The American Ethical Union (AEU), the federating organization representing Ethical Culture nationally, has fought for the rights of marginalized populations for over a century. In light of increasing violence directed at First Nations people and their allies protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, the AEU calls on authorities to cease disproportional and dehumanizing tactics, including military-type sieges of peaceful encampments and the use of armored vehicles, pepper spray and police attack dogs, and mass arrests. As a nation we must rethink our energy policy that fuels the racist reaction to this particular protest in the Dakotas.
The AEU believes that continued reliance on fossil fuels represented by the pipeline is one more example of short-term profits blinding us to sensible long-term energy strategy. It threatens all human beings, but has an even greater impact on First Nation’s people like the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. As stated in a 2014 AEU resolution, “climate change disproportionately harms poor and disempowered populations” unable to escape the immediate impact of climate changes including flooding due to rising sea levels and the decimation of hunting and grazing habitats.
Expressing our support for sustainable energy solutions, in 2014 the AEU voted to “divest itself of any investments in businesses that have a primary purpose of the extraction or distribution of fossil-based sources of energy, and instead, shift its investment dollars to funds and businesses that support the exploration, development, and use of clean, sustainable, renewable sources of energy.”
Even if one thinks that the pipeline is an important part of our national energy strategy, the unjust treatment of non-violent protesters seeking to protect their sovereign territory must end. The collusion of state police forces and private security forces, unleashed by the relative silence of our political leaders, is a national disgrace. The right to protest peacefully must not be abridged through violence, media blackouts, or intimidation of the press. The police exist to serve the public and to promote our liberty, not to enforce the will of private corporations working against the fundamental rights of the people.
The American Ethical Union joins with other progressive activists, humanists, and faith institutions in support of the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux. This dispute should be resolved through peaceful negotiation which respects the rights and dignity of native people who will be most affected by the pipeline. We call attention to the double standard involved since this pipeline was redirected away from regions of concern to residents of Bismarck, North Dakota, 90% of whom are white. By accommodating these citizens and shifting the pipeline onto treaty lands, we are witnessing another example of the devaluation of the lives and culture of First People.
The fact that this current instance is part of a century-old on-going struggle against forced eviction from lands, violent oppression, and false promises amplifies the injustice of the situation. While the AEU does not condone violence as a means for social change, the sporadic reports of violence on the part of protestors cannot blind us to either the general overwhelming power of corporations backed by militarization and the unfair treatment of First People.
The AEU urges its constituent groups in the Ethical Culture movement and all Ethical Humanists to learn more about this issue and supporting the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes. While we need not endorse what some humanists might consider supernatural claims of the tribes concerning “sacred lands,” we cannot stand silently in the face of this affront to human dignity. We support the protesters’ assertion of their human rights.
You can visit the Standing Rock website to donate or get involved: www.standingrock.org. Some ways to get involved suggested by the Freethought Project include:
- Call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at 701-328-2200 and the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414 to state your respectful but deeply held concerns.
- Sign petitions to Stop DAPL (like White House one, Change.org one, Moveon.org one, and Earthjustice one)
- Call the Army Corps of Engineers and demand that they reverse the permit allowing for construction of the pipeline: (202) 761-5903
- Call the executives of the companies that are building the pipeline:
a. Lee Hanse Executive Vice President Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 800 E Sonterra Blvd #400 San Antonio, Texas 78258, (210) 403-6455, Lee.Hanse@energytransfer.com
b. Glenn Emery Vice President Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 800 E Sonterra Blvd #400 San Antonio, Texas 78258, (210) 403-6762, Glenn.Emery@energytransfer.com
c. Michael (Cliff) Waters Lead Analyst Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 1300 Main St. Houston, Texas 77002, (713) 989-2404, Michael.Waters@energytransfer.com