Presiding Bishop: Statement in support of the advocacy of the people of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has issued the following statement in support of the advocacy of the people of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

“Water is a gift from the creator, respect it, and protect it.”  I was deeply moved by these words printed on the sign of a person standing with hundreds of others to protect the Missouri River. In the Episcopal Church, when we baptize a new follower of Jesus Christ, we pray these words over the water of baptism. “We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.” We then recall how God used water to bless his people in the Bible, from the story of creation in Genesis, the emancipation of Hebrew slaves in Exodus, to the baptism of the Lord Jesus in the River Jordan. Indeed, “Water is a gift from the creator.” To sustain it and to protect it is to “safeguard the integrity of God’s creation,” and therefore to protect human and others forms of life created by Almighty God.  That work warrants our full and prayerful support.

The people of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, standing in solidarity with hundreds of other indigenous nations and allies, are calling us anew to respect and protect this sacred gift of God, and in so doing to respect and protect God’s gift of human life. In protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, they recognize the gift of water to all of us, a gift given to us by our Creator. The Sioux remind us “mni wiconi” or “water is life.” This God-given resource courses through our mighty rivers and our human veins, working to renew and reinvigorate all of creation.

We are called to do our part to urge decision makers to recognize and honor the efforts to protect the sacred water and burial grounds threatened by the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Pipeline, if completed, would stretch over one thousand miles and transport 540,000 barrels of crude oil through hallowed North Dakota burial grounds every day. A rupture in its infrastructure could wreak untold havoc on the Sioux and catastrophically pollute the Missouri River, a sacred tributary that the Sioux people depend upon for their daily water.

I stand with the people of Standing Rock in their efforts to respect and protect the Missouri River. We know that the right to clean water is an internationally recognized human right and that all too often indigenous communities, other people of color, and our most vulnerable communities throughout the world are the ones most at risk of losing access to clean water. As we join the people of Standing Rock, we also recognize that their stand is one that joins the fight for racial justice and reconciliation with climate justice and caring for God’s creation as a matter of stewardship.

This stand of men, women and children is also an important moment in the life of indigenous people. The Sioux people’s advocacy efforts to protect the Missouri River and the sacred burial grounds threatened by the oil pipeline is truly historic.  Leaders of Standing Rock observe that it’s been over 140 years since such a unified call for respect and justice has been made. The Episcopal Church has a long record of advocating that government, corporations and other societal players respect the treaty rights of Native peoples. Standing alongside our Sioux brothers and sisters, we continue this legacy today.

The people of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation are calling us now to stand with Native peoples, not only for their sakes, but for the sake of God’s creation, for the sake of the entire human family, and for the children and generations of children yet unborn. The legendary Sioux Chief Sitting Bull reminds us: “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”  There is the urgent need of this calling.

So, while we cannot all physically stand in the Camp of Sacred Stones today, let us hold, both in spoken word and silent prayer, the aspirations of the Sioux people and urge our policymakers to protect and responsibly steward our water, the sacred gift from God that sustains us all.

+Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church


  1. Vicki Gray says:

    Sometimes it is the most disadvantage among us who remind us of the peril we all face and our calling to stand tall against it. Thank you, Michael, the Episcopalians of North Dakota, and the proud people of the Sioux nation for doing just that.

  2. Lucy Robinson says:

    Proud to be an Episcopalian when Bishop Curry supports the Sioux Nation in their stand again the pipeline!! I’m in Amherst, Massachusetts, and I stand with you!!

  3. Rich Basta says:

    Isn’t oil a God-given natural resource as well, providing heat and warmth to God’s creatures? The extraction of oil, if done safely, provides much needed jobs to God’s people, providing dignity and self-esteem that comes from honest labor. Then there is the oil revenue, which provides a basis for funding schools that educate God’s children. May God bless the efforts of the oil companies that work hand in hand with God is using his resources to benefit so many of God’s creatures. Amen

    • Teresa Albrecht says:

      This particular oil coming out of the Baken oil fields is the consistency of peanut butter. When a spill happens, and you know it will, it will be utter devastation to the area. These people are water warriors. Water cannot be replaced. Oil can, by renewable, clean energy. We can’t drink oil.

