Native Americans march to the White House in spiritual battle against pipeline

Indigenous leaders participate in a protest march and rally in opposition to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (RNS) On a cold rainy morning, members of the American Indian tribes shouted “Water is sacred” and “Keep it in the soil; can’t drink oil” as they marched toward the White House.

The Friday (March 10) protest against the Dakota Access pipeline included hundreds of Native Americans, some dressed in traditional feather headbands and ponchos.

They beat drums and danced as they made their way through the streets.

The march came after a federal judge on Tuesday denied a request by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River tribes to halt construction of the pipeline.

Indigenous people and their supporters participate in a protest march opposing the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2017. RNS photo by Lilly Fowler

American Indian tribes have long argued that the $3.8 billion underground pipeline — which would run nearly 1,200 miles from oil fields in North Dakota to an existing pipeline in Illinois — endangers cultural sites and drinking water that comes from the Missouri River. The pipeline’s path would come within a half-mile of the Sioux reservation.

The government had intended to further study the environmental effects of the Dakota Access pipeline, but President Trump directed an expedited approval process after assuming office.

The protest, which began at the Army Corps of Engineers office, included a stop in front of Trump International Hotel in downtown D.C.

Faith leaders and members of various religious denominations featured prominently among protesters.

Indigenous people and their supporters rally against the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines at the White House in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2017. RNS photo by Lilly Fowler

Colin Douglas, 32, a pastor of Nixa Christian Church in Springfield, Mo., said eight Disciples of Christ ministers traveled to participate in the event, dubbed “Native Nations Rise.”

“This is a personal fight for me,” Douglas said, noting that his family has Native American roots. “I also believe water is a gift from God. Whenever we endanger it, we sin.”

Muslims, too, stood alongside the American Indian tribes.

Yasmin Rizvi, 52, a retired schoolteacher, and her daughter Hena Rizvi, 25, a sales representative, traveled from Pennsylvania. As Shiite Muslims, they said, they could identify with the threat Native Americans face because history tells them other Muslims have confronted similar obstacles.

“Water is the basic need of life,” Yasmin said.

The Rev. Jakob Thibault of Providence, R.I., said he believes “there’s kind of a blindness to indigenous issues” in much of the country.

But he said Christianity teaches him “that we don’t accept the status quo.”

(Lilly Fowler is a correspondent based in Washington, D.C)

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  • The article used “would” twice when referring to the pipeline.The correct word should be “does” since it’s completed and ready for the oil to flow. All affected tribes should focus on the Keystone pipeline’s proposed route.

  • So waitaminute! George Soros is paying people to protest this stuff? Here I was, doing it free of charge!
    What gives!

    Do you know where I can find sign up sheets to be a paid protester?

  • Not finding it there. I am trying to find work here, so you could be a little more cooperative. Would you rather see people working or taking up public assistance?

    For some reason paranoid conservatives have all the info about these Soros paid protesters, where to find them, and how much they are being paid. But it’s nowhere to be found elsewhere. You would think Soros would advertise this stuff better. After all when it comes to protesters numbers matter.

    I guess the selfish Trump supporters are trying to keep all those well paying protester jobs for themselves.

    So maybe this is an example of Trump creating new jobs.

  • Never heard of easements I take it. If they wanted the pipeline so badly and didn’t want to be so damn cheap about it, all they had to do is write big enough checks.

    Fact is nobody trusts the pipeline builders to maintain and take care of potential environmental hazards. Why should they? The same people who support the pipeline also attack environmental regulation and enforcement.

  • Is this fake news about “Soros-paid thugs”? The fact that you would say that there “isn’t anything ‘spiritual’ about it” just shows how little, if anything, you know about Native Americans and their faith. Also there were representatives of several other church groups who stood with the original inhabitant of North America. We should be respecting and honoring them instead of mocking them. Oil flowing across our land is a sign of the greed that engulfs us. Shame!

  • Pretty much rule of thumb, when a conservative speaks of George Soros, it is paranoid fictional nonsense. Soros has become the all purpose boogeyman for them.

    It’s an attempt to pretend there is no honest good faith dissent against the president and republicans. Lying is second nature to people who coin phrases like “Alternative Facts”.

  • That was unnecessarily uncivil, pointless, and a tad fascistic. I guess property rights and clean air/soil/water only matter if it is your property.

  • Well that’s only the second time in this thread you’ve intimated physical violence when someone disagrees with you. For someone like you that’s probably an improvement.

  • Before my Norwegian ancestors came to the USA in the 1850’s, they were cotters, disfranchised second class citizens in their own country. If they wouldn’t tolerate that there and then, why should I tolerate it here and now?

    Apparently, you have forgotten our roots.

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