Stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

I urge Christians and all people of good will to stand in deep solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, their First Nation allies, and the many others who have joined them in their effort to permanently block the North Dakota Access Pipeline. The decision of the Departments of Justice, Army, and Interior to temporarily stop construction is a direct result of the actions of these “stewards of the earth” who have taken a courageous stand to protect the sovereignty of Native Americans and our environment.

Native Americans, the Mainline Church, and the Quest for Interracial JusticeMany Protestant denominations have apologized to Native Americans for their participation in the long history of our nation’s efforts to assimilate or exterminate Indigenous Peoples. Some denominations have renounced the Doctrine of Discovery—a legal fiction couched in quasi-religious sentiments that gave European kings a right to conquer foreign lands and is now the basis for U.S. control of Native lands. Most denominations have called for an end to the public use of images and logos that demean and degrade tribal people. Now is the time to take the next step and stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

David Archambault II, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, addressed a letter to “all Native American Tribes in the U.S. and to all Indigenous Peoples of the world,” on August 25, 2016, in which he wrote: “We all have a responsibility to speak for a vision of the future that is safe and productive for our grandchildren.” In this same letter he quoted Chief Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Lakota, who once said: “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” When President Obama spoke to the 20th Annual Environmental Summit on August 31, 2016, he quoted a Washoe tribal leader: “What happens to the land also happens to the people.” The president has invited tribes to a formal government-to-government consultation on infrastructure.

If completed, the proposed 1,172-mile pipeline will carry nearly a half million barrels of crude oil from the Bakken fields in North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Patoka, Illinois, where it will be linked to another pipeline. Proponents of the pipeline promise that during the construction phase it will create 8,000 to 12,000 jobs. Craig Stevens, a spokesperson for MAIN Coalition, a group supporting the pipeline, is quoted as saying that a delay in construction could have “a long-lasting and chilling effect on private infrastructure development in the United States.” Other advocates for the pipeline suggest that the actions of the Obama administration are a “temporary halt” to the project, which may be completed under a new administration.

The National Congress of American Indians put the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline in a historical context when they called it “another chapter in a long history of constructing hazardous pipeline routes through tribal lands without respecting tribal sovereignty.”

The immediate concern for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is protection of Lake Oahe, a primary source of water for the tribe and people and communities downstream who rely on the Missouri River. The larger but no less important concern is respect of the rights and sovereignty of Native Peoples. Deep solidarity, a phrase coined by Joerg Rieger, is rooted in an understanding that we are all in the same boat. We share the same earth and water. Given that many Protestant denominations have already renounced past efforts to assimilate or exterminate Native Peoples and repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, it is time for us to stand in deep solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”

David Phillips Hansen David Phillips Hansen is a minister in the United Church of Christ and author of Native Americans, the Mainline Church, and the Quest for Interracial Justice, available for preorder now for delivery this autumn.

Brad Lyons is president and publisher of Chalice Press.

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Brad Lyons

Brad Lyons is president and publisher of Chalice Press.

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