Activist training commenced with a ceremonial drum song. Photo courtesy/ Moccasins on the Ground.
Native American adversaries of Keystone XL Pipeline train cadre to resist
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor Manderson – Leading up to a national Week of Action against TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, its adversaries on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation held a weekend activist training session March 8-9, called Moccasins on the Ground. “This training is a message to Obama and TransCanada that if they try to build KXL we’ll be here to meet them with our moccasins on the ground,” said Oglala Lakota Debra White Plume, founder of the local non-profit Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way). The Calgary, Alberta-based TransCanada Corp. is making its third application to the State Department since 2008 for a Presidential Permit to connect the Alberta tar-sands mines in Canada with the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico via the proposed $7-billion pipeline investment on a 1,700-mile route through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Heavily lobbied by proponents of the development, including none other than Canadian President Steven Harper, members of the U.S. Congress and factions of organized labor, President Barack Obama has approved State Department denial of the permit twice -- to the delight of constituents in the agricultural, environmental and indigenous camps. The Week of Action, scheduled for March 16-23, is the most recent of protests organized over the years by the Tar Sands Blockade members in an effort to halt the tar-sands mining and associated pipelines. Many of the protests are part of the movement to curb global warming and protect water for public health and safety. Native Americans also claim the proposed pipeline violates guarantees of sovereignty and self-determination. Endorsing the upcoming events are: 350.org, Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, Center for Biological Diversity, Climate First!, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Dallas MoveOn Council, Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT), EcoJive, Energía Mia, Fast for the Earth, Gathering Tribes, Global Exchange, Global Warming Education Network, Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, Greenpeace USA, Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Guelph Anti-Pipeline Action Group (GAP Action), Indigenous Environmental Network, Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, New Hampshire Progressive Democrats, Occupy Denver, Occupy the Pipeline, @OccupyWallStNYC, Occupy Washington, DC, Peaceful Uprising, Protect Our Manoomin, Rainforest Action Network, Rising Tide North America, Rising Tide Vermont, The Ruckus Society, Sane Energy Project, Serenity Senior and Veterans Center, Southwest Workers Union, Students for a Just and Stable Future, Street School Collective, Tar Sands Action Southern California, Utah Tar Sands Resistance, VINE Sanctuary, and WilderUtopia. “For TransCanada, ‘business as usual’ means death and destruction for our communities. Together we can stop this multinational corporate bully and their toxic profiteers,” the organizers state. They invite people to “show up at [TransCanada Corp.’s] offices, public events, and extraction sites to demonstrate that we won’t stop until they do.” White Plume, who has attended civil disobedience actions against the tar-sands mining and pipelines from Washington, D.C. to Colorado and at home on the reservation, invited participants to the activist training, saying the pipeline, “will pierce through our treaty territory, or, if you go by American records, parts of the Great Sioux Reservation. It will cross hundreds of rivers, streams, creeks, and it will be over our Ogallala Aquifer, which spans eight states,” she said in a written statement. “This aquifer is also our source of drinking water for portions of the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Cheyenne River Eagle Butte Reservation, and Rosebud Reservation,” which are remnants of the Great Sioux Reservation still officially recognized in the wake of treaty violations,” she said, adding: “We do have the right to protect our sacred water for our children and grandchildren. It is their water.” On TransCanada Corp.’s Internet website, the company refutes the treaty claim: “In fact, the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline does not cross any Native American reservations,” it says. “We acknowledge that TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline does cross through historic tribal territories, as do many other infrastructure projects in the United States, however, TransCanada works closely with tribal communities to address any concerns or issues that may arise through the planning, construction and operations of our planned project infrastructure,” it adds. “During the planning phase of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, TransCanada worked directly with tribal communities along the route,” it notes. “Tribal monitors were engaged to work with survey crews to assist in conducting cultural impact assessments which included mitigation of potential impacts to present and historic culturally significant areas.” The State Department released a supplemental draft environmental impact statement (SEIS) March 6 on TransCanada Corp.’s third application for a Presidential Permit, with the preliminary conclusion that there would be “no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed project route” if the company and its contractors obey the hundreds of caveats stipulated by regulatory agencies. In response, Indigenous Environmental Network Executive Director Tom Goldtooth charged that the document “has not adequately reported the environmental, social, and cultural impacts from the framework of an environmental justice analysis.” In a written statement, Goldtooth noted, “Despite what the draft SEIS reports, it is the opinion of many tribal cultural experts that a large percent of the pipeline corridor remains unexamined and may potentially contain important and critical cultural resources that would be disturbed in the construction of the KXL pipeline.” He also said, “The Obama administration could be making a decision that will directly affect the health and future of the Dene, Cree and Metis’ First Nations people,” who live in the tar-sands mining area 500 miles from the North Dakota border with Canada. TransCanada promised it will “continue to work with all aboriginal and Native American tribes to ensure they are aware of our proposed projects as well as valuing the contribution from all stakeholders to the success of our business and communities. “Our four core values of integrity, collaboration, responsibility and innovation are at the heart of our commitment to engaging with Native Americans,” it stressed. White Plume countered that TransCanada is a “fat-taker corporation”. She said: “Ask the non-Indian American ranchers and farmers from Montana to Texas. They lost their lands to eminent domain for TransCanada. They are the new Indians of today; the federal government is helping Fat Taker to take their lands now, against their wishes.” TransCanada built a similar Keystone I Pipeline for tar-sands through the Great Plains states, experiencing 14 toxic spills on the route in the first year of operation, 2010-2011. The Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska, and the Yankton Sioux Tribe, with a total 46,000 members, failed to prevent that first pipeline with their federal lawsuit alleging violations of treaty obligations and failure to protect cultural resources. TransCanada’s current proposal calls for a route through Harding, Perkins, Meade, Haakon, Jones, Lyman and Tripp counties in South Dakota, skirting Cheyenne River and Rosebud reservations. Tribal representatives at the Gathering to Protect the Sacred in Pickstown on January 25, celebrated the 150th anniversary of the treaty between the Pawnee and Yankton Sioux with another agreement: the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands Projects. It comes on the heels of the Mother Earth Accord, signed by tribal representatives and allies in opposition to the pipelines, sealed and delivered to Obama in 2012. “Our red nations have all opposed the KXL pipeline and called upon Lakota to defend the water,” said White Plume. However, she added, “Say our tribe meets with the American entities of EPA, BLM, etc. and we voice, ‘No, don’t come through here.’ The entities will say, ‘But we have the right to come through there; it does not violate any law.” What’s next? The training session for non-violent direct action attracted dozens of local and out-of-state youth for capacity building in traditional teachings, media outreach, civil disobedience, emergency medical attention and security. The event opened with a ceremonial drum song containing lyrics that translate roughly to “Grandfather, watch over us as protectors of Mother Earth.” Speaker Vic Camp told participants: “Water is the first medicine. It doesn’t matter what color you are. You need water to survive. This is about protecting our sacred water.” Ramsey Sprague of the Tar Sands Blockade spoke, saying, ““This is a death pipeline: cultural death for our people.” However, a young participant responded, “This will not be ‘game over’ because we will not allow this pipeline to go through Lakota territory.” Indigenous Environmental Network representative Kandi Mossett demonstrated direct action techniques. Contact Talli Nauman at firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright permission by Native Sun News
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