In Returning the Sacred Red Rock to the Dakota, Methodists Want to Build Relationships, Lead State Towards Healing Path

The Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) is in the early stages of returning In-Yan Sa (the sacred Red Rock) to the Dakota people, according to an article the UMC published online. The UMC says this is part of a larger effort of healing, building relationships with indigenous peoples, and leading the rest of Minnesota along this important journey.

(The Dakota word for the Red Rock also is spelled Eyah-Shaw.)

The article continued:

“We live in Dakota and Ojibwa lands—land systematically taken from the Dakota and Ojibwa through treaties violated or broken by the U.S. government, land long sacred to its native inhabitants,” said Bishop Ough. “Since the 2012 General Conference, our Minnesota Conference Commission on Native American Ministry has been preparing us to walk the path of peace and reconciliation with the Dakota people and to heal the lingering wounds form the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War. This is the moment for the Minnesota Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church to lead the entire state down this path of healing and reconciliation. This is the moment to return Eyah-Shaw. This would be a powerful and just step toward peace and harmony.”

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Methodist Bishop Commits to Returning Sacred Red Rock to the Dakota People

Sign next to Eyah Shaw in front of Newport United Methodist Church. (Photo from the Church’s website.)

The Bishop of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Minnesota, Bruce R. Ough, has committed to restoring Eyah Shaw — the sacred red rock — to the Dakota people. (In Dakota, Eyah means “rock” and Shaw means “red.”)

Before settlers arrived, Eyah Shaw was on the east bank of the Mississippi River several miles south of what is now St. Paul. Filmmaker and researcher Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota) says Eyah Shaw is a sacred relative to Dakota people and deeply connected to their creation story. Dakota people traditionally would paint the boulder-sized rock with red stripes.

Early settlers saw the boulder as a significant landmark and began referring to the area simply as Red Rock. Red Rock’s early missionaries were Methodists. In the 1860s they purchased several acres of land to create a camp meeting; the religious gathering became synonymous with the Red Rock. While the camp — and the rock — have moved since that time, the name stuck. Red Rock Camp still exists today near Paynesville.

The rock itself now resides outside the Newport UMC, with local historic designation.

Wolfchild said the Dakota people had other sacred rocks in the area, but settlers destroyed them. He has thanked the UMC for protecting Eyah Shaw, but says it is now time for the rock to come home to its people. Continue reading

Religious Leaders are Standing with Standing Rock to Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline

In our blog yesterday, we included a list of the denominations that had issued statements on the Dakota Access Pipeline. Since then, we learned that we missed some. Those taking a position include leaders from: the Episcopal Church; the Mennonite Central Committee (Central States); the United Church of Christ; the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church; the ELCA; the Unitarian Universalists, and the Presbyterian Church USA.

Please let us know if we have missed any statements from religious leaders. We will continue to update the list.

Quick background: The proposed pipeline would pass under the Missouri River, just one mile from the fresh water intake for the Standing Rock Reservation. The Pipeline also would pass through lands sacred to Standing Rock, including burial grounds.

The pipeline’s original route took it within 10 miles of Bismarck, but concern about the potential impact on the Capital City’s drinking water lead to a reroute near the reservation.

Things are currently in limbo. On Sept. 9, a federal judge turned down the Standing Rock Nation’s request to stop pipeline construction, according to MPR. The judge concluded that the Army Corps of Engineers had followed the law in approving the project. That same day, the federal government ordered “work to stop on the segment of the project in question, asking Energy Transfer Partners to ‘voluntarily pause’ action” on the culturally significant areas.

Below, each statement from religious leaders on this issue is powerful on its own. Collectively, their power is magnified and shows that this truly is an issue of conscience. Continue reading for excerpts and links to their full statements. They are listed in chronological order. Continue reading