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Lion's Roar: On your second trip to Standing Rock, you attended in your capacity as a priest, along with other clergy. What can you tell us about that gathering and the common ground that was (or was not) found there?

Wendy Egyoku Nakao: Rev. John Floberg, who has had twenty-five years of relationship with the Standing Rock Sioux through the Episcopal Church in North Dakota, issued a call for clergy to come “Stand with Standing Rock.” He’d hoped for 100, but in the end, over 500 clergy representing some fifteen denominations attended. The unifying factor was to stand with Standing Rock against the DAPL and for the protection of the water for all. I spotted at least seven Buddhist clergy there.

Rev. John laid out the agreement of the participants: Prayerful. Peaceful. Nonviolent. Lawful. We were asked not to engage in any violence and to treat law enforcement with respect. We were free to express our faith through our dress and speeches and to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux nation.

One of the most important moments was the repudiation of the 15th-century Doctrine of Discovery by eight Christian Churches on the morning of the gathering. This doctrine, issued through Papal Bulls which are still on the books of the Catholic Church, sanctioned the domination and destruction of indigenous peoples by explorers and missionaries in the interests of the spreading of Christianity. The effects of this colonizing document reverberate in the world today through our laws and basic attitudes of racism. (In 2014 at the Zen Peacemaker retreat, Steve Newcomb, a Native American lawyer who has dedicated his life to having this document renounced, taught us about its pernicious effects.)

The ceremony for renouncing the document began with representatives from eight Christian churches, which had already repudiated the document, each taking turns reading a statement of renunciation in front of Tribal Elders. Then copies of the document were given to each Elder and subsequently burned. All clergy and people at the camp in attendance were witnesses, with Rev. Floberg stating that “We [the Protestant churches represented] were wrong” about the document. Very powerful.

Following the ceremony, each clergy member was smudged with sage and then joined a procession to the bridge where a violent confrontation between militarized police and unarmed Native Americans had taken place a week prior...

Among the Bodhisattvas at Standing Rock - Lion's Roar

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