In the wee hours of Thursday, November 17, Jana Milhon-Martin – CST ’16, and mother of three middle-school and high-school aged boys – loaded her crew into the family van and headed for Standing Rock. Milhon-Martin, her husband Victor, and the boys are standing with the indigenous peoples of Standing Rock, North Dakota, and against the Dakota Access Pipeline project (#DAPL).

“The message we bring is very simple: we see you, we hear you, you matter,” said Milhon-Martin, who is on track to be ordained the in Episcopal Church early next year. “Fr. Greg Boyle (the founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries) teaches that our job is ‘to place our feet in the margins and keep looking down until the margins shift.’ We are honored to join the people of Standing Rock and to unite for a greater awareness.”

The 2016 graduate of Claremont School of Theology is also very clear about her family’s role as strangers coming into a new land.

“We are ‘standing with’ in the most culturally appropriate way we can: we are bringing supplies,” explained Milhon-Martin. “Our churches collected heavy winter clothing and raised thousands of dollars to buy supplies that we have been told are the most needed: winter tents, sub-zero sleeping bags, and fire wood. Lots of fire wood.”

Prior to departure, members of Milhon-Martin’s church, St. John’s Episcopal Church, La Verne, California, gathered for a special ceremony honoring the family, their safe journey, and the people of Standing Rock. The Rev. Dr. Mary Crist, CST ’11, of St. Michael’s Episcopal Ministry Center in Riverside, California, led the ceremony with assistance from at least a dozen representatives of various tribes.

“The intertribal, multicultural ceremony was significant because the sacred medicines and songs of Native people were welcomed into the Christian church to offer strength and courage to the travelers and to the water protectors they will meet,” said Rev. Crist, who is also a member of the Blackfeet Nation and Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese Coordinator for the Commission on Native American Ministry. “The ceremony identified the trip to Standing Rock as a holy pilgrimage. The Native elements included water, the sustainer of life; fire, the provider of warmth; energy, for new life; sage, whose smoke purifies and heals; and the feather of the eagle, the one who flies high through the air to carry our prayers to Creator. The drumbeat is the heartbeat of Mother Earth.”

Milhon-Martin also received support from another CST alumnus, The Rev. Francisco Garcia, Jr., CST ‘13, rector at Holy Faith Episcopal Church in Inglewood, California. “We honor the preservation of these sacred ancestral lands and the efforts to have a clean water supply for thousands in the region,” said Rev. Garcia. “Jana is carrying our prayers and donations to the indigenous community at Standing Rock and acting as an example of how we respond as the church in the world – with love and solidarity.”

The Milhon-Martin family will spend at least one night at the parsonage of the Rev. A.J. Bush, CST’ 15, First United Methodist Church, Gillette, Wyoming. Rev. Bush’s ministry is in hosting groups on their way to Standing Rock. “I am housing three separate groups this week alone,” said Rev. Bush. “While I regret not yet having been able to go there myself, I am happy to provide hospitality support for those on their way.”

“I am so grateful for justice-oriented spirit of activism the alumni/ae of Claremont School of Theology share,” said the Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, CST President. “This is what we need most in the world, especially in the United States, people creating a difference for the world we live in, today.”

For more information on the best way to assist the peoples of Standing Rock, click here.

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