The Episcopal Church in Navajoland/Facebook

The Episcopal Church in Navajoland has declared itself in solidarity with the people of Standing Rock and is sending clergy to North Dakota to help provide “protective witness” for those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In an Oct. 31 statement sent to TLC by email, the Rt. Rev. David Bailey and the people of ECN said the Diné support the Standing Rock Sioux’s “struggle to protect sacred lands and clean water” and said the people of Standing Rock are defending their human rights by protesting the pipeline, which would be built through sensitive native lands.

“We declare along with them that their struggle to protect their land, their sacred sites, and their water is a human rights issue, and must be treated as such, not as criminal acts,” the statement said.

“To incarnate our commitment to this cause, I am sending the Rev. Canon Cornelia Eaton and Deacon Leon Sampson to represent us as we stand in solidarity with Standing Rock,” Bailey said. The clergy will be there Nov. 3 for a day of protective witness in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and with protesters.

The statement cited ECN members’ baptismal imperative as Episcopalians to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”

ECN members also said their experience with the government and American expansion galvanized their support:

Perhaps better than most, we in Navajoland understand the power of standing together against injustice. Like those Native people at Standing Rock, we are part of the longest-running story in the history of the United States — the saga of a dominate culture overrunning the indigenous peoples of our land.

Our relationship with the United States government has been difficult: We were forcibly removed from our land in 1863 and, on The Long Walk, were marched hundreds of miles to a remote barren location. Our possessions were taken, our farmlands destroyed, and our livestock killed. Later, our children were taken from us, placed in boarding schools, and punished for speaking our language and practicing our culture.

So we know well the usual outcome of this long-running saga. Our prayer is that this time, the ending will be different, that this time, the struggle to protect their land, their sacred sites, and their water will be seen for what it is — a human rights issue — and will finally be treated as such.

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