[ENS] Members of the US-based Episcopal Church have marched in Washington DC in a “Native Nations Rise demonstration” called to protest at the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
The event was led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has been involved in a longstanding dispute with authorities over the pipeline’s construction; Sioux tribal leaders have repeatedly expressed concerns over the potential for an oil spill that would damage their water supply and the threat the pipeline poses to sacred sites and treaty rights.
Bishop Michael Smith of North Dakota led a prayer service on the eve of the march at Washington National Cathedral: “ For people of faith, working for justice includes both prayer and action. We pray and then we act, and then we pray again and we act, and we pray again and we act until the Creator God, who has made all that is, brings about that for which we work,” said Bishop Smith. “Tonight we pray; tomorrow we act” he said.
The march and rally drew hundreds of people from Arizona, New Mexico, Illinois and New York, as well as the Dakotas. A large Episcopal contingent joined the march; lay people, priests and seminarians from nearby Virginia Theological Seminary carried signs and joined in call-and-response shouts proclaiming that they stand with Standing Rock and that children cannot drink oil.
The group included bishops with indigenous roots or ministry with indigenous peoples. In addition to Bishop Smith, Bishop John Tarrant of the diocese of South Dakota, Assistant Bishop Carol Gallagher, of the Diocese of Montana, Bishop David Bailey, of the Diocese of Navajoland and Bishop Mark Lattime of the Diocese of Alaska marched.
Last month the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages parts of the Missouri River and the surrounding land, gave Texas based developer Energy Transfer Partners permission to drill the pipeline’s final stretch. Permission came at the prompting of President Donald Trump who, in one of his first presidential actions, told the Corps to move the pipeline forward.
The Revd. Phyllis Manoogian, a deacon and Diocese of California missioner to Guatemala, wore a bright orange poncho to shield from the icy rain that fell as the march stepped off from in front of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ headquarters. She traveled to Washington, D.C., from the rural village near Antigua where she teaches indigenous women and their children, she said, because standing with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation epitomizes the call of the Jesus Movement.
“I think the Episcopal Church has been on the tail end of many social issues, and I think it’s important that we step up and be leaders, not followers,” she said as the protesters rounded the corner near the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters and moved down the block to pause outside of the new Trump International Hotel. “It’s part of the Christian ethos to care for others and to be good stewards of the Earth, and to love our neighbor.”