    • Rev. F. Mark Mealing, Ph.D. says:

      I used to hear that oil & water don’t mix.

    • …”provides much needed jobs to God’s people”.

      Thinking about…Hmmm. Just as nuclear weapons, biological weapons, chemical weapons, slaughterhouses, animal research laboratories, skyscrapers, nuclear bombs …?


  4. Carol Luther says:

    In this age of global warming, we should preference water that cools and refreshes over oil that burns and contributes to a terrible inequality.

  5. Rich Basta says:

    Inequality? If Native Americans that are hired (I would urgently hope so anyway) receive good-paying, sustainable jobs, wouldn’t that lessen economic inequality in North Dakota?

    • Teresa Albrecht says:

      They would consider it morally wrong to work for an oil company that could very well devastate the environment – not only theirs, but those residing down from the Missouri river.

    • Melanie rowan says:

      The Sioux people would nevervsell out on any level, only poor and in industrialized world but very regal, and fussy about their ways, also great holders of history in them black hills lies the key to prehistory, and The days of the mammoth, the sloth and the beardedgiants. Let them lead the way ina world that isnt raping the entire ecosystem. You cant eat money, you cant drink oil, and it isvery hard to loveyourCreator, love andrespect all, when youhave corporate greed trying to kill off anynatural living thing that you ever knew, there isn freedom, no clean waterig hole, no herds to take from, no fish to dry up forwinter. No job shoukd rape andpillage te Earth, capitalism isfor the lowly, and TheSiouxare notlowly, they are very mesmerizing when listening to oral history. I am so proudof the People and supporters, 140 years is a longtime, but here we all are! Curly Horse Spirit!

    • Thinking about… why must actually people working for other people? In my opinion there are so many things to accomplish on the earth, where we all have to work together. As far as I know the ancestors worked together and also consult together and take decisions together.

      I am also looking for solutions.

  6. Mark W McElhinny says:

    How sustainable are pipeline construction jobs? It seems they would be temporary at best. On the other hand, the oil and gas industry does not have a particularly stellar record of preventing spills which could cause long term water contamination.

  7. Janet Diehl says:

    Water is basic to life, not oil. World wide water is already in short supply & water rights are contested. Nothing ought to be allowed to poison water. What good are profits, a good paying job, or lots of fancy things if we have no clean water or soil? What good does it do our souls if we defile sacred lands? We white Christians of European ancestry need to hone our relationships – with each other, with others, with all flora & fauna, with the earth & waters, with our relationship to the Spirit.

  8. Charles Crawley says:

    I am proud to be an Episcopalian after reading Bishop Curry’s statement. We–including members of the Episcopal Church in Iowa–have been fighting this pipeline for several months. We made statements at the Iowa Utilities Board in November 2016. The potential for damage from both spilling and from the toxins that will be generated from the use of the oil are both great. If “the Earth is Lord’s,” we better start taking better care of it, starting with Standing Rock. Bless our Native American Brothers and Sisters for their commitment to the Earth.

  9. Judith Hays says:

    Let’s all pray the pipeline is stopped. The future is in our hands.

  10. Jim Cutshall says:

    I trust that all who are against the pipeline will sell your cars and get a bicycle. Assume you will all bundle up during winter time and not use natural gas or heating oil. Turn off the AC units.
    Also don’t use my electricity as most is made by fossil fuel. Public transportation runs on fossil fuel so don’t use it.

    Since you don’t want to use your resources then don’t use mine.
    Not in my back yard does not cut it with me.
    I want a clean environment as well and should not need to support you so you feel good.

    We can be good stewards of our planet but you can’t just say not in my backyard and still use other. people’s resources and say you are doing your part.

    • Teresa Albrecht says:

      But Jim – we AREN’T being good stewards of our planet. Other countries, Germany, for example, are getting most of their electricity from solar. We here in the U.S. are so heavily invested in fossil fuels and are allowing the fossil fuel industry to dictate our laws against pursuing solar and wind energy, because it cuts into their bottom line. If we are going to save the planet, we have to be better stewards.

