The Reason Why 500 Clergy Went To Standing Rock

By Azriel Re'Shel & Mark Heley on Saturday November 12th, 2016

Church Leaders Denounce Colonial Dogma

Over 500 religious leaders, clergy and people of various faiths arrived at Standing Rock last week, in solidarity with the unarmed peaceful water protectors who had faced down violence by law enforcement agencies.

The group repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, the very foundation of colonialism, and denounced the Dakota Access Pipeline, standing in support of the water protectors and tribes who are camped at Standing Rock.

The Doctrine of Discovery was a Papal ‘Bull’, or decree, that was enacted by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 and became the foundational document on which the moral justification of all colonialism was based. The Bull stated that any land not inhabited by Christians was available to be “discovered,” claimed, and exploited by Christian nations.  It declared that “the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.”

By denouncing the Doctrine of Discovery, which was enacted by the US Supreme Court, and declared by European monarchies in order to justify colonial powers laying claim to sovereign nations, during the “Age of Discovery,” the leaders took a firm stand. This Doctrine guided the colonisation of the Americas and justified the mass killing and oppression of native peoples. Under this doctrine, title to lands lies with the government whose subjects had travelled to, and occupied, a territory whose inhabitants were not subjects of a European Christian monarch. The doctrine was enacted to ignore and override indigenous land claims and is still in use today, justifying American imperialism and the ongoing oppression of Native Americans.

Over 500 religious leaders, clergy and people of various faiths arrived at Standing Rock.Over 500 religious leaders, clergy and people of various faiths arrived at Standing Rock.

Interfaith Solidarity

The Reverend Gordon Rankin said in a United Church of Christ news article:

“… the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery is just a statement. And that’s not good enough.The real work of repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery has only just begun. This work happens when we stand in prayerful solidarity with those at Standing Rock. This work happens in our pews and in our neighborhoods when we challenge ourselves to examine our white privilege.”

The group of 524 clergy, and spiritual leaders of 22 faith traditions, gathered from all over the country, responding to a call for support. They prayed for the federal government to stop construction of the pipeline and stood strongly behind the courageous water protectors, thanking them for standing for all of humanity that needs to change.  Joining in a day of prayer on November 4th, the group of religious representatives said they were there to confront a potential ecological disaster and stand with people whose rights were consistently ignored. Native Americans had called on religious leaders to support their protest and were strongly encouraged by the arrival of the large group that came to pray with them.

According to the Catholic News Service, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Extended Justice Team was one of 15 faith-based organizations that signed a statement supporting the stance of the Standing Rock Sioux. Other Catholic organizations that signed on include Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Franciscan Action Network, Leadership Conference of Women Religious and Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

Support is coming from all faiths and the liberal religious association of Unitarian Universalist congregations has called for an interfaith solidarity event with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the water protectors. Unitarian Universalist Association President, Peter Morales, made a statement in support of the action at Standing Rock:

“The construction of the massive Dakota Access pipeline, stretching from North Dakota to Illinois, is a textbook case of marginalizing minority communities in the drive to increase fossil fuel supplies.”

500 Clergy Come to Standing Rock after a week of violence“I look at my brothers and sisters of Standing Rock as the moral compass of this country.”

After a week of violence inflicted by law enforcement on unarmed peaceful water protectors, over 480 clergy and people of all faiths arrived in solidarity with Standing Rock. In solidarity, they repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, denounced the Dakota Access Pipeline, and affirmed the position of the water protectors on the ground.

Video Produced by: Ayşe Gürsöz & Josué Rivas Fotographer
Drone Operators: Dr0ne2bwild Photography & Video Digital Smoke Signals

#nodapl #indigenousrising #waterislife #keepitintheground #standingrock #dapl #dakotaaccesspipeline

Posted by Indigenous Rising Media on Friday, 4 November 2016

The Battle is Not Over

Last week several religious groups were arrested. Native rights activist, Casey Camp Horinek, was arrested, along with her prayer circle. In an interview Casey said that she and her prayer group were sprayed with pepper bullets.

Religious leaders and groups across the country are recognising this epic battle as a significant cry for freedom and change from the oppressive conditions that have existed for native people since colonial days.

The action at Standing Rock has been initiated mainly by the Sioux tribe who have been joined by other indigenous people and a huge swathe of supporters, at a camp near the pipeline route for months making it the largest gathering of indigenous tribes in the last 150 years. The water protectors are opposing construction of a leg of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, a project they say endangers the water supply of their reservation and has trespassed on sacred burial grounds.

The pipeline crosses four states and would transport up to 570,000 barrels of fracked crude oil every day, nearly 100 feet below the longest river in North America, the Missouri. It has sparked a unification and outpouring of support for Native Americans and is questioning much of what the US system is based on. Even if this action is unsuccessful, which is looking unlikely, the issues it’s raised and the potent unity it has created will ensure the spotlight stays on indigenous issues and the shadowy oppressive and racist history of the United States, that must now be healed.

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

Words By Azriel Re'Shel & Mark Heley



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3 Comments on "The Reason Why 500 Clergy Went To Standing Rock"

newest oldest most voted

This is a good sign! When people of God join Gods children to save their homes, it means a lot. It would be nice if the Pope would bless their cause. I also wish the Dali Llama could as well. I know King, Gandhi, and Mandela are watching over them. Since now the fight is more dire with Trump going into office. He is an invested and DAPL donated $100,000 to his campaign.


“Only the Individual can rise to the height of Consciousness and Awareness, the more you belong to the crowd, the deeper you fall into darkness” -Osho-….By the way “divisiveness” has become a way of life in the US……

Steve Hein

Thank you for this article. I had not heard of the Doctrine of Discovery before. There are so many things we are not taught in school.

Each day more people are waking up thanks to articles like this.