Defend the Sacred #NODAPL

Words and pictures by Steve Pavey, you can support Steve prophetic ministry here

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reclaimed its land this last weekend, October 23, asserting their sovereign rights to “Protect the Water” and “Defend the Sacred.”  The protectors (not protesters) have peacefully commenced building a new “frontline” camp directly in the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Over this very same weekend, local law enforcement arrested 127 peaceful protectors using inappropriate violence.

In response to the 127 people arrested this weekend during protest actions against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II released the following statement.

The militarization of local law enforcement and enlistment of multiple law enforcement agencies from neighboring states is needlessly escalating violence and unlawful arrests against peaceful protesters at Standing Rock. We do not condone reports of illegal actions, but believe the majority of peaceful protesters are reacting to strong-arm tactics and abuses by law enforcement.

Thousands of water protectors have joined the Tribe in solidarity against DAPL, without incident or serious injury. Yet, North Dakota law enforcement have proceeded with a disproportionate response to their nonviolent exercise of their First Amendment rights, even going as far as labeling them rioters and calling their every action illegal.

We are disappointed to see that our state and congressional delegations and Gov. Jack Dalrymple have failed to ensure the safety and rights of the citizens engaged in peaceful protests who were arrested on Saturday. Their lack of leadership and commitment to creating a dialogue towards a peaceful solution reflects not only the unjust historical narrative against Native Americans, but a dangerous trend in law enforcement tactics across America.

For these reasons, we believe the situation at Standing Rock deserves the immediate and full attention of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Furthermore, the DOJ should impose an injunction to all developments at the pipeline site to keep ALL citizens – law enforcement and protesters – safe. The DOJ should be enlisted and expected to investigate the overwhelming reports and videos demonstrating clear strong-arm tactics, abuses and unlawful arrests by law enforcement.

Preventing government agencies from stripping protesters and tribal members of their constitutional rights to organize and protect our sacred places and water is paramount to both U.S. citizens and tribal sovereignty. 

This is a critical time to act!

One way to act is to sign and share the petition to “Tell North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the U.S. Department of Justice: Stop police abuse and protect the constitution, not the fossil fuel industry.”

"Journalism and activism are not crimes. Ensure that journalists can exercise their constitutional rights to do their jobs without fear of government intimidation or prosecution. Uphold the rights of Native Americans and their allies to peacefully resist the Dakota Access pipeline without threat of violence."


A meeting has just been scheduled with President Obama who has up to this point done nothing to support the protection of the waters and the land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.  And in fact, since President Obama took office, over 10 Million acres of public lands and over 15 Million acres of public offshore waters in the Gulf have been turned over to energy corporations for fossil fuel extraction.  Potentially worth millions in profit, these leases cost the richest companies as little as
$1.50 an acre. In exchange, what we the people get is decades of pollution, oil spills, contaminated water, and catastrophic climate change. You can sign a letter to President Obama asking him to take action. Mark Trahant argues that Standing Rock stands as a test for not only Obama but for all climate justice choices ahead of us. United Nation experts have already validated the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Religious leaders, I am told, have largely been absent from Standing Rock. Few bodies of faith have come to support, let alone issue a statement in support of #NoDAPL, except for the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalists, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the Presbyterian Church.  

Where is the rest of the Christian church?

At the center of camp is the sacred fire of prayer and all actions I participated in for four days were centered on prayers for the sacred water and land. The Dakota Access pipeline being built that threatens these sacred trusts is called the “Black Snake,” and I’m told that the Black Snake people have lost their way because they no longer pray.  If you are able, there is a call for warriors to join in prayer at the Sacred Rock camps.

We must learn to pray again, and stand in solidarity with Standing Rock to protect our sacred water and land!

Steve is a documentary photographer, applied anthropologist and contemplative activist, all of which come together in the vocation of cultivating a way to see, in order to bear witness to the world both as it is, and as it could be. His creative process is deeply shaped by accompanying and being accompanied by humanity living on the margins of empire, documenting and creating images with those shrouded in “otherness” towards the goal of collective action and mutual liberation. Steve’s photography focuses on hope – hope found in the struggle and dignity of becoming more human. You can see more of Steve's work at and to get in contact with Steve email him Steve works with Hope In Focus, which bears witness to the world as it is and as it could be through activist photography committed to walking alongside the world’s oppressed and marginalized, finding hope together in the collective struggle for human dignity and justice.

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