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Why United Methodist Women Stands with Standing Rock

Why United Methodist Women Stands with  Standing Rock

The United Methodist General Conference resolution, Trail of Repentance and Healing (2012), called on United Methodists to acknowledge our complicity in causing "indignities, cultural genocide and atrocities against tribal persons." That call for acts of repentance urges us to "build relationships with indigenous persons wherever we, the Church are; building those relationships through listening and being present with indigenous persons; working beside indigenous persons to seek solutions to current problems." Also in 2012, The United Methodist Church condemned the Doctrine of Discovery "as a legal basis for the seizing of native lands and abuses of human rights of indigenous peoples." United Methodist Women members know this history from our mission study,  Giving Our Hearts Away: Native American Survival (2008-2009).

Today, United Methodist Women is responding to that call by providing concrete solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota (members of the Dakota and Lakota nations) who are defending their lands against an oil pipeline. What is often cited as long ago history of oppression of Native peoples is very current in this struggle. United Methodist Native American sisters and brothers have urged us to join them in this struggle for sovereignty, racial justice, climate justice and protection of land and water for all. During the Thanksgiving weekend, United Methodist Women General Secretary and CEO Harriett Jane Olson joined Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference and other United Methodist leaders at the 3000-strong encampment blocking the final link of a pipeline that will run from the Dakotas to oil refineries in the Gulf. The $3.7 billion project has already destroyed parts of the Native American reserve's historical artifacts, burial and prayer sites, and could pollute the Missouri river and aquifer that provides water to millions.

The struggle links many key concerns of United Methodist Women, including climate justice, criminalization of communities of color, racial justice and Native American sovereignty. The push for oil speaks to our dependency on fossil fuels that continues to heat the planet even as it threatens our water. The decision to route the pipeline on Native territory echoes many cases of environmental racism that many indigenous communities around the world face. The current repression of peaceful protests speaks to systematic and militarized state violence against Native peoples and communities of color, where Native people are killed at a higher rate by police than any other group in the United States. 

The Sioux are protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The 1,170 mile pipeline, being built by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, would carry 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day through both Dakotas, Iowa and Illinois. It is almost completed except for the segment at Standing Rock, which would run under Lake Oahe. This is currently on federal land managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, but in fact, is on land granted to the Sioux through federal treaties. The Sioux have protested for months in a growing encampment that has swelled with the solidarity of Native peoples from across the U.S. and the Americas, serving as water protectors. In September the Obama Administration postponed the final approval of a permit. While easement has yet to be granted, construction has continued.

The peaceful encampment allows no weapons, yet on November 20, North Dakota law enforcement and police from other states fired rubber bullets at protesters and doused them with water hoses and tear gas — even as the temperature dipped to as low as 23 degrees. Seventeen people were reportedly Link opens in a new window. hospitalized, including some suffering from hypothermia. Some have been attacked by security dogs in scenes reminiscent of Mississippi during the civil rights movement. Over 400 have been arrested since the peaceful protest began.  

"Once again we have reached a crossroads in our treatment of native American people. United States history is replete with documented mistreatment and deception in the government's dealings with native people. Let's not allow this issue to become another incident in that long history. The moral issues require a peaceful solution to this protest rather than letting it become yet another sad and violent moment in the legacy of our country."
—Deb Williams

Deb Williams is a United Methodist Women member from the Desert Southwest conference. She serves on the 2016-2020 Program Advisory Group and served as a director from 2012-2016. Her Omaha heritage led her to be a member of the inaugural United Methodist Women Act of Repentance Working Group.

The situation became urgent on November 25, 2016, when Colonel John Henderson of the Army Corps of Engineers directed a letter to Sioux leaders demanding that Oceti Sakowin, one of the camps North of the Cannonball river, be vacated by December 5 or face trespassing citations. They were told to move to a "free speech zone" instead. Two days later, the agency stated they had no plans for forceful removal, while still noting that any who remained could be subject to citations. On November 28 the North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple ordered immediate evacuation of the site, citing harsh winter conditions and drawing on a 1985 act allowing him to "direct and compel" evacuations from any area in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. At the same time, the state will not provide emergency services as snow sets in. According to Jennifer Cook, policy director for the ACLU in North Dakota, the intention of the order "is clearly to stifle free speech and the right to peacefully assemble, which we find to be deeply concerning and possible infringements on protesters' First Amendment rights."

