The importance of respecting and protecting our water, not only for our lives today, but for all life that may follow us, was lifted up and celebrated during this three-day summit held November 16–18, 2017, near Minneapolis, MN. Attendees came from across the U.S. and included Native American leaders and water walkers, environmental scientists, and activists from all walks of life. Many United Methodist Women, NCJ Bishops, and representatives from UM boards and agencies who advocate strongly for clean water issues participated. The event was sponsored by NCJ Committee on Native American Ministries, and held in the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Speakers provided a melding of messages from Native American, environmental science, and UMC perspectives. Scriptures that lay a foundation for stewardship, sustainability, and advocacy were shared. Discussions included the crisis at Standing Rock, the continuing struggles for drinkable water in Flint, MI, and the Great Pacific garbage/plastic patches. Success stories were also conveyed, including the impressive healing work done at Emiquon – a portion of the Illinois River watershed – by the Nature Conservancy in partnership with many supporting groups. References were made to the philosophies and works of Wendell Berry, Walter Brueggemann, and to the Social Principals and Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church in regard to protecting water and water justice.

The summit also included workshops, worship services, and sacred ceremonies. Randy and Edith Woodley offered a presentation on Sacred Land, Sacred Seeds, about the shortage of open-pollinated seeds and the potential dangers of genetically modified seeds.

The essential relationship between the land, the water, and the people – how the “veins” of rivers and tributaries are the “lifeblood” of Turtle Island and how they relate to our personal health – was shared by Lionel Little Eagle Pinn. He also led early-morning traditional Native Prayer Ceremonies and sang the closing Honor Song.

Lionel Pinn closed with this action statement: “Our job is to act boldly – to bring harmony back, to seek balance, to end exploitation. To accomplish this, we need to work alongside those whose lives are most impacted.”

Submitted by Becky Halstead