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Religious leaders celebrate denial of easement for Dakota Access pipeline

Religion News Service | 12/10/2016, 7:43 a.m.
Native American and other religious leaders called the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision on Sunday to deny an easement ...
Native American “water protectors” celebrate last Sunday’s decision by the Army Corps of Engineers stopping the easement for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline next to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation near Cannon Ball, N.D. Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Native American and other religious leaders called the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision on Sunday to deny an easement for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline an answer to prayer.

As many as 8,000 people at one time have gathered in camps in the hills along the Cannonball River in North Dakota to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in a spiritual movement protesting the construction of the pipeline.

Their rallying cry has been “Mni wiconi” (Lakota, meaning “water is life”) as they have maintained the pipeline’s planned river crossing upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation posed a risk to its water supply. It also would have crossed through lands considered sacred by the Sioux.

“Throughout this effort, I have stressed the importance of acting at all times in a peaceful and prayerful manner — and that is how we will respond to this decision,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II in a statement about the decision announced last Sunday.

“With this decision, we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones, many of whom have sacrificed as well. We look forward to celebrating in wopila, in thanks, in the coming days.”

Energy Transfer Partners LP and Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, the companies behind construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, responded to the news Sunday with a statement calling the decision a “purely political action.”

Here is how others responded to the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision:

National Congress of American Indians

The National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby released a cautiously optimistic statement: “This isn’t over, but it is enormously good news.”

Mr. Cladoosby continued: “Our prayers have been answered. … From the beginning, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has asked for a full environmental analysis to consider threats to the water, and also the social and cultural impacts. Peace, and prayer, and water protectors have led to the right outcome.

“We can all pause to celebrate the Creator,” he added. “In the New Year, let us put our minds together and see how we can find a solution.”

Creation Justice Ministries and National Council of Churches

Member communions of the National Council of Churches and Creation Justice Ministries both sent delegations to Standing Rock to express solidarity with the Sioux. In a joint statement, the leaders said they hoped it would be seen as a “turning point in the troubled relationship Native Americans and Christians have often shared throughout history.”

Creation Justice Executive Director Shantha Ready Alonso added, “As Christians, we have a moral responsibility to stand with indigenous peoples to protect their sovereignty, and God’s creation.”

The Shalom Center

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center included “a moment of celebration” for the Army Corps decision, as well as “a moment of grief for the human costs of the victory” in the center’s weekly email newsletter, The Shalom Report.

Last week, the center delivered to President Obama and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe a “Rabbinic Statement on Standing Rock” signed by more than 300 rabbis.