During my foray through Orthodox Christianity, before reconciling with the Catholic Church, one of my favorite discoveries was the blessing of the waters celebrated in January, on the day of epiphany. The coolest aspect was this: because Christ was already perfect, sinless, as God-made-man, when he submitted to baptism the grace that would have flowed into his soul in the sacrament, washing away sin, instead flowed out from his divinity into the water, into all water. Now, having witnessed many Catholic baptisms, I realize that this doctrine is also held true in the Catholic faith: because of this outflowing of grace at Christ’s baptism, all water is sacred. This is a tenet of the Church which corresponds beautifully to what is held true by most indigenous peoples, including the two nations from which I descend and to which I retain a certain loyalty.
That loyalty, to my indigenous heritage and to the land held sacred by my native ancestors, impels me to side with the water protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota, opposing the desecration of their sacred burial grounds and the callous risk-taking with their water supply (and the supply of millions of Americans, native and settler, that live downstream!) that Dakota Access (and all the companies banking on their success) wants to commit for profit (don’t let them tell you it’s for energy independence…because much of that oil will be sold to other countries…true energy independence is found in renewables like solar, wind, and geothermal). Here’s a link to info regarding the legal status of the case. The company does not actually quite have legal permission yet to do what they want, but they’re trying to go ahead with laying the pipeline anyway, and even bulldozed through sacred burial grounds on the day a request for an injunction was filed because of those burial grounds, on the holiday weekend, in hopes that if they simply did it before they were told not to, there’d be nothing to stop them. And used a private security firm with attack dogs against non-violent families (including a sweet little two-year-old girl whose face was mauled–for shame!) when confronted. This is the sort of cultural genocide that has no place in 2016. (It was shameful in past centuries, but at this point it’s simply unconscionable and anyone who supports it ought to have their humanity membership card revoked.) The UN has recognized that human rights abuses are taking place at Standing Rock. And now the Governor of North Dakota, who stands himself to profit from this pipeline, is calling in the National Guard against these peaceful people. And yet the Obama administration is silent. Which makes them complicit. You can try, as I did, to call the White House at the number below, but you may find the line closed, as I did. Frustrating, to say the least.
So what can a Catholic of goodwill, who recognizes all of God’s children and His Creation as worthy of protection, do? Well, we can call our local representatives and ask them to speak for us, we can donate to any number of funds.
And we can pray. We can pray to the Holy Mother, who so loved God’s creation for His sake that before her death she willed her body to become part of the earth as a blessing for it, though He had other plans (for more on this, read The Mystical City of God). And who loves every one of the people, made in His image. We can pray to St. Kateri, Lily of the Mohawks and patroness of ecology. We can pray to the newly canonized St. Teresa of Calcutta, who ministered to the poor and downtrodden (our indigenous citizens on reservations are the poorest of the poor and the most downtrodden in this country, much to our shame). And we can pray to St. John the Baptist, who baptized Christ with that sacred water and who knows a thing or two about speaking truth to power (though it cost him his head).
What we can not do is pretend that this isn’t happening, that how we treat the earth and all its citizens doesn’t matter. Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ, calls us to treat Creation with the care it merits as the handiwork of God, and as a work of mercy, since a polluted earth impacts most profoundly the poor, who are our sacred responsibility. Please join me in all of the above.