National Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald has joined hundreds of clergy, from the U.S., Canada and beyond, in travelling to Standing Rock reservation in North and South Dakota to stand with the “water protectors” who have been resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline since August.
In a November 2 call to prayer issued by MacDonald’s office, the bishop asks Anglicans to “join with us in prayer with special intention for the clergy gathering…pray that good minds will prevail and that all will be safe.”
MacDonald says he is travelling to Standing Rock at the request of Canon John Floberg, supervising priest for The Episcopal Church for the North Dakota side of Standing Rock.
On October 23, Floberg called for “at least 100 clergy” to join him and “stand on the front line” of the protest. On November 3, he shared a report via Facebook that 477 clergy had responded.
The Standing Rock protests are a response to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which the Standing Rock Sioux believe poses an immediate threat to their water supply. If completed, it will cross beneath the Missouri River half a mile upstream from their territory.
“A leak in the pipeline, and this is certainly possible, threatens clean water not only from Standing Rock but for all near the Missouri River and its tributaries,” the call to prayer says.
The Sioux also claim that a sacred tribal burial site has been bulldozed to make way for pipeline construction.
Over the past three months, thousands of Indigenous and environmental activists have joined them in blocking construction sites, and in response, large numbers of heavily armed police have been called to the scene.
While the blockades have been predominantly peaceful, media reports say police have used sound cannons, pepper spray, beanbag rounds and attack dogs to disperse the protestors.
The Episcopal Church has been vocal on the local and national levels in its support of the Standing Rock Sioux, with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry visiting Standing Rock in September and telling protestors that their struggle is “the struggle of the human community.”
At the end of MacDonald’s call to prayer there is a specific prayer he has asked Canadian Anglicans to pray.
Written by the Rev. Brandon Mauai, a Sioux priest from Standing Rock, the prayer asks for God’s protection and asks that God might “strengthen us physically, so that we might stand for however long, to fight the good fight without waver.”