ANTHONY MORETTI (Ohio University) is the director of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Directed Engaged
Learning at Robert Morris University, where he also is an associate professor in the Department of Communication. He earned
his Ph.D. in communication from the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio, his master’s in journalism at The Ohio State
University, and his bachelor’s in sports information from the University of Southern California.
A SACRED BOND
As Americans prepared to feast on
Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, and all
the fixings, protesters in North Dakota
were refusing to back down even after
being treated to rubber bullets, mace,
and water cannons.
Police used those items as they
sought to prevent protesters from
breaking through a blockade near
the location of a proposed pipeline.
According to The Washington Post,
seventeen people were taken to
hospitals with injuries.
That treatment reminded all of us of
the powerful connection some people
feel to the Earth.
The protesters — some Native
American but many not — were in
North Dakota hoping to stop the
construction of a pipeline which would
stretch about 1,200 miles and carry
crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois.
It is projected to cost close to $4 billion.
In late January, President Donald Trump
signed an executive order supporting the
pipeline and, despite an earlier win that
stopped construction, it appeared the
pipeline was on again.
But the tension in late 2016 had as
much to do with the past as the future.
The tribe remained steadfast that the
original Dakota Access Pipeline plans
should not be followed because of
possible water contamination. But for
the tribe, the issue went much deeper.
As The Atlantic described it, the tribe
feared that “the pipeline will pass through and likely destroy Native burial sites and
I use what has happened in North Dakota to illustrate that the Earth is not only
something we can touch or see, but also a place we consider sacred. We bury the
remains of our forebears in it as we also hope their spirits go to be with God.
Consider what three of the world’s most recognized religions tell us about the
Earth as sacred land.
In the Bible, Romans 6: 4 says that “We were indeed buried with him through
baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of
the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”
The Koran 80: 19-22 states that “Out of a drop of sperm He creates him, and
thereupon determines his nature, and then makes it easy for him to go through life;
and in the end He causes him to die and brings him to the grave; and then, if it be
His will, He shall raise him again to life.”
In the Torah, at Genesis 15: 15, the Lord tells Abram: “But you will come to your
forefathers in peace; you will be buried in a good old age.” Soon, God makes his
covenant with Abram, who is told to change his name to Abraham. In Genesis 25:7-
81, we learn:
“And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life that he lived: one hundred
years and seventy years and five years. And Abraham expired and died in a good old
age, old and satisfied, and he was gathered to his people.”
A common refrain, especially in the annual lead-up to Earth Day, is the need
for us to be stewards of the Earth and to ensure that subsequent generations can
enjoy its beauty and resources. But events in North Dakota remind us that the past,
contained within the Earth, also demands care and attention.