To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. – Deuteronomy 10:14
VALLEY FORGE, PA (11/4/16)—In keeping with its historic commitments to racial justice, the rights of indigenous peoples and care for creation, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) joins with other Christian leaders in support of those gathered at Standing Rock to protect native lands and waterways.
In April, several prayer camps were established near Cannon Ball, N.D., to halt construction of the 1,170-mile Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) designed to move crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota to refinery facilities in Illinois. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have opposed the pipeline since 2014, citing risks to sacred sites on ancestral lands and to the Missouri River, which is the sole source of water for the Standing Rock Reservation and supplies drinking and irrigation water to millions of others along its course.
Concerns about the process of approval for the pipeline have fueled opposition. The approval relied on the Nationwide Permit No. 12 process, which grants exemption from environmental reviews required by the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by treating the pipeline as a series of small construction sites. The current planned route one-half mile from the reservation border was selected as an alternative when Energy Transfer Partners’ initial environmental assessment noted the original route’s threat to the drinking water of Bismarck residents. Concerns about the process were echoed in a joint statement by The Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The DAPL opposition was established as a peaceful protest focused on prayer and included rules prohibiting weapons, alcohol, drugs and violence. As word has spread, thousands of Native peoples, environmental activists and religious leaders have traveled to Cannon Ball to join the effort. The North Dakota protest site has grown into the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years. Resistance to the pipeline has not been limited to Standing Rock, however. Protests have been reported in Iowa and elsewhere along the path of pipeline construction.
Recent reports of violence, arrests and mistreatment of water protectors at Standing Rock and other sites are troubling.
ABHMS supports the right of persons to engage in nonviolent protest on behalf of justice for people and for creation. We call for an end to violence by any and all parties involved. We affirm the commitment to uphold treaties, protect the rights of indigenous peoples, and honor creation with an eye toward the needs of future generations.
“In recognition that people of deep faith have varied perspectives and opinions,” says Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, ABHMS executive director, “we encourage American Baptists to be in prayer for all involved, to build relationships and work to deepen cross-cultural understandings.”
American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists in answering God’s call to promote Christian faith across the United States and Puerto Rico to cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and heal and transform communities, by developing aligned action networks and programs.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.