The latest wave of activism surrounding the pipeline has brought a diverse range of groups together, including representatives from religious communities such as the United Methodist Church and the Nation of Islam, who have visited the camps or spoken out against the pipeline project. Many activists have framed the issue as an environmental issue, but some observers highlight the importance of Native Americans and how they understand their religion and the land.
Religion to many Native tribes is very land-based, said Stephen Pevar, an attorney for the ACLU and has specialized in Indian and tribal rights cases. Many Americans move several times throughout their lifetime, making it difficult for some to understand how crucial land is to Native spirituality, he said. Native Americans have a bond to the land and nearly every tribe has its own sacred lands.