Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, along with indigenous people and supporters from the United States and around the world, have gathered at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota since last April to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which they say violates sacred land and threatens to pollute drinking water.
On Oct. 5, Erin Hawkins, General Secretary of the General Commission on Race and Religion joined the Dr. David Wilson, superintendent of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, at Standing Rock to learn more about the situation and to lend their support.
As she reflected on being with more than 1,000 self-described “water protectors,” Ms. Hawkins said the issues raised by demonstrators should also be on the minds for all United Methodists.
“The protectors are there to safeguard water and life, not for some, but for every one of us. I was able to bear witness to so many people, mostly indigenous peoples, from all over the world making a stand for life over greed,” Ms. Hawkins said.
She and Dr. Wilson said many of the protestors encamped around the site have left their jobs, home with running water, electricity and indoor plumbing to bring their children, and extended families to make a stand for what they believe are tribal rights and respect for the natural world.
Dr. Wilson described the growing number of people joining the protests. “When I first visited in April, there were 30 tribal flags around the camp, now 250 tribal flags fly representing indigenous peoples from the United States and 40 tribes from around the world. I am certain there will be even more when I return in a few weeks,” he added.
He and Ms. Hawkins called on United Methodist Christians support the rights of Native Americans and other indigenous people, and to engage in ongoing acts of repentance for harm done to indigenous people, often by the church itself. (The denomination’s 2012 General Conference called for such acts by congregations and other ministries and church institutions.)
To provide direct support for the demonstrators at Standing Rock:
- Pray for a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict;
- Make a financial donation to help support efforts to provide food, shelters and supplies for the protestors at the campsite through the United Methodist Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, either via check payable to OIMC, 602 SW 35th Street, OKC. OK 73109, or by PayPal via http://www.umc-oimc.org/give-online/
- Contact your congregational representative go to http://www.house.gov/ then enter your zip code to find representative contact information, or contact other agency to express your concern:
- Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414
- Sign the White House petition: bit.ly/StandingRockWH
- Call the Army Corps of Engineers (202) 761-5903
- Call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at (701) 328-2200