As the presidents of Claremont School of Theology (CST) and Bayan Claremont, we express our support for the indigenous peoples of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and lend our voices to those opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline Project.
We share a deep commitment to strengthening ecumenical and interreligious understanding. Our students – Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Humanist, Taoist, and many more – represent some 40-plus faiths and traditions. And, in our considered experience, we are all the better for it. We are tearing down the walls between denominations, religions, traditions, and practices, and bringing everyone together in a space based on respect, curiosity, equality, and safety. For all of those reasons, we must support the indigenous peoples of the Sioux Nation at Standing Rock.
Most importantly, we believe that Native peoples, all peoples, have a right to clean water and safe living environments. The current Dakota Access Pipeline Project challenges that belief, and it threatens the lives and livelihood of people whose indigenous rights have been discounted and marginalized for centuries. We cannot allow that to happen again.
On Thursday, November 3, 2016, more than 500 clergy members from varying faiths gathered at Oceti Sakowin Camp to “provide peaceful, prayerful, lawful and non-violent witness.” CST graduate and Unitarian Universalist social justice leader, Samantha Lynne Gupta, joined in that non-violent, direct action.
“When you walk through the camp, people continue to tell stories, show wounds from rubber bullets, and have no idea where loved ones are (as they are jailed throughout North Dakota),” explained Gupta. “This is the continuation of intergenerational trauma.”
Gupta later joined a discussion with white UU congregants who are acting in solidarity with the camp by having difficult conversations with other white community members.
“This is a racial issue, with roots in patterns of colonialism and domination. The UU members here – feeling buoyed to continue their work by the connection to UU communities across the USA – are striving to bring others into a path of de-coloniality and right relationship with Standing Rock. They ask that we imagine how we continue this web of interdependence for future relationship.”
On Wednesday, November, 2, Muslim supporters added their voices, saying, “We stand with you for the sacred, for the water, for the Earth, and for human dignity.” In October, CST Trustees, Bishop Robert Hoshibata and Bishop Grant Hagiya, and former CST Trustee, Bishop Minerva Carcaño, joined with the bishops of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, in a letter to President Obama supporting “the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and all who bear peaceful witness to its opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.” Shortly after The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, traveled to Standing Rock, his Executive Council asked law-enforcement officers to “de-escalate military and police provocation” near the peaceful protest site.
It is in this same spirit that we, as presidents of faith-based institutions of higher learning, add our names to the list of supporters standing with Standing Rock.
Our traditions understand water. It is the source of life in each of the Abrahamic traditions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
- In the Book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible, God promises His people, “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”
- In the Christian New Testament, John 4:14, Jesus says, “Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
- And the Qur’an teaches that “God created every living thing from water (25:45).”
The Sioux Nation’s access to clean water – the very gift of life from our Creator – is a natural, irrefutable, undeniable right. We encourage you to explore on your own the various discussions, and join us in Standing with the People of Standing Rock.