Contact Vince Gonzales: 214-354-2337
October 21, 2016
(Dallas, Texas) Churches Uniting in Christ, a gathering of 11 communions in a covenantal relationship, affirm and support the dignity of all people and to the care for the gift of the earth that God has entrusted to us. It is, for this reason, we join with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and the dozens of tribes standing in support of their efforts to protect their sovereignty, water, culture, a way of life, and their sacred sites.
Dave Archambault, the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, believes:
There’s a lot of different components that all lead up to one, and it is a pipeline that is threatening the lives of people, lives of my tribe, as well as millions down the river. It threatens the ancestral sites that are significant to our tribe. And we never had an opportunity to express our concerns. This is a corporation that is coming forward and just bulldozing through without any concern for tribes. And the things that have happened to tribal nations across this nation have been unjust and unfair, and this has come to a point where we can no longer pay the costs for this nation’s well-being. We pay for economic development, we pay for national security, and we pay for energy independence. It is at our expense that this nation reaps those benefits. And all too often we share similar concerns, similar wrongdoings to us, so we are uniting, and we’re standing up, and we’re saying, ‘No more.’
We urge that the Army Corps of Engineers review all applicable laws, including environmental, treaties and land usage, as well as cultural and historical impacts upon affected tribal nations. We urge the written concerns expressed to the Corps prior to its permit approval of the pipeline, by the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency and the American Council on Historic Preservation are duly considered.
Our nations’ First People have often suffered at the hands of the American government. We pray that all parties involved recognize and account for significant overarching factors within this controversy. Let us not forget the degree of inadequacy of tribal consultation in the past and present of US-tribal relations. As an example, we note that a central location in this defense of tribal lands and waters – Lake Oahe – did not exist until the 1960s, when the federal government created the Oahe dam without the consent of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. The dam flooded over 200,000 acres of the tribes’ lands, forcing peoples from their homes, submerging towns, critical natural resources, burial sites, and sacred places.
Additionally, many of our churches have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery. This doctrine, a result of U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence beginning with Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823 and its progeny, promotes the concept that allowed colonial powers to lay claim to newly discovered lands during the Age of Discovery. Consequently, title to newly discovered territories lay with the government whose subjects discovered the land. In addition, decisions were made that invalidated or ignored aboriginal claims to possession of land in favor of colonial and post-colonial entities.
Today, the actions by the government, as well as oil corporations, have the same effect as the doctrine of discovery. The use of eminent domain laws to attempt to circumvent the rightful ownership of these tribal lands is deplorable.
We are reminded in Psalm 24:1 that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” We must continue our call for action challenging climate change. Therefore, we must seek the following:
- the transition away from fossil fuels and carbon-based fuels;
- development and a move towards carbon-free alternatives;
- Just consideration for those whose lives and income are dependent upon oil field and coal mining careers consisting of job retraining programs making the transition from fossil fuels and coal as seamless as possible; and
- The call for an end to all forms of environmental racism.
Therefore, we stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, other tribal nations and indigenous peoples in support of their children, their tribal sovereignty, natural resources, cultural heritage and sacred places. We pray that the federal government will continue to halt pipeline construction on Corps land so that a more thorough review of applicable laws and that thorough and transparent tribal consultations be conducted.
Above all, we pray for a peaceful resolution that brings forth a new and more equitable chapter for tribal nations and a just transition towards a carbon-free future.
Bishop Teresa Snorton, president, Churches Uniting in Christ
Mr. Vince Gonzales, chair, Racial and Social Justice Task Force
Rev. Michael R. Fisher, Jr., chair, Young Adult Task Force
Mr. Abraham Wright, vice president, CUIC
Rev. Hermann Weinlick, secretary, CUIC
Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, treasurer, CUIC
Churches Uniting in Christ is a covenant relationship among eleven Christian communions that have pledged to live more closely together in expressing their unity in Christ and combating racism together. The member churches of CUIC include The African Methodist Episcopal Church, The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, The Episcopal Church, The International Council of Community Churches, The Moravian Church (Northern Province), The Presbyterian Church (USA), The United Church of Christ and The United Methodist Church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a partner in mission and dialogue. For more information, please see our website at www.churchesunitinginchrist.org