A CALL to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, in North Dakota, as they protest against the construction of a new pipeline, was answered by more than 500 people of faith, last week.
The Nation opposes the route of the Dakota Access pipeline, which will cross its ancestral burial grounds. They argue that the pipeline, which will transport crude oil, could pollute their main source of water.
The interfaith group spent more than five hours on the site on Thursday of last week, marching, singing hymns, and calling others to join them, the Episcopal News Service reported. Among their number was the National Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Rt Revd Mark MacDonald; the Bishop of South Dakota, the Rt Revd John Tarrant, and the supervising priest of the Episcopal churches on the North Dakota side of Standing Rock, the Revd John Floberg.
In an open letter last month, Mr Floberg called on faith communities to “stand witness to water protectors’ acts of compassion for God’s creation”, and complained that the peaceful protests had been met with “the repressive power of the state . . . armed riot police . . . [and] increased arrests”. The Vicar of St Anne’s, Washougal, the Revd Jessie Smith, who attended the gathering last week, reported that some people had been hit with rubber bullets and pepper spray from police.
During the gathering, religious leaders read out repudiations of the Doctrine of Discovery, which was used to justify the seizure of lands from indigenous peoples. A copy of the doctrine was given to elders in the Oceti Sakowin camp — where protesters have gathered — with an invitation to burn it.
The Revd Brandon Mauai, a deacon in the diocese of North Dakota and the Sioux Nation, wrote a prayer asking that God “strengthen us physically, so that we might stand for however long, to fight the good fight without waiver”.
The programme executive for economic justice and ecological justice at the World Council of Churches, Athena Peralta, said that opposing the pipeline was “a matter of economic and climate justice”.
Last week, President Obama suggested that the pipeline could be rerouted.