Episcopal Church Executive Council reaffirms stand with Standing Rock

Members encourage Episcopalians to join March 10 march on Washington

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Feb 8, 2017

The Episcopal Church has been advocating with the Sioux Nation against the Dakota Access Pipeline since last summer. Local Episcopalians have also provided a ministry of presence in and around Cannon Ball, North Dakota, including in Oceti Sakowin Camp. The Episcopal flag flew constantly there until the recent effort to close down the camp because of the dangerous winter weather and the fear of disastrous flooding in the spring. Photo: John Floberg via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council during the last day of its Feb. 5-8 meeting here reaffirmed its stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.

Council members said the church pledges to “continue to support the action and leadership of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation as the salt and light of the nation in its unwavering support of the sacredness of water, land, and other resources and reminding us all of the sacred calling to faithfulness.”

They praised the Episcopal Church and its ecumenical partners in the water protection actions led by the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. The Rev. John Floberg, council member and priest-in-charge of Episcopal congregations on the North Dakota side of Standing Rock, drew council’s specific praise, as did “the hundreds of Episcopal lay and clergy who responded to his call for support.”

Council also endorsed the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s call for a March 10 march on Washington, D.C. The resolution said the march was “for the purpose of proclaiming the continuing concern for our sacred waters and lands as well as challenging our government to fulfill all relevant treaty obligations of the United States to all federally recognized tribes.” The tribe had previously started organizing the march, which Floberg had called on Episcopalians to join.

The Episcopal Church has advocated with the Sioux Nation about the Dakota Access Pipeline since summer 2016. Local Episcopalians have also provided a ministry of presence in and around Cannon Ball, North Dakota, the focal point for groups of water protectors that gathered near the proposed crossing.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry tells Executive Council Feb. 8 Episcopalians must engage in the public square but that they should root their engagement in the values of Jesus. “That’s how we avoid becoming labeled as just another interest group because not we’re not looking out for our own self-interest,” he said. Photo: Frank Logue via Twitter

Council’s action came about 24 hours after the U.S. Army said it would cancel the environmental impact study it promised to begin two months ago. Instead, it will allow construction on the final phase of the pipeline. The announcement was the latest is a series of administrative and legal maneuvers over the nearly complete pipeline.

The remaining work on the pipeline would push it under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe just north of the Standing Rock Reservation. The pipeline company set up a drill pad very near the proposed crossing point, which is upstream from the tribe’s reservation boundaries. The tribe has water, treaty fishing and hunting rights in the lake. Workers have drilled entry and exit holes for the crossing, and filled the pipeline with oil leading up to the lake in anticipation of finishing the project, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said last summer that the crossing would not have a significant impact on the environment. That determination prompted months of protest that began with a group of young people who live on the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River reservations.

On Dec. 4, then-Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy reversed that determination and said the Corps would conduct a full-blown environmental impact statement. Such a study typically takes up to two years to complete. Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline construction company, accused then-President Barack Obama’s administration of delaying the matter until he left office. The Corps formally launched the study on Jan. 18, two days before Obama left office.

Two weeks ago, in one of the first of an ongoing string of presidential actions, President Donald Trump, called for the rapid approval of the pipeline’s final phase, specifically telling the Corps to quickly reconsider conducting the environmental impact study. The Army’s Feb. 7 announcement fulfilled Trump’s requirement.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, says during Executive Council Feb. 8 that President Donald Trump’s “willingness to pit groups of Americans against one another — to see society as a zero-sum game in which for one party to rise, another must fall” is dangerous because Christians who embrace that tactic “betray the essence of their faith.” Photo: Frank Logue via Twitter

Episcopal Public Policy Network issued an advocacy alert just after the Army’s announcement, calling on Episcopalians to contact Secretary of Defense James Mattis and urge him not to grant the final easement without a full impact study “that properly consults the Standing Rock Sioux and upholds treaty obligations.” The tribe contends that the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1888 obligate the federal government to consider a tribe’s welfare when making decisions that affect the tribe.

After the announcement, Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said the Standing Rock Sioux Nation would challenge the Trump Administration’s move in court. “Our fight is no longer at the North Dakota site itself,” he said. “Our fight is with Congress and the Trump administration. Meet us in Washington on March 10.”

Jan Hasselman, lead attorney for the tribe, said the reversal “continues a historic pattern of broken promises to Indian tribes and unlawful violation of treaty rights. They will be held accountable in court.”

Trump said Feb. 7 that he has not gotten a single call protesting his directive to the Corps. That claim, Archambault replied reflected a distorted sense of reality. Archambault flew to Washington D.C., Feb. 7 to meet with Trump administration officials to discuss the tribe’s concerns about the pipeline. He learned of the Army’s announcement to Congress when he landed and canceled his meeting.

