Even as the owners of the pipeline appeal the decision to hold up construction of the pipeline, our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry offered these words:
This morning, the sun ascended over the Great Plains of our nation, and hope truly dawned anew.
After months of courageously and peacefully working to prevent the laying of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which posed potential danger to the water supply of the people of the Sioux Nation and transgressed their sacred burial grounds, the water protectors on Standing Rock have won a notable victory. Yesterday afternoon, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced their decision to deny an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline’s construction across the sacred land and water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and this long-awaited announcement is cause for joyful celebration and thanks.
On behalf of the Episcopal Church, I offer my gratitude to President Barack Obama and his Administration for championing the rights of the indigenous peoples of the United States. We applaud the decision by the US Army Corps of Engineers to deny the pipeline permit under Lake Oahe. I personally offer thanks to all those who have worked to amplify the voices of the people at Standing Rock, calling our attention to historic wrongs and injustices, and urging us all to consider a new vision for how we might love God, love each other, and love the earth.
I am grateful and humbled by the water protectors of Standing Rock, whose faithful witness serves as an example of moral courage, spiritual integrity, and genuine concern for the entire human family and God's creation. I am equally appreciative of the sacrifice and example of the military veterans, interfaith clergy, and trauma chaplains who accompanied the water protectors during critical moments of the struggle, many of whom have pledged to remain as long as the water protectors are present.
Our whole Church should offer special thanksgiving to Father John Flosberg of the Diocese of North Dakota, who so effectively organized Episcopalians and other people of faith in this effort, and to clergy and lay people who committed themselves to standing with the water protectors – both physically and in spirit.
Even as many of us celebrate this historic announcement, we must look to the mighty tasks that lay ahead. In the next eighteen months, the US Army Corps of Engineers will conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment and explore alternative routes for the Dakota Access Pipeline. We ask that the assessment involve extensive consultation with affected populations, and that any plan going forward honor treaty obligations with the Standing Rock Sioux. We will also urge the current and incoming presidential administration to launch a thorough Department of Justice investigation into the use of brutal force by law enforcement on Standing Rock.
Our work is not over, and the Episcopal Church has a critical role to play in ensuring a just and humane outcome is fully realized.
We recognize that this struggle for the protection of water and of the basic human rights of indigenous people is one moment in a wider movement for social and environmental justice. May we in this way bear true witness to the words of the holy prophet Micah, who said:
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)