Pope Francis said Wednesday that he believes indigenous people must be notified and give consent prior to economic activities affecting native, ancestral lands.
His view conflicts with America’s President Trump, who is currently pushing for the construction of an oil pipeline worth $3.8 billion despite opposition from activist groups and American Indians.
Francis had a meeting with indigenous group representatives who attended a United Nations agricultural meeting, and has stated that they most important issue they currently face is reconciling the right for control of economic development when regarding the protection of their territories and cultures.
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“In this regard, the right to prior and informed consent should always prevail,” the Pope said. “Only then is it possible to guarantee peaceful cooperation between governing authorities and indigenous peoples, overcoming confrontation and conflict.”
Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River tribes both have sued in order to prevent construction on the last portion of the pipeline, which intends to transfer oil from North Dakota across states and into Illinois.
Tribes say that the pipeline is a threat to the drinking water in the area, their cultural sites, and prevents them from properly practicing their religious traditions, which depends on the water being pure.
The final piece of North Dakota’s pipeline is meant to pass underneath a Missouri River reservoir, directly on the border of both tribes’ reservations.
The Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners company insists the pipeline will not harm the water supply to the region.
Although the Pope did not cite the pipeline directly by name, the Vatican’s head has consistently backed native and indigenous rights, often speaking about American Indians’ history and societal battles.
“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 said to indigenous leaders on Wednesday.