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With Standing Rock Sioux pipeline protest

Area tribes, local groups, national denominations express solidarity


Compiled from news reports, online sources, national and regional denominational websites and FaceBook.

Members of Inland Northwest tribes and leaders of national denominations have expressed solidarity with and gone to North Dakota to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s peaceful protest of the 1,170-mile Dakota Access Pipeline—carrying fracked oil from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota to Peoria, Ill.

The pipeline would pass over sacred, ancestral land just north of the reservation, and under Lake Oahe on the Missouri River, the source of drinking water for the tribe and millions of others.

Protesters began gathering on federal land in April. Members of about 300 indigenous tribes from around the world have come, with at times 8,000 at the Oceti Sakowin Camp south of Bismarck.

On Oct. 25, the Texas-based developer told protesters, who set up a new camp on company land, to leave. Police and National Guard in riot gear evicted them on Oct. 27.

• Dave Archambault II, tribal chair of Standing Rock Sioux, said the creator instructed them to care for the land, water and all creation. Their rallying cry is “Water is life.”  He is among 140 “protectors” who have been arrested, strip-searched and released.

• The Spokane City Council voted five to two on Oct. 4 to support peaceful protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP).

• Democracy Now! editor Amy Goodman was arrested for trespassing while covering a Sept. 3 protest and response of DAP security guards with pepper spray and dogs.  After her report went viral online, she was charged with rioting, but on Oct. 17 the judge dismissed the case, which Amy said was “a win for freedom of the press.”

• Twa-le Abrahamson-Swan of the Spokane Tribe has provided coverage on Facebook of her visits there.

Members of the Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, Colville, Kalispel and other area tribes have traveled there to join the protest.

Inland Northwest tribes also gathered to pray for and support the Standing Rock protest. Indigenous leaders and community groups met in downtown Spokane on Friday, Sept. 9. That day the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia ruled on whether construction on the pipeline could continue. The march began at Canada Island in Riverfront Park—recently symbolically transferred to the Spokane Tribe.  Marchers passed the City Hall, Federal Building and banks funding the pipeline.

• Later that day, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Justice and Interior Departments temporarily blocked construction on part of the pipeline just after the federal court denied the tribe’s request for an injunction to block construction.

The federal entities said they would reconsider the decision to proceed under federal laws. They called for discussion of nationwide reform on considering tribes’ views on infrastructure projects. The government will invite tribes to consultations on making federal decisions about tribal lands.

• Christian Justice Ministries, formerly the National Council of Churches’ Eco-Justice Program, offers access to statements of Christian communities supporting the tribe at

Statements included are from Episcopal Presiding Bishop Curry, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church and the UMC Dakotas-Minnesota Conference Bishop Bruce Ough, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), Quaker Earthcare Witness, several Friends Meetings, the United Church of Christ, the World Student Christian Federation North American Region,  and Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.

• Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on Aug. 25 said the action “joins the fight for racial justice and reconciliation with climate justice and caring for God’s creation.”  He called Standing Rock the new Selma, a moment when nations and peoples of goodwill “come together to transform this world from the nightmare that it often is into the dream God intends so that clean water is available to everybody.”

Episcopal and other congregations have joined hundreds to thousands at the protest, and have raised the issue in sermons, prayers and liturgies in North Dakota and nationally.

Episcopal sources said Standing Rock Sioux leaders, in their lawsuit opposing the pipeline, cited treaties from 1851 and 1868 with the U.S. government, recognizing that tribal lands are north of the reservation.

• The Presbyterian Church (USA) issued a statement Aug. 29 supporting the protest and calling for discussion in churches on challenging the “Doctrine of Discovery.”

• UCC leaders urge people to engage in online advocacy to challenge the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

Byron Buffalo, a licensed lay minister of the Dakota Association of the United Church of Christ, said: “Water is sacred to the Tribe, which relies on the river for drinking water, irrigation, fishing and recreation, and for cultural and religious practices.”

The South Dakota Conference UCC expressed concern “that we keep treating the sacred as though it is expendable.”

• United Methodist Bishop Bruce Ough of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area, has said:  “United Methodists hope to work in a continued relationship to fulfill God’s commandment to be stewards of creation.”

• The Central States Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) said the project was fast-tracked using a “Nationwide Permit No. 12” process, which allowed Texas oil company Energy Transfer Partners to circumvent environmental reviews required under the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by treating the pipeline as a series of small construction sites rather than a multi-state project.

On Aug. 31, the MCC Central States executive director, said, that mining, fracking, logging, water theft, plantation agriculture, and other extractive industries continue to take resources from indigenous communities to benefit the wealth of those descended from Europeans.”

• The Unitarian Universalist Association president on Aug. 30 called for opposition to the DAP and encouraged members to financially support the water protectors.

• Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), expressed on Sept. 9 the church’s concern for respecting tribal nations and called for prayer to express solidarity and build relationships, recognizing there are members on both sides of the issue. “We need initiate and/or continue local efforts to strengthen and expand partnerships, and deepen cross-cultural understanding.”

• Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA) stands with the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes in their pursuit of justice for their people and their lands.

“As young evangelical Christians, we believe climate change is one of the greatest moral challenges of our time,” they said. 

YECA added that “the inheritance of future generations is being squandered, while the worst impacts of a warming world continue to be felt most acutely by the poor and the vulnerable around the world. Urgent action is needed to quickly transition our economy away from the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels and toward zero emission renewables.”

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