deep respect for God’s creation and creatures. I have a unique history and perspective on the current conflict. …
He ends his statement with the following:
I stand with my Lakota and Dakota brothers and sisters because I believe the central question of the creation story is at the heart of their lament and their protest: What will we do with the blessing of power God has given us? This is a particularly poignant God-question for those of us who have the power of privilege in our country and the world. I urge all Dakotas and Minnesota United Methodists to wrestle with this question so central to our faith and witness.
Whatever the outcome of the court’s ruling, this may be the moment God is giving us all to come together, not as antagonists in bondage to our traumatic past, but as mutually empowered advocates for the common good and the sacredness of the waters and all of life. This may be the moment God has given us to use our power to define a just and life-giving future.
Please read the full statement. Click here.
For those not familiar with the details, here’s the quick summary. The large crude oil pipeline would run under the Missouri River one mile from the Standing Rock Nation’s fresh waster intake. It also would cross the Nation’s sacred lands. The original pipeline route was opposed by other communities who had concerns for their drinking water, so the solution was to route it near the reservation.
There is great pressure on this pipeline because of successful efforts to block the Sandpiper Pipeline into northern Minnesota.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is on hold until a federal court rules on Standing Rock’s request for an injunction against the pipeline. That decision is expected no later than Sept. 9. It is unclear if the court’s decision will end the debate. The decision will likely be appealed by the losing side.
How Can You Help
Here are some of the petitions being circulated that you could sign:
- A petition from Change.org that has more than 227,000 signatures, created by Bobbi Jean Three Legs and the Oceti Sakowin Youth.
- A petition created on We the People to be sent to the federal government that has more than 66,000 signatures.
- A letter from Friends of the Earth that you could send to President Obama.
In addition to donations and petitions, you could, like Bishop Ough, write a letter of support on behalf of your religious community or an organization to which you belong. Write from the heart.
Here are a few examples of other letters and statements that could help get you started. (Send a copy to the Standing Rock Reservation at: firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s website is building a list of supporters. (You could also send your letter to President Obama (contact at https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact) and Brent Cossette and Colonel John Henderson of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Send it to their Public Affairs Department at email@example.com)
Here are a few strong examples.
Letter of Support to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: From the American Indian Alaska Native Association of the Evangelical Lutheran in America.
It reads in part:
1. We support the peaceful, traditional, and prayerful actions of all of our Native Nations who have come together “…to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline” to preserve the Mni Wakan.2. Within our Holy scripture we see the representation that water plays in sustaining human life and God’s creation. We acknowledge that the Dakota Access Pipeline is a danger not just to native people but to ALL people, animals and God’s creation. “When we act interdependently and in solidarity with creation, we do justice.” ELCA social statement “Caring for Creation”3. We are protectors not just of God’s creation, we are also protectors of current and future generations. It is up to us to make a stand against the extreme harm that the Dakota Access Pipeline will have on generations to come. We support the peaceful historic gathering of our Native Nations on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who opposes the Dakota Access Pipeline.4. We ask that North Dakota governmental agency/authorities re-open State Highway 1806 and ending the economic sanction against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal nation and surrounding North Dakota residents.
The statement is quite long, and reads in part:
The proposed pipeline route crosses ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Missouri River. The Missouri River is a major source of water for the Tribe. The ancestral lands and water are sacred to the Tribe and its people, and they possess a responsibility to Mother Earth and to future generations to protect these ancestral lands and water. …
In a flagrant violation of environmental justice principles, the pipeline was redirected towards lands near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from its original route north of the drinking water intakes for Bismarck, ND, in part to avoid non-Native lands and communities. This act of racial discrimination placing the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe at disparate risk of harm violated their collective human rights as secured by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and violated the Executive Order on Environmental Justice, EO 12898.
Native American writers recently have written a number of powerful pieces about the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, including the following:
The Dakota Access Pipeline: What Would Sitting Bull Do?
And here is a recent article by Winona LaDuke from Honor the Earth, published in EcoWatch. LaDuke notes that there is increasing business pressure on the Dakota Access Pipeline because of recent success in blocking the Sandpiper Pipeline into northern Minnesota. She wrote:
The pipeline would span 200 water crossings and in North Dakota alone would pass through 33 historical and archeological sites. Enbridge just bought the Dakota Access pipeline, noting that the proposed Sandpiper route—Minnesota’s 640,000 barrel per day Bakken line—is now three years behind schedule.
LaDuke said the Missouri River’s health, once taken for granted, is now the nation’s seventh most polluted.
The Standing Rock protest camp represents that struggle for freedom and the future of a people. All of us. If I ask the question “What would Sitting Bull do?”—the answer is pretty clear. He would remind me what he said 150 years ago: “Let us put our minds together to see what kind of future we can make for our children.
Click here for the full column.