By NC Raine

Yesterday, the Army Corps of Engineers gave long-awaited for news that it is blocking construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Army informed the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Energy Transfer Partners, and Dakota Access, LLC, that it has completed the review that it launched on September 9, 2016, and has determined that additional discussion and analysis are warranted.

The news came on a day when people around the world prayed for Standing Rock.

Saskatoon joined the long list of cities worldwide to host an Interfaith Day of Prayer in support of Standing Rock, where members of the Standing Rock Sioux and supporters have been trying for many months to block a segment of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) threatening their land.

Held on December 4th at St. Thomas Wesley United Church, the vigil was a response to a call to prayer issued by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Spiritual Leader of the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota First Nations. “The hearts of all people’s faiths must now unite in believing we can change the path we are now on,” wrote Chief Looking Horse.

The gathering included members from a variety of faiths, denominations, communities, and activist groups sharing prayers, lighting candles, and joining in song in a show of solidarity.

“Since this issue has started, I have asked for prayers from those in different churches, and those who practices in the traditional ways,” Ethel Ahenakew, member of the Ahtahkakoop First Nation said during the service.

“I also pray on behalf of those who have gone to Standing Rock to help in whatever way they can. Those from other countries around the world and the Indigenous from Canada. There is a group who are from a reserve around the huge lake of La Ronge who are walking there [in solidarity] now,” said Ahenakew.

Colin Clay, Anglican Priest and president of the Multi-Faith Saskatchewan also spoke, reflecting on the deep concerns he says we all share for the environment, justice, and peace in our world.

A special prayer was shared from Jordan Cantwell, Moderator of the United Church of Canada. “We have a responsibility to protect all with whom we share the earth. Whether that is other people, other beings, and the lands and water. As we seek reconciliation with Indigenous people, so must we seek to reconcile with all of creation,” wrote Cantwell.

Cantwell said that the United Church of Canada has adopted the principles and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, “as a framework of reconciliation,” she continued. “We understand these principles to include the right to self determination, the right to participate in decision making, and the right to free, prior, and informed consent.”

Some words from Chief Arvol Looking Horse were also shared, who highlighted the strength and importance of solidarity, and respect for what we are given.

“Already we have witnessed many nations of life are now dying because of contamination […] We are asking the religious people to come and support our youth, to stand side by side with them, because they are standing in prayer,” wrote Chief Looking Horse.

“This is a very serious time we are in. I know in my heart there are millions of people that feel this is long overdue. It is time that all of us become leaders to help protect the sacred upon Mother Earth. She is the source of life, and not a resource.”

News broke later in the day that the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline had been halted.  In a press release, the Army Corp of Engineers stated that further discussion is warranted, “in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation’s dispossessions of lands, the importance of Lake Oahe to the Tribe, our government-to-government relationship, and the statute governing easements through government property.”

The Army Corp of Engineers also stated that it invites the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to, “engage in discussion regarding potential conditions on an easement for the pipeline crossing that would reduce the risk of a spill or rupture, hasten detection and response to any possible spill, or otherwise enhance the protection of Lake Oahe and the Tribe’s water supplies.  The Army invites discussion of the risk of a spill in light of such conditions, and whether to grant an easement for the pipeline to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location.  The Army continues to welcome any input that the Tribe believes is relevant to the proposed pipeline crossing or the granting of an easement.”

While these discussions are ongoing, construction on or under Corps land bordering Lake Oahe cannot occur because the Army has not made a final decision on whether to grant an easement.



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