Standing Rock

From Jerusalem to Standing Rock, victors recast past to reflect their religious worldviews

From Jerusalem to Standing Rock, victors recast past to reflect their religious worldviews

Jerusalem's Temple Mount -- as Jews call it in English, or the Noble Sanctuary, the English version of its Muslim name -- is arguably the world's most fought over bit of sacred land.

Today, the area is under Muslim control and houses the magnificent shrine known as the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque. Of course these Muslim structures are only the latest in a long line of religious sites that have graced the leveled hilltop.

Over the many centuries, Jews, Romans, and Christians preceded Muslims in claiming the site as their own, as I'm sure most GetReligion readers are well aware.

If so, why reiterate this history?

To make the point that dedicating a location to whatever God or gods are favored by the faith of whoever happens to hold political sway over the site at any given moment is a time-honored way to humble the vanquished and exalt the victorious.

In other words, constructing churches atop the ruins of synagogues, and mosques atop the ruins of churches, or -- as happens in India -- Hindu temples atop the ruins of mosques, and vice versa, seems to be just another bit of human nasty disregard for those who are different from us but over who we have power.

Now to my question of the week.

Was the just concluded (for now, anyway), months-long Standing Rock Dakota Access pipeline protest a contemporary example of -- no pun intended -- literally lording it over Native American spiritual beliefs about the intrinsic sacredness of ancestral lands?

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Parade of 2016 yearenders: Religion News Service publishes its own 'best of' list

Parade of 2016 yearenders: Religion News Service publishes its own 'best of' list

The Religion News Service published its own yearender list -- kind of.

Rather than the top religion-beat news events of the year, apparently this 2016 "best of" collection featured the stories that the RNS staff considered their favorites, perhaps even focusing on stories that hit close to home for the writers.

Click here to read this whole feature, complete with the URLs to the stories themselves.

But here are some headlines and ledes to scan, as formatted by the non-profit news service and its team. The result is kind of an eclectic list of sidebars and features, offering commentary on the year and a few major events.

The best news story in the set? Check out the feature by veteran Adelle Banks on efforts to encourage "end of life" conversations among clergy and members of religious congregations. 

And back to the list: 

After 40 years of women rabbis, a Q&A with the first
By Lauren Markoe | December 8, 2016
(RNS) A self-described private person, Sally Priesand didn’t want to be a pioneer. She just wanted to be a rabbi.
Meet the soft-spoken US-born rabbi challenging Israel’s religious establishment
By Michele Chabin | November 30, 2016
JERUSALEM (RNS) The Modern Orthodox rabbi founded ITIM, an organization that helps converts and others navigate the religious establishment’s legendary bureaucracy.

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A classic Paul Simon song for scribes to hum when covering religious freedom issues

A classic Paul Simon song for scribes to hum when covering religious freedom issues

"Still a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest."  

Paul Simon included that line in his emotionally moving song, "The Boxer." The words have long rung true for me.

These days, I find them particularly relevant when thinking about religious freedom issues -- both domestic and international -- and much of what journalists write about them.

Which is to say that too often, respect for religious freedom comes down to whose ox is being gored.

On the domestic front, Simon's words spring to mind when reading many of the stories written about the successful -- for the moment, at least -- Standing Rock Sioux protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

His words also seem blindingly appropriate when considering these two international stories, one from Indonesia and one from China's ethnic Tibetan region, both published by The New York Times.

Please read both stories to better understand this post and to keep me from having to stuff this column with critical but wordy explanatory background -- as might have been necessary in the long-ago world of pre-links journalism. It's a new world. Make use of the links. The photos accompanying both stories alone are worth your time.

Click here for the Indonesia story. And click here for the China story.

Notice how sympathetic both stories are toward the religious and social views of the indigenous tribe, in the Indonesian case, and toward Tibetan Buddhism, in the China story.

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Drama at Standing Rock: The conflict intensifies but the sacred goes unexplained

Drama at Standing Rock: The conflict intensifies but the sacred goes unexplained

Now that the Army Corps of Engineers have ordered the protestors at Standing Rock to leave by Dec. 5, expect to see a lot of people - including posses of veterans -- pour into this desolate area in central North Dakota in the next week. These protestors aren’t going to go quietly into the night. 

So this could get real interesting news-wise. On Black Friday, the Washington Post came out with a short history of why the Sioux and other tribes are so upset. However, the writer, who is a revered reporter well known for his work, did not mention a huge factor in this struggle.

See if you can guess what it is.

In the Dakota language, the word “oahe” signifies “a place to stand on.”
And that’s what the Standing Rock Sioux and its allies in the environmental and activist movements say they are doing: using Lake Oahe in North Dakota as a place to take a stand by setting up camps and obstructing roads to block the controversial $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline.
Their confrontations with police — who have responded with water cannons, pepper spray and rubber bullets — have steered attention to the 1,170-mile-long oil pipeline project and its owner, Energy Transfer Partners. But the real source of Native Americans’ grievance stretches back more than a century, to the original government incursions on their tribal lands. And those earlier disputes over their rights to the land, like the one over the Dakota Access pipeline, pitted the tribes against a persistent force, the Army Corps of Engineers.
The federal government has been taking land from Lakota and Dakota people for 150 years, tribal leaders say, from the seizure of land in the Black Hills of South Dakota after the discovery of gold in the 1870s to the construction of dams in the Missouri River that flooded villages, timberland and farmland in the Dakotas in the 1950s.

The reporter goes into that history for quite a few paragraphs, to which I want to add a bit of historical context.

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Prayer or protest: Spirituality in events unfolding at Standing Rock 'prayer camp'

Prayer or protest: Spirituality in events unfolding at Standing Rock 'prayer camp'

I’ve been semi-following the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota this past month, but as far as I knew, it had little to do with religion.

Until now, as I just discovered a piece by a DC-based writer about “the growing indigenous spiritual movement that could save the planet.”

Well, I figured I had to read that. It’s from ThinkProgress, a 11-year-old “news site dedicated to providing our readers with rigorous reporting and analysis from a progressive perspective” (their words). It’s funded by the Center for American Progress, an advocacy group founded by John Podesta, chief of staff for former President Bill Clinton.

I don’t usually critique pieces produced by advocacy organizations on either side of the aisle, but, other than a commendable Sept. 16 RNS piece, I’ve seen very little on the spirituality aspect of these North Dakota protests. So let's look at this. ThinkProgress reports:

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.
Masses of indigenous people and their allies descended on camps along Cannonball River this year to decry the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, a series of 30-inch diameter underground pipes that, if built, would stretch 1,172 miles and carry half a million barrels of crude oil per day  --  right through lands Native groups call sacred.
“We are not here to be anything but peaceful, but we are here,” Case told ThinkProgress, describing the moment she linked arms with fellow demonstrators and stared down rows of police in Bismarck. “We will stand here in our tribal names in respect and honor.”
But while media attention has focused on the massive, sometimes heated demonstrations -- which include several alleged instances of brutality and dog attacks -- there has been less attention paid to how the protest is recharging the lager climate movement, not to mention the peculiar nature of the participants. Case, for instance, traveled quite a long way to the Peace Garden State: she is from the sunny shores of Hawaii, not rugged North Dakota, and she claims a Native Hawaiian identity, not a Native American one. And she wasn’t there just to protest; the sacredness of the land is especially important to her, so she was also there to pray.
“Standing Rock is a prayer camp,” she said. “It is where prayers are done.”

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