At Standing Rock

In Solidarity

By Deb Hansen

Published December 2016

Standing Rock.jpgThe situation reminded me so much of Selma: the attack dogs turned against unarmed people in October; the call for clergy to gather at Standing Rock in support. I had been feeling led to travel to Standing Rock for some time. By Sunday morning, I knew this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for. The main reason I returned to school to complete an M.Div. was the longing to align my activism around climate change and clean energy with my wild love for the land and compassion for the communion of life that all beings belong to.

On Sunday evening, three of us were committed to driving out. By Monday afternoon, eight of us, students from the Pacific School of Religion and Starr King School for the Ministry piled into two cars for the grueling 30-hour cross-country trip. Another student flew out from Washington, D.C. A powerful ceremony of blessing was held for us just before we left. Most of us were moved to tears by the love and the spiritual, financial, and practical support that held us throughout the experience. Beautiful stoles were blessed and given to us, so those of us not yet ordained would be able to wear a garment symbolic representing spiritual commitment and ministerial authority.

Despite the short notice, over 500 clergy and seminarians representing 20 l traditions gathered around the sacred fire on Nov 3 at Oceti Sakowin camp. Imagine most of the people sleeping in bedrolls on the floor of two churches and dining on hastily prepared lunches we’d put together the day before. The fire that represents the life itself has been burning continuously since early April. The camp is near the Cannonball River near the Missouri River. Speakers representing traditions that have formally repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery gave voice to the injustice of the Papal Bull issued in 1493 which stated that any land not occupied by Christians could be claimed by European rulers . After the statements were made, a copy of the original document was presented to tribal elders, held aloft, and burned. We then walked in solemn procession to bridge over the Cannonball River. This bridge is now closed. Vehicles lines both sides of the road

Deb Hansen.jpgI traveled to North Dakota not only to make amends for the genocide inflicted on the indigenous peoples of this country, but also because I honor these traditions and their power to teach us how to heal and restore our relationship with the land and the community of life on Earth.

There were other motivations. I have also been part of a campaign in my home state of Michigan to reroute oil from an aging oil pipeline that pushes 23 million gallons of crude through the heart of the Great Lakes every day. I understand the passion that wells up to protect life in our communities. The risk of an oil spill in one of the places most dear to me required me to act.

A recent article in the New Republic, “Recalculating the Climate math offered compelling evidence that “if we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one.” It’s that serious. If we don’t begin to move to clean energy with a greater sense of urgency, the survival of our species is questionable.



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