Ten years ago, very shortly after Sheila and I had moved to California, I was talking with the great theologian, activist and educator Ruby Sales about the second Pilgrimage for Peace and a forum appearance for Ruby at Grace Cathedral. As we talked on the telephone, Ruby in Georgia and I in San Francisco, we both came to a place in the conversation where we spoke similar words at the same moment – “The people remembered last in all justice conversations are indigenous people.” Indigenous people are often an afterthought.
This week, responding to a call from the Rev. John Floberg, Episcopal Missioner at the Standing Rock Reservation of the Sioux People, hundreds of Episcopalians from all over the Church are gathering at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest in North Dakota, in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (and all the Sioux, who have come together over this protest).
All over the world, indigenous people live in daily peril. For instance, many of the undocumented immigrants we call ‘Latinos’ have a first language that is not Spanish or English, but is a tribal language, and they are often environmental and political refugees. The reason indigenous people are the objects of persecution all over the world is because they have maintained both a wisdom and an integral connection to the Earth.
The dominant culture of the world – characterized by over-consumption and living off extractive industrial processes that depend on the objectification of people, other species and the planet itself – is imperiling the health of the Earth. May this pilgrimage to Standing Rock be not a one-off event, but a turning. Instead of marginalizing indigenous people let us learn to turn to them as sisters and brothers who have maintained family wisdom for us all.
At this moment some dozen of us from the Diocese of California are going to Standing Rock in the week of All Saints’ Day. I’m proud of and grateful to this amazing diocese that over and over again stands with the vulnerable. As bishop of this diocese, it will be my intent in the days that follow our journey to tending and honoring all our relations.