I dearly hope this week finds you all well! With the rise in COVID cases across the country, and in our own home state of Michigan, my prayers continue for all of you as we navigate this uncertain territory. Sometimes it’s difficult to focus on anything else and yet, on those days when I am in a better frame of mind, I can see some hope behind the struggles. While on face value, our attention to the “other pandemic” of racism and sin of white supremacy and dominance hardly seems like something for which to be grateful, more of us have witnessed the horrible events of the last few months prompting us to engage in this most needed conversation. As the Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope said in her sermon at the Washington National Cathedral yesterday: “We cannot unsee what we have seen” and we ought not try to as faithful members of the Beloved Community. We are all aware that these types of brutal killings have been happening for centuries and finally more and more people are starting to do something. I pray our attention continues.
One oppressed people group often overlooked in our discussion is that of our Native American population. I am pleased that our Church is engaged in actively addressing this issue. In the past, Nuts and Bolts Blog has addressed the Doctrine of Discovery, the Dakota Access Pipeline and Enbridge Line 5 and now we have a resolution before us about another Enbridge project: a portion of the pipeline slated to be constructed in Minnesota, Enbridge Line 3.
Resolution C064: Support of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe In Opposing Enbridge Line #3
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention reaffirm the work of previous General Conventions regarding the Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, such as 2009-D035 and 2012-A128; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention support and encourage the Presiding Bishop and Staff, the Executive Council and its Committees and each of the Dioceses of The Episcopal Church to continue that repudiation with actions, statements, prayers and witness that are consistent with the recognition of Tribal/First Nation Sovereignty in their stewardship of water, land and mineral resources found within their various historic and treaty territories; and be it further
Resolved, That this General Convention add its voice to echo the concerns of Faron Jackson, Sr., Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Chairman, who expressed his opposition to any placement of crude oil pipeline known as Enbridge Line #3, which in the judgement of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe threatens the land, water and minerals, “The Lake Reservation will always be our home. Unlike a house, however, we can never rebuild or move if a disaster were to happen.”; and be it further
Resolved, That the Episcopal Church provide its historic moral standing among the indigenous peoples of Minnesota to stand with our congregations St. John’s in Onigum and St. Peter’s in Cass Lake, the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, our ecumenical partners and tribal governments to oppose the threat of pollution to sacred lands and the manoomin (wild rice) that has been given to these people to sustain them and provide a sovereign food source that nourishes body and soul; and be it further
Resolved, That the Episcopal Church encourage the State of Minnesota to develop and maintain a continued open dialogue with Tribal Authorities, Church Leaders and leaders of any Camps established along the proposed route of Line #3 and to protect the First Amendment Rights to petition for redress of grievances, to assemble peaceably, to speak freely, and to freely exercise religious rights; and be it further
Resolved, That the Episcopal Church learn from its engagement as allies of the Standing Rock Nation, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, the Gwich’in People of Alaska, the Inupiaq Community of Kivalina and other times of solidarity with indigenous people by collecting and examining our history, theology, tradition, liturgy, and financial commitments. This examination will be conducted by the appropriate committee of the Executive Council, the Presiding Bishop’s Staff of Ethnic Ministries, the Office of Government Relations and those diocesan bodies and faith communities that are relevant to the work. This reflection is to strengthen the good that has been done and to bring our beliefs and actions into closer alignment with the values of the Jesus Movement.
Sometimes, a little more background information helps us understand what the resolution is all about and how we might help, although the explanation offered is not included in the final wording of the resolution:
Explanation: The Episcopal Church has a powerful story of Bishop Whipple standing with the Ojibwe and Dakota people in Minnesota. He continued his advocacy for the Dakota people as they were exiled into the Dakota Territory and called on the House of Bishops to elect William Hobart Hare for mission among the Great Sioux Nation and he became known as the Apostle of the West.
Today the Episcopal Church continues to be known as an ally to the Indigenous Nations in Minnesota and the Dakotas. Most recently it was known to Stand With Standing Rock in the confrontation with the Dakota Access Pipeline that runs through treaty land (1851 & 1868) and adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. The Bishops of North and South Dakota, Bp. Smith and Bp. Tarrant, together with Presiding Bishop Curry were counted among those that supported Standing Rock in its stand against the risks brought to its water.
Now, Minnesota, has given its permission for Enbridge Line #3 to develop a route through the waters and land of Northern Minnesota. Bishop Prior of Minnesota has spoken in support of Ojibwe sovereignty and their responsibility to protect the water. When the State and County officials in North Dakota placed themselves in opposition to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, and Standing Rock’s call for the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) to come to its aid, a sometimes violent standoff with Law Enforcement ensued against the Water Protectors that gathered at the Backwater Bridge.
As a church we support prayerful, peaceful and non-violent approaches to express our concerns of the risks to the environment and the people of these territories. As a church we call on all elected officials to guide and direct their conduct to be above reproach. As a church we call upon all levels of government to support and honor treaty obligations. We believe the Ojibwe Bands of northern Minnesota are right to assert their opposition to the pipeline under the treaties that were made on their behalf by their ancestors.
On June 25th, news sources including Minnesota Public Radio announced that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted 4 – 1 to deny petitions submitted by the Ojibwe bands, the state Department of Commerce and several environmental groups. It looked as though construction might begin but, just this last week, the Minnesota Star Tribune reported that Enbridge will miss another construction year because it has failed to get all the necessary permits. We still have time to make our voices heard! Stop Line 3 is an organization whose goal is to educate and attempt to prevent the construction of Enbridge Line 3. You can find educational information and resources to help in speaking out against the construction of this pipeline on their very engaging website. Let’s join this work to save the cultural lands of these, our neighbors.
Let us pray –
Thank you for this life.
As you have taught us to honor our Mother, the Earth,
now help us show others how to respect your creation.
Strengthen us as we stand up on your behalf to
protest what powerful interests in the fossil fuel
industry and government officials swayed by their
arguments are planning to do by building a pipeline
across four states and our sacred lands.
Help us educate people about the catastrophic
effects of an oil spill on our waters and
the water supply for so many communities.
Help us communicate well so that we can live in
peace with all our brothers and sisters and
all our relatives in the natural world.
Protect us during our protests and
protect our water and our sacred lands.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council