  11. Ronald Horan says:

    When you protesters give up warm homes, modern conveniences, modern transportation, plastics and modern medicines I’ll listen. I personally have no desire to live like it is 1870 but if you do go for it. You talk the talk but do you walk the walk?

    • Michael Shook says:

      Renewable energy is the wave of the future, not fossil fuels. Your stance is silly, and uninformed. People who are advocating for the move away from fossil fuels understand that it will not happen overnight, but we need to start (yesterday) NOW to make that move. The trees in my forest around my house are starting to die from heat stress, caused by global warming. We should be making do with what fossil fuel resources are more easily available now, but work like the devil to make the transition as fast as possible to renewable, clean sources of energy – wind, wave, solar, geothermal -the technology is here, now, all that’s lacking is the commitment to make it happen.
      Don’t be so close-minded, and dismissive of those who are protesting – none of us wants to live like it’s 1870, and to say so is indicative of a fearful, and narrow minded approach. It’s also insulting – we’re not that stupid or shortsighted.
      By the way, my wife and I have a solar system that produces about twice the electricity we use in a given year, and in a couple more years, we’ll have a battery system installed, and be self-sufficient in electricity.

      • Grant Bakewell says:

        RE: “Renewable energy is the wave of the future, not fossil fuels”. I am reminded that our General Convention has already passed a resolution urging all dioceses (and church missions?) to review their investments and at least consider investing in alternative energy, or other environmentally-and-socially-responsible stocks, mutual funds, or bonds. Like ending apartheid in South Africa, while it is good and noble to take a stand against an injustice, it is also important to “put our money where our mouth is”. As Jesus himself said, “you cannot serve God and mammon”. So how many of our dioceses are now serving God more effectively and fruitfully with investments in alternative energy, not in fossil fuels? I am personally looking forward to hearing from our own (Diocese of Northern California) at our convention in November.

  12. Rev. F. Mark Mealing, Ph.D. says:

    Indigenous people in Canada are also taking a lead in the protection of our common environment: how can we not support them fully everywhere?

  13. Barbara Fox says:

    We must break away from our use of fossil fuels. The U.S. Relies heavily on it which is a sad thing. Let’s move forward to solar and wind energy. Other countries have done this successfully. We can too! I stand with and pray with the Standing Rock Sioux.

  14. Heidi BURGOYNE says:

    Water IS LIFE….standing with the people of Standing Rock.

  15. Michael LaFontaine says:

    Thank you Bishop Michael.

  16. A Prayer for the Bakken Pipeline:

    Dear Jesus, you came so that we may have life and have it in abundance. Thank you for the blessings of abundant oil, which comes from deep within the womb of the Earth, our island home. Bless the oil company workers as they harvest the oil safely for our use. We were anointed with oil at our baptism, and so we know it is a symbol of your love and warmth. May those who benefit from its production have a living wage to lessen the burden of income inequality. May the schools funded from the taxes on this resource be centers of growth and renewal for our children. Give strength and alertness of mind to those who stand watch over the pipeline to ensure that the rest of your creation is not spoiled beyond our capability to restore it. This we ask in your name. Amen.

    • Pipelines have not supported Native Americans in the past via job creation, etc. That is no argument for the defilement of Indian treaty lands. ~It is time for us to truly focus on the development of alternative fuels which will not carry the high costs of permanently damaging our environment. It is time for this country to recognize and respect those who were here before we came. It’s time for us to learn from them.

  17. sandra phelps says:

    The Native Americans are protecting water for all of us. Millions downstream depend on the Missouri River for drinking water.

  18. Dear Lord, in your mercy, please be with all of us as we seek the truth in all our endeavors at such a polarizing point in our history. No matter the issue confronted, it seems the first response is to take the role of the “devil’s advocate” and oppose the person with a different view instead of participating in a productive debate. Restore to us the Christ wisdom that said to the Pharisee – that it is better to have someone healed and well than to observe the laws surrounding the Sabbath. Yes, we are anointed with oil at Baptism but the water of the Jordan River was the element that purified. Also, please be with our ancestors in ND as they seek to maintain the purity of their source of water. Amen

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