Presiding Bishop urges Governor to de-escalate tensions with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and withdraw military equipment from policing efforts
November 30, 2016
Dear Governor Dalrymple and Sheriff Kirchmeier:
I pray that this letter finds you well, and I want to assure you of my prayers. It has been my privilege to visit and learn firsthand about the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the Dakota Access Pipeline, and I appreciate the complexity of the conflict you currently manage.
The Episcopal Church is grateful to stand with the people of Standing Rock in their efforts to respect and protect the Missouri River and the sacred burial grounds of the Sioux Nation. We do so seeking to follow the way of Jesus of Nazareth who taught us that love of God and love of our neighbor is the highest moral law and religious duty (Matthew 22:37-40, Luke 10:25-37).
Hundreds of Episcopal clergy and lay leaders have traveled with other people of faith to Standing Rock over the past several months to bear non-violent witness to the water-protection efforts underway near Sacred Stone Camp. Reports from the ground from our own members present alarming accounts of undue force used by law enforcement against the water protectors.
Given the November 25 notice from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as Governor Dalrymple’s November 28 executive order, I urge you to monitor the nature and tone of the policing actions by local and state law enforcement, the National Guard, and private contractors. I also ask that you take action to address and stop the use of water cannons and rubber bullets, as well as the use of military equipment that escalates tensions between the parties. I am deeply concerned about the number of protectors who have been injured, and the potential loss of life that could result from the continued use of these tactics.
A delegation of approximately 30 chaplains trained to assist people experiencing trauma will be standing with the water protectors in the coming days, especially as veterans also gather this weekend to stand with Standing Rock. These religious chaplains are called to care for those who are wounded, traumatized, or seeking spiritual support; they have pledged not to participate in demonstration activities. As they carry out their work, I ask that you safeguard them, ensuring that they meet no harm or violence as they seek to bring healing to all those gathered at Standing Rock.
I close once again asking your patience, attention and respect for the people and communities in your care. Please trust that we will keep you in our prayers moving forward. If our church may be of assistance in the creation of a peaceful and just way forward, I would welcome that invitation.
The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church