A contingent of ministers from the United Church of Christ, part of an ecumenical group of faith leaders, is heading to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in North Dakota this week to stand in solidarity with the citizens of multiple Native American nations, landowners and environmentalists who have come together to protect the water and the land from the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).
The Rev. Brooks Berndt, UCC Minister for Environmental Justice, along with the Rev. Marlene Helgemo, Interim Executive Director of the UCC Council of American Indian Ministries (CAIM), and several ministers from UCC churches in Minnesota, including the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel of Lyndale UCC's Center for Sustainable Justice, will join representatives from the Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches as well as urban tribal leaders from Minneapolis, at the Oceti Sakowin camp near the construction site.
"In joining an ecumenical delegation that has been invited by a Standing Rock leader to participate in the life of the camp and witness its activities, my role is to listen, support, and amplify the voices of those who are defending and protecting the sacred waters of their people," said Berndt. "To live out the Christian ethic of love requires listening closely to those on front lines. It means taking their message back to our respective communities of concern, so that we can truly live as the united Body of Christ."
"I am seeking to practice sacred solidarity," said Voelkel. "I am going because Rev. Helgemo from All Nations Indian Church in Minneapolis has reached out to Native and non-Native folks who are religious leaders, on behalf of the tribe, inviting us as observers and interpreters, as allies, to tell the story when we come back. It just feels like a really, really important part of our religious witness."
The Standing Rock Tribe, which has filed a lawsuit to stop construction of the pipeline, is awaiting a decision from U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg, who said he will rule on the case on or before Sept. 9. The request for the temporary injunction from the D.C. court is based on the assertion that the Army Corps of Engineers granted permits for the project, in violation of several federal laws, without consultation with the Tribe.
The DAPL, also called the Bakken pipeline, would run under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe less than a mile upstream from the Standing Rock Reservation in North and South Dakota. The Missouri River, one of the country's largest water resources is the source of drinking water for millions of people.
The UCC national leadership added its voice to the opposition of the $3.8 billion pipeline, saying the issue is one that "touches upon vital matters of racial justice, the honoring of sacred space, and the climate impact of fossil fuels."
According to the owners of Texas-based private company building DAPL, the proposed route, which transverses 1,168 miles through four states from North Dakota to Illinois, "was carefully designed to transport crude in the safest, most efficient way possible."
Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archaumbault maintains that the tribe is seeking fundamental justice in trying to keep the pipeline from being constructed across drinking water resources, and threatened sacred sites and burial grounds.
Several petitions to protect the lands and the waters are being circulated nationwide in an effort to stop this pipeline. Add your voice here.