“When Pua Case landed in North Dakota to join the ongoing Standing Rock protests in September, she, like thousands of other participants, had come to defend the land.
“Asked about the movement’s religious elements, Gonzales insisted spirituality isn’t a cursory side-effect but a crucial, driving force behind the recent surge of Native environmental activism. Virtually all of the protests she has attended, she said, featured some form of prayer or sacred ritual.
“By the time Standing Rock rolled around, a spiritual network of indigenous people was already in full effect.
““All of us are protesting because we are part of this sacred [connection] to the earth,” Gonzales said. “We are all the mountains, we are all the birds — it sounds corny, but it’s true.”
“It would be a mistake to characterize the new wave of indigenous activism as emanating from a uniform, codified theology. All of the activists ThinkProgress interviewed insisted they spoke only for themselves when discussing faith, explaining that each tribe harbors its own unique spiritual traditions, practices, and customs forged over the course of centuries, if not millennia.
“But for all their differences, the various indigenous populations share a common theological belief typical of what Joshua Lanakila Mangauil, a Native Hawaiian activist, called “earth-based” cultures: that the environment, at least in parts, is sacred in and of itself.
“Case said movement members will continue to lean on each other for strength moving forward and that they won’t rest until they make it clear that the environment — earth, sky, and water — is, in a very literal sense, sacred.
““There comes a time when people have a right to say no — and now is that time,” she added. “So we’re saying no, resoundingly, like the thundering sky.””
Read the full story by Jack Jenkins….