Saturday, October 29, 2016

Note from Rev. John Floberg, Episcopal Pastor at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation

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The people have been calling for warriors to come to join in the protest against the pipeline. In our language, as faith leaders, they are asking for the shepherds of the sheep – the protectors – to come. At this point over 100 clergy are planning to come.

We want to continue the call for non-violent protection action with law enforcement protecting the free speech rights of those who are Standing With Standing Rock.  We know that our freedoms have limitations that are imposed by law and some imposed by our faith.  We intend to stay within the bounds of each.  Civil Disobedience has a well-respected history in this country.  We are not coming to exercise Civil Disobedience this time.  This isn’t because we are afraid, but because this is what the Standing Rock Nation is asking of us. 

We want to be visible.  Please plan to wear clergy shirts, stoles to wear over jackets or other ways that you may have to show that you are a leader in a faith community. For those able to be in on Wednesday night we will be meeting at the Gym in Cannon Ball (if you have to ask where that is, you don’t know Cannon Ball).  Find Cannon Ball on your Google Map and get there, you will find the gym.  We will have supper and training.

We will rally in that Oceti Sakowin Camp on Thursday morning (again, once you are there it is easy to locate, just go on the north side of the Cannon Ball River more than likely coming in from the south). 

We will spend the day in a peaceful, non-violent and prayerful action.  We will have some songs to be singing and prayers to be praying.  Our expectation is that we will be respectful of one another’s faith tradition and participate at the highest level possible.  If you have prayers or songs that need a handout please bring them with you.  As you will be on Dakota Territory we will be learning to sing and possibly speak in the Dakota Language.

The day will end peacefully and we will gather again for supper.  This might be in Oceti Sakowin or at St. James’ Episcopal Church just south of Cannon Ball.  If you have food to throw into the mix feel free to bring it.  Don’t expect anything elaborate for our meals as our energy will be spent elsewhere – but you won’t go hungry.  If you have special/unique dietary needs I would suggest that you make provision for yourself in bringing those kinds of food.  Unless it becomes necessary for follow up work on Friday, the gathering of the Clergy Standing With Standing Rock will end with supper.

We will be responsible for our witness that day.  My experience of the Dakota culture is that it considers itself to be respectful.  When people come into a gathering we greet everyone.  If you have watched pictures or video of the Protest Action in Bismarck at the State Capitol you would have seen the line of protesters shaking hands with the law enforcement.  We understand they have a job to do – part of that job is keeping everyone safe and providing us with respect to carry out our First Amendment Rights – freedoms that include speech, assembly and the right to practice our faith. 

In traditional Dakota way it will be said, “I can only speak for myself.”  My friends, I want to remind you, that as leaders in your faith communities, the way that you represent yourself speaks on behalf of many others.  We are carrying the reputation of our faith communities and of the Standing Rock people. 

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