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Native Sun News: Harvest the Hope concert unites Keystone foes

The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

Pictured (from L to R): Russell Eagle Bear, Sicangu, President “Whitey” Scott (Rosebud Nation), Willie Nelson, Neil Young, President Bryan Brewer (Oglala Nation), Mekasi Camp (Ponca Nation). Willie Nelson and Neil Young were honored by the Rosebud, Oglala, Ponca and Omaha Nations for their dedication to family farmers, ranchers and Native families. The buffalo hide was hand-painted by artist Steve Tamayo and volunteers called "Pipeline Fighters" with symbols to tell the story of people killing the black snake which in tribal prophecy is believed to be the Keystone XL pipeline, a threat to land and water. Photo from Bold Nebraska / Facebook

Willie and the XL Pipeline
By Karin Eagle
Native Sun News Staff Writer

NELIGH, Neb. — Cowboys and Indians; West coast and East Coast; brown and white; rich and poor; 8,000 people gathered on a farm owned by Art and Helen Tanderup in solidarity. The message that came from that unified voice was “No XL Pipeline."

With the weather warm and welcoming thousands of people converged on the open cornfield of the Tanderup family farm just north of Neligh, Nebraska. Headlined by Neil Young and Willie Nelson, both artists known for their activism on behalf of the small family farmers, the Harvest for Hope concert was, by all accounts a success.

The Oyate Wahacanka Woecun (Shield the People) is a coalition of Lakota men and women who are committed to setting up a traditional camp right on the pipeline’s proposed route. Calling the pipeline a “planetary game changer” the groups seeks a more spiritually guided plan of action against the pipeline.

A Lakota prophecy is being recalled that talks about a black snake that would invade the land and bring destruction; the Sicangu Wicoti Iyuksan, a spirit camp currently standing on the Rosebud reservation, serves as a tangible as well as unified symbol of the resistance of the pipeline by the tribes it stands to affect.

Both Young and Nelson spoke eloquently about the need for Nebraska to honor the beautiful Nebraska farