About 60 people form a circle at the mouth of the Elwha River, say prayers and sing songs to show solidarity Thursday with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its efforts to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing the Missouri River. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

About 60 people form a circle at the mouth of the Elwha River, say prayers and sing songs to show solidarity Thursday with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its efforts to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing the Missouri River. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Group gathers at Elwha River for pipeline protest

PORT ANGELES — Prayers and songs rang out over the mouth of the Elwha River on Thursday as a group of about 60 people gathered to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in its fight to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing the Missouri River at North Dakota’s eastern border.

Several members of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe joined the group of people from various faiths in a gathering organized by the Rev. Gail Wheatley of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Port Angeles to stand against Energy Transfer’s $3.7 billion pipeline, which would move 470,000 barrels of domestic crude oil per day from North Dakota’s Bakken region through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois.

“We are here to stand unified with our surrounding community and the other nations out there because it pertains to everybody,” said Frances Charles, chairwoman of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, who visited the Standing Rock reservation in August.

“It is horrifying to see and hear what is taking place over there at Standing Rock, because when I was there, it was peaceful activities and events and an educational process of trying to share their concerns.”

Law enforcement in North Dakota used pepper spray and tear gas against protesters Wednesday as they waded in water to reach government land where the pipeline is to be built, USA Today reported.

Among those pepper-sprayed Tuesday was a Lower Elwha Klallam tribal member who is in North Dakota protesting, Charles said.

Charles compared the pipeline protest to experiences of the Lower Elwha Klallam.

“We have gone through and continue to go through similar situations … with our homelands, with our territories, with our sacred grounds, with the Tse-wit-zen village site, with the dam removal and water of the river and protection of bringing back the salmon and natural resources, the environment, the concerns with the climate change,” she said.

As the 60 people at the Elwha River stood in a circle and prayed, Sheryl Charging Whirlwind went around the group, smudging everyone with sage smoke and an eagle feather.

She said she was praying for protection and to thank the Creator for everyone who showed up at the river in honor of protecting the water.

Wheatley said seeing Charging Whirlwind smudge those who attended made the event complete.

“When the smudging came around, I think all our hearts were overflowing,” she said. “It would have been less powerful for us to stand without [the tribe].”

Several tribal members who attended sang a traditional song called the “Help Song” to show their support for Standing Rock.

Several who attended said a prayer or poem, or sang a song. As the gathering came to an end, Wheatley urged those representing a faith or group of people to use cedar branches dipped in the Elwha River to bless those who had attended.

The Thursday gathering was organized in response to a call issued by the Rev. John Floberg, supervising priest of two Episcopal congregations on the Standing Rock Reservation, to stand at the Missouri River, Wheatley said.

“When we heard about this call from Rev. John Floberg at Standing Rock to come together there, and we knew we could not do that, we decided why can’t we do something here,” she said. “We have this wonderful river that has been given back to the Earth.”

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

Frances Charles, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe chairwoman, holds a flag for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as she listens to tribal members sing the Help Song in support of the Standing Rock Sioux at a gathering at the mouth of the Elwha River on Thursday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Frances Charles, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe chairwoman, holds a flag for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as she listens to tribal members sing the Help Song in support of the Standing Rock Sioux at a gathering at the mouth of the Elwha River on Thursday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

The Rev. Gail Wheatley of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church uses a cedar branch dipped in the mouth of the Elwha River to bless those who attended an event to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Thursday. Wheatley organized the event. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

The Rev. Gail Wheatley of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church uses a cedar branch dipped in the mouth of the Elwha River to bless those who attended an event to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Thursday. Wheatley organized the event. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Sheryl Charging Whirlwind of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe prays as she uses sage and an eagle feather to smudge the 60-some people who gathered at the mouth of the Elwha River to show support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Thursday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Sheryl Charging Whirlwind of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe prays as she uses sage and an eagle feather to smudge the 60-some people who gathered at the mouth of the Elwha River to show support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Thursday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe sing the Help Song on Thursday to show support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its efforts to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing the Missouri River. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News) ​

Members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe sing the Help Song on Thursday to show support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its efforts to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing the Missouri River. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News) ​

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