The Book of Discipline requires us to resist: "[W]e recognize the right of individuals to dissent when acting under the constraint of conscience and, after having exhausted all legal recourse, to resist or disobey laws that they deem to be unjust …We assert the duty of churches to support those who suffer because of their stands of conscience represented by nonviolent beliefs or acts." (¶ 164F, 2012 BOD, UMC) 

The Sioux and over 300 tribal nations at Standing Rock will not end their protest. Dave Archambault II, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said, "Our tribe is deeply disappointed in this decision by the United States, but our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever…It's time for President Obama to condemn these tactics and this pipeline." "Our culture, our children and our homelands have repeatedly been stolen from us," Archambault added. "We are deeply saddened that despite the millions of Americans and allies around the world who are standing with us at Standing Rock, a single corporate bully — backed by U.S. government taxpayer dollars through a militarized law enforcement — continue[s] to be sanctioned by aggressive, unlawful acts. The best way to protect people during the winter and reduce the risk of conflict between water protectors and militarized police is to deny the easement for the Oahe crossing and deny it now…Although we have suffered much, we still have hope that the president will act on his commitment to close the chapter of broken promises to our people, especially our children."

Link opens in a new window. United Methodists have been active in supporting the Sioux, including several trips led by Link opens in a new window. Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC) pastor David Wilson, visits by the General Secretaries of the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) and United Methodist Women, Link opens in a new window. a visit and statement by Dakotas-Minnesota Area Bishop Bruce R. Ough, who serves as the President of the Council of Bishops, a letter by Western Jurisdiction Bishops to President Obama, and Link opens in a new window. a letter to Energy Transfer Partners by Wespath, The United Methodist Church pension fund. United Methodist Women members, like Louise Niemann, have also gone to show support.

Urgent Action Needed this Week to Stop Repression and Displacement!
Stop the Pipeline! Stop the Pipeline! Stop the Pipeline!

  1. Call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Comment Line: (202) 761 8700; Main: (202) 761-0011, press 9; and/or Regulatory (permits) office: (202) 761-5903 Tell them you are a United Methodist Woman, and urge them to respect the right of the water protectors to stay on the land, to rescind all permits, and deny the development of the pipeline on ancestral and treaty land.
  2. Call the White House: (202) 456-1111. Don't worry about sounding rehearsed. Tell them you are a United Methodist Women member, share one reason you believe the camp should remain open and the pipeline should be stopped, and state your location.
  3. Call the Morton County Sheriff to stop the violent attacks at Standing Rock IMMEDIATELY.
    Morton County Sheriff's office numbers: (701) 328-8118 and (701) 667-3330.
  4. Call the Department of Justice: Main: (202) 514-2000, press 0. (This number has been hard to get through.) Department Comment Line: (202) 353-1555. Ask them to investigate the human and civil rights violations by police at Standing Rock and to charge the Morton County department.
  5. Contact the JP Morgan-Chase bank and urge them to stop funding the Dakota Access Pipeline. 38 banking institutions are involved in funding the proposed pipeline. JP Morgan Chase, United Methodist Women's bank, is one of the banks. Let them know that as a United Methodist Women member you want to see justice for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and urge them to stop funding the Dakota Access Pipeline. JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon:; (212) 270-1111; Andrew Gray:; Jennifer Lavoie:; Brian Marchiony:; Corporate Office: 270 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-2014
  6. Be prepared to take further action if there is further repression and more efforts to clear the camp. See the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe site below, and follow the United Methodist Women website, Facebook, and Twitter.
  7. Donate to support the Native American Advocacy work at Standing Rock: Send checks to OIMC with "UMW-Standing Rock" in the memo line. Checks can be mailed to 602 SW 35th Street, OKC. OK 73109. The funds will be coordinated through the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, and any remaining amount will be applied to future opportunities to stand with Native American communities. Visit Link opens in a new window. to give through PayPal; add UMW Standing Rock in the optional Note field. You can also donate through United Methodist Women. Visit our Donate page and choose The Native American Advocacy Fund in the dropdown list.  

#DefendTheSacred     #WaterIsLife     #StandWithStandingRock     #NoDAPL

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Facebook page opens in a new window. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

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Posted or updated: 11/30/2016 12:00:00 AM

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More about the faith community's support of Standing Rock.

Click Here.Bear Fruit Worthy of Repentance: Since writing this Responsively Yours column, CEO Harriett Jane Olson has joined protectors at Standing Rock.
Click Here.Join Me at Standing Rock! Member Louise Niemann answered this call. She shared her experience of joining other United Methodists at the Standing Rock Camp.
Link opens in a new window. Interfaith Appeal for Justice at Standing Rock on signed by several United Methodists including Harriett Olson.