Thousands of people representing Native Nations and their allies decended on Washington, D.C., on March 9–10, 2017 to advocate, pray and march for justice. (Photo credit: Alejandro Alvarez)

Christian community shows solidarity with Native Nations

By Shantha Ready Alonso

On March 9–10, five busloads of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe members, together with thousands of allies, converged on Washington, D.C., to advocate, pray and march for justice. 
Called “Rise with Standing Rock: Native Nations March on Washington,” the march was, in part, a protest of the Trump Administration’s decision to expedite construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline by skipping over tribal consultation and completion of an Environmental Impact Statement. The pipeline’s construction desecrates Sioux burial grounds and crosses disputed treaty lands. If the pipeline leaks, it could endanger drinking water for all who depend on the Missouri River. 
However, the march was about a lot more than one pipeline. It was an opportunity to show the strong and growing interest in Indian Country among everyday people. The struggle at Standing Rock was a historic solidarity movement, which attracted tens of thousands tribal leaders, activists and Christian allies from around the world to travel to North Dakota and form resistance camps. Significantly, the entire movement was rooted in prayer. Among Protestant Christians, hundreds travelled to Standing Rock, and thousands more supported the movement through donations, social media exposure and teach-ins for the cause. For many Protestants, standing with Standing Rock has been at once a spiritual experience, a learning opportunity and an opportunity to take small steps toward atoning for the sins against Indigenous People committed by our ancestors.
On the morning of the march, 250 Christian allies gathered in the sanctuary of First Trinity Lutheran Church to share breakfast and get organized. The Rev. John Floberg, Episcopal priest at Standing Rock and organizer of the November 2016 Standing Rock Clergy Action, told the crowd that the march is much more than a protest against a pipeline but is a mindset shift.

“You do not have to stand with Standing Rock to be an ally to indigenous people,” Floberg said. “Recognize that wherever you live, you are on indigenous land. Learn who the indigenous people are in your community, and what their struggles are.”

Standing Rock has unleashed a call to form alliances for indigenous rights everywhere.
In service to this call, Creation Justice Ministries, in partnership with the American Baptist Creation Justice Network, will release the Christian education curriculum “Environmental Justice with Indigenous People.” Find the resource at > Indigenous.

Shantha Ready Alonso is executive director of Creation Justice Ministries, a Christian organization that serves 38 communions, including American Baptist Churches USA.