Canada | Environment | National

Tyee: Indigenous people sound alarms on Keystone XL Pipeline

"In mid-September this year, as sharp winds howled across the Great Plains, indigenous leaders from either side of the U.S.-Canada border held an "emergency meeting" in the basement of a South Dakota casino. They came from all over -- one flew in from Canada's frigid Great Bear Lake near the Arctic Circle, a husband and wife drove east on Highway 18 from their reservation, and several more drove west, on Interstate Highway 90.

The casino itself (official slogan: A little bit of Vegas on the prairie) is not much to look at. The low building sits by itself on the prairie near the southern edge of the Rosebud Indian Reservation, almost straddling the border between Nebraska and South Dakota. For two days, the indigenous delegates -- men and women, mostly middle-aged and older -- huddled downstairs, drinking coffee out of Styrofoam cups, and nibbling on salted peanuts and M&M candies.

How to radically alter the energy policy of the United States, they wondered, and keep a foreign company far away from their land? They prayed to their ancestors for guidance. They took smoke breaks under an enormous grey sky.

After two days, they drafted a Mother Earth accord that they hope will galvanize indigenous opposition to the most contentious infrastructure proposal in North America: a privately-built, 1,661-mile-long oil pipeline set to carry crude from Alberta's oil sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Some say they're fighting for the safety of their peoples -- and others, to redress generations of conflict, poverty, and injustice. "Our ancestors protected the land when they were alive," Rosebud Tribal Chief John Spotted Tail said at the meeting. "Our belief is that we need to do the same.""

Get the Story:
On Both Sides of Border, Indigenous Groups Oppose Keystone (The Tyee 10/5)

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