Pope Francis Says Native People Have Rights Over Their Lands

Pope Francis insisted last month  that indigenous groups must give prior consent to any economic activity affecting their ancestral lands, a view that conflicts with the Trump administration, which is pushing to build a $3.8 billion oil pipeline over opposition from American Indians.

Francis met with representatives of indigenous peoples attending a U.N. agricultural meeting and said the key issue facing them is how to reconcile the right to economic development with protecting their cultures and territories.

The Cheyenne River and the Standing Rock Sioux tribes have sued to stop construction on the final stretch of the Dakota Access pipeline, which would bring oil from North Dakota’s rich Bakken fields across four states to a shipping point in Illinois.

The tribes say the pipeline threatens their drinking water, cultural sites and ability to practice their religion, which depends on pure water. The last piece of the pipeline is to pass under a reservoir on the Missouri River, which marks the eastern border of both tribes’ reservations.

U.S. President Donald Trump reversed course and last month instructed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with building the pipeline.

Francis’ strong backing for indigenous groups and refugees, his climate change concerns and criticism of the global economy’s profit-at-all-cost mentality highlight the policy differences with the Trump administration that may come out if the U.S. president meets with Francis while in Italy for a G-7 summit in May. There has been no confirmation of any meeting to date, however.

El papa Francisco insistió el miércoles en que los pueblos indígenas deben dar su consentimiento antes de cualquier actividad económica en sus tierras ancestrales, una crítica indirecta a los intentos del gobierno de Donald Trump por avanzar en la construcción de un oleoducto valorado en 3.800 millones de dólares pese a la oposición de los indios estadounidenses.

Francisco se reunió con representantes de pueblos indígenas que asisten a una cumbre agrícola en Roma. El principal problema que afrontan, señaló, es cómo conciliar el derecho al desarrollo con la protección de sus culturas y territorios.

“El derecho al consentimiento previo e informado”, afirmó, debe prevalecer siempre, y especialmente “al planificar actividades económicas que podrían interferir con las culturas indígenas y su relación ancestral con la Tierra”.

Las tribus sioux de Standing Rock y del Río Cheyenne han presentado demandas para detener el proyecto Dakota Access