The 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline is poised to carry up to 470,000 barrels of oil a day from the Bakken oil field in northwestern North Dakota – through South Dakota and Iowa – to Illinois where it will be shipped to refineries. The pipeline was to pass within one-half mile of the Standing Rock Reservation and Sioux tribal leaders repeatedly expressed concerns over the potential for an oil spill that would damage the reservation’s water supply, and the threat the pipeline posed to sacred sites and treaty rights. The company developing the pipeline, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, says it will be safe.

The Feb. 5-8 meeting took place at the Maritime Institute Conference Center.

Additional ENS coverage of the meeting is here. Some council members tweeted from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1). The council comprises 38 members – 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons, and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies. In addition, the vice president of the House of Deputies, secretary, chief operating officer, treasurer and chief financial officer have seat and voice but no vote.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (13)

  1. Ronald Davin says:

    Is it true that about 250 trash trucks will be necessary to remove the trash our environmentalists left behind ? Is it true that sanitation crews are rushing in the cold to clean up the mess left behind before it becomes the environmental disaster ?

    1. John Floberg says:

      Is it true that garbage trucks drive through Americas towns and cities every day to collect untold volumes of trash? And then still send around additional trucks to collect for spring and fall pickup? The camp is preoaring to be vacated. That is all.

      1. Doug Desper says:

        John, collecting neighborhood garbage placed in bags, receptacles and bins is one thing. Cleaning up acres of ground from mountains of loose thawing garbage which is ready to leech into the Cannonball River is a whole different situation. According to ABC News from Bismarck ND (January 31) the protesters abandoned tents and even cars, not to mention untold tons of garbage which has prompted the need for about 250 dump trucks. The Standing Rock Sioux are leading the effort to clean it all up and are gathering donations. According to ABC, the Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said, “There’s more than anticipated, and it’s under a lot of snow,” “I wouldn’t say it’s going to get done in days; it’s going to take weeks.”

        Anyone watching TV or internet news will recall the untold litter and debris left at the Women’s March in DC and during the Occupy Protests (both vigorously endorsed). There is something suspicious about protests where some people are paid to be there and still others who leave a burden if not a near disaster in the aftermath. Creating expense, heavy lifting and unnecessary work for others negates any legitimate point being made.

        1. Jon Spangler says:

          Doug and John,

          Don’t forget the irreversible environmental damage caused by the oil spills from pipelines and oil tankers when you complain about(relatively minuscule) trash left behind by water protectors.

          The trash they left behind is infinitesimal compared to the trashing of the Gulf of Mexico by BP or the ruination of the Gulf of Alaska by the Exxon Valdez–and the biggest trash heaps in recent history have been created by US military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan during their hasty withdrawals. (War–especially recent opportunistic wars waged over oil by the Bush administration–is the biggest single environmental disaster our species has ever created: ask the residents of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki about this…

        2. John Floberg says:

          My point is simply this. Oceti Sakowin Camp has not been abandonded. People involved in this water protection and the Tribe itself are still here and breaking down Camp. Three blizzards had moved through and less sturdy structures collapsed. The urgency for cleaning up is the potential for the flood. The way it is being reported seems like the place was abandoned and someone else has had to come and clean up.

        3. Martha Burford says:

          Doug Desper, perhaps this might update your awareness about the March in DC. The many I traveled with were neither paid to be there, nor leavers of trash. In fact, many of us carried clear backpacks enabling us to bring our things home. There was plenty of trash from the two days’ back to back events. WAMTA and DC cleanup have commented on how smoothly things went, and how much “tidier” the Jan. 21 crowd was than events in the past. Thank you for your comments–it’s good we can exchange perspectives. Blessed are the peacemakers. http://wtop.com/local/2017/01/nps-cleanup-going-well-after-inauguration-womens-march/

          1. Martha Burford says:

            P.S. I should have said after the events of Jan. 20 and 21–according to the article, participants of both events were more thoughtful about disposing of trash. #cometogether

  2. Charles K. Roberts says:

    It seems clear that the pipeline will be built under Lake Oahe, if I understand the route correctly. What remains is for Water Protectors and those who support them to actively participate in and facilitate the monitoring of the waters not only downstream from the pipeline but along the banks of the Missouri wherever they can legally gain access. This pipeline is not the only threat to water quality along the Missouri. If we truly love a people who have been cheated and dispossessed of their heritage, we should support them in continuing to study and alert all of us to challenges to the water resources we share.

  3. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

    This has been studied to death. Pipelines are safer than rail or roadways. Alaska doesn’t seem damaged by their pipeline. The Trans Canadian Pipeline will be safe too. It is time to move forward.

  4. Martin Walters says:

    Talking about trash left behind and its cleanup ? Is that all you got?

    1. Ronald Davin says:

      You mean damaging the environment to save the environment. Most of us were taught to leave a hosts area clean or cleaner than we found it, apparently these folks failed miserably .

      1. John Floberg says:

        And that is what we are doing before we leave the Camp and return it to the Corp.

  5. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

    Multiple pipelines. Thank you for asking.

Comments are closed.