Pope Francis criticized President Donald Trump for his handling of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Trump recently ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to approve the final permit for the DAPL to be installed under sacred Sioux land, destroying the surrounding environment and drinking water. The $3.8 billion oil pipeline has been the subject of widespread protests from Native Americans and non-Natives alike.
On Feb. 15, Francis met with aboriginal groups at a U.N. agricultural meeting and stated that indigenous peoples should be given prior approval to any economic action that disturb their ancestral lands, reports The Washington Post.
"In this regard, the right to prior and informed consent should always prevail," said Francis. "Only then is it possible to guarantee peaceful cooperation between governing authorities and indigenous peoples, overcoming confrontation and conflict."
The Cheyenne River and the Standing Rock Sioux tribes are embroiled in litigation to halt the construction on the final stretch of the DAPL, which is expected to transport oil from North Dakota to four other states. The tribespeople say the DAPL will taint their drinking water, affecting their culture and their ability to practice their religion, which places an emphasis on clean water.
"For governments, this means recognizing that indigenous communities are a part of the population to be appreciated and consulted, and whose full participation should be promoted at the local and national level," Francis told the aboriginal leaders.
Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, who are in charge of the pipeline, assert that the water supply will be safe, according to Daily Mail. In the last days of the Obama administration, the DAPL was temporarily halted so that an environmental study could be done. But as soon as Trump took office, his administration reversed the act and ordered for the pipeline to continue.
The pope's full statement to the indigenous people's forum reads:
I am pleased to welcome you at the conclusion of the third Indigenous Peoples' Forum convened by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, which this year is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of its foundation.
You have come together to identify ways of giving greater economic empowerment to indigenous peoples. I believe that the central issue is how to reconcile the right to development, both social and cultural, with the protection of the particular characteristics of indigenous peoples and their territories.
This is especially clear when planning economic activities which may interfere with indigenous cultures and their ancestral relationship to the earth. In this regard, the right to prior and informed consent should always prevail, as foreseen in Article 32 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Only then is it possible to guarantee peaceful cooperation between governing authorities and indigenous peoples, overcoming confrontation and conflict.
A second aspect concerns the development of guidelines and projects which take into account indigenous identity, with particular attention to young people and women; not only considering them, but including them. For governments this means recognizing that indigenous communities are a part of the population to be appreciated and consulted, and whose full participation should be promoted at the local and national level.
IFAD can contribute effectively to this needed road map through its funding and expertise, keeping in mind that 'a technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress' (Encyclical Letter Laudato Si', 194).
And you, in your traditions, in your culture – because what you bring to history is culture – live progress with a special care for the mother earth. In this moment, in which humanity is committing a grave sin in not caring for the earth, I urge you to continue to bear witness to this; and do not allow new technologies – which are legitimate and good – but do not allow those which destroy the earth, which destroy the environment and the ecological balance, and which end up destroying the wisdom of peoples.
I offer you heartfelt thanks for your presence, and I ask the Almighty to bless your communities and to enlighten the work of all those responsible for governing IFAD.