October 31, 2016, 3:14 PM
A tribal elder addressing people at the pipeline blockade, August 15, 2016. Photo by Shane Balkowitsch via Wikicommons
I am writing today with a heavy heart and great concern as I witness the events unfolding in North Dakota. Scenes of armed and militarized police from multiple states forcibly moving on non-violent protesters, including elders in the midst of prayer, recalls memories of centuries of violent actions against Indigenous peoples. For how long must we repeat this same horrific pattern of America's history? While the massacre at Wounded Knee is relegated to this tragic history and out of our reach, Standing Rock is happening right now, in our time, and I believe that we as people of conscience must act so as not to stand idly by and let history repeat itself once again at the expense of our Indigenous sisters and brothers.
Trustees of the United Religions Initiative traveled to Standing Rock several weeks ago carrying a statement of solidarity. The statement concludes, "The United Religions Initiative will pray and stand beside Standing Rock as long as it takes for all Members of our Human Family to fully understand that your struggle is not only for the way of life of the Great Sioux Nation, but for the health, safety and well-being of all current and future generations of the Human Family and Life everywhere on Mother Earth!"
It seems clear that local authorities are not protecting the civil rights of our sisters and brothers at Standing Rock, nor engaging in any reasonable kind of dialogue that could bring the situation to a peaceful resolution. The misuse of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, the arrests of journalists and the mistreatment of citizens exercising their rights to peaceful protest and prayer are among the indicators that the local authorities have ceased to carry out their duties to serve and protect. I urge us all to raise our voices and call upon President Obama and appropriate administration officials to intervene in this situation and protect the rights of the citizens of the Sioux Nation, citizens of the United States, who are raising their voices on behalf of us all and our planet. And most of all, we need to listen, listen to the wisdom being offered through this protest and learn about living in harmony with one another and the Earth. May peace prevail at Standing Rock. May peace prevail on Earth.
In peace... Victor
The Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian Jr.
United Religions Initiative