Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
To: LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL,
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
JACK DALRYMPLE, GOVERNOR OF NORTH DAKOTA
KELCY WARREN, CEO AND BOARD CHAIR,
ENERGY TRANSFER PARTNERS
DATE: 1 NOVEMBER 2016
As leaders and lay members of faith communities across the United States, we are writing to oppose in the strongest possible terms both the environmentally and spiritually destructive Dakota Access Pipeline and – equally disturbing – the treatment of those Sioux and other communities actively demonstrating against it at Standing Rock.
The proposed pipeline would desecrate ancestral burial sites – as sacred to the Sioux as cemeteries are to other people of faith. Crucially, it would also endanger the living by potentially contaminating both the land – and, vitally, the water supply – of the Sioux people.
1. Respect for the Sacred. From their first immigration to this land, the settlers of the United States have a long and devastating history of mistreatment of indigenous populations. As men and women of faith, we acknowledge the mistreatment and cruelties of the past, and refuse to stand silently by as the sacred sites of the Sioux are desecrated by this pipeline, yet another tragic expression of the systematic oppression and degradation of Native peoples that has been ongoing for centuries.
We call for the respect of the sacred sites of our Native brothers and sister by immediately ending this desecration.
2. Treatment of the Protesters. Innumerable reports have substantiated a stunning array of violations of the dignity, human and civil rights of those protesting the pipeline. These reports include numerous and ongoing instances of security dogs attacking and biting protestors; the use of tear gas, mace, sound cannons, concussion grenades and rubber bullets; unwarranted strip searches; holding arrested protestors in non-habitable conditions which have been described as “dog kennels” – spaces without bedding. Law enforcement has even physically numbered some arrestees by writing numbers on their bodies, a practice horrifyingly reminiscent of the tattooing of numbers on the arms of Jewish victims of the Nazis.
These behaviors, both by private security forces and by public law enforcement behavior are immoral, disgraceful, intentionally demeaning, brutal, unconstitutional, and in a number of cases criminal. They violate hard-won civil rights and liberties.
We call for U.S. Department of Justice to stop the violence, to investigate the abuses of the protestors and to accountable those responsible for these abuses.
3. An outmoded technology. The pipeline is yet another fossil fuel infrastructure project. It is technologically passé at best. Study after study have shown that we must transition from a fossil fuel-based energy system to one powered by clean, renewable energy. The time has come, and passed, when further fossil fuel infrastructure was ethically warranted.
We call for an immediate end to the building of the pipeline.
4. Creating a Human and Environmental Disaster. As people of faith committed to being guardians of the earth – the only place in the universe we humans can call “home” — we must not blind ourselves to the potential environmental disasters that could result from the pipeline. Since 2000, the list of pipeline accidents in the United States has grown nearly 60 pages long; in 2015-2016 ALONE, OVER 45 SUCH PIPELINE DISASTERS HAVE ALREADY TAKEN PLACE THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES.
Throughout the country, acres upon acres of shorelines, soil, lands, woodlands, rivers, and creeks have been contaminated; fires have ravaged acres upon acres of land; people have died, or been injured, evacuated, or lost their homes. In opposing the pipeline, the Sioux are fighting for their right to life. Access to pure water is what makes the life of every people possible – without water there is no life.
The Sioux and their Native American brothers and sisters have appropriate, fact-based, concerns about the effect of the proposed pipeline – to be built within a half mile of their tribal lands — on their drinking water supplies from the Missouri River – the identical concern that the population of Bismarck shared, given the initial environmental assessment of the pipeline, and which resulted in the pipeline route being relocated to pass through Standing Rock. If the pipeline is potentially dangerous to the population of Bismarck, it is equally dangerous to the Sioux people. Any other conclusion is a painful reflection of the racism that has long poisoned white peoples’ relations to Native Americans, the first peoples of this land.
Each of you is in a position of responsibility in relation to this project. Each of you has an inescapable moral duty to act. We call on you in the strongest possible terms to meet that duty with responsibility.
We pray that you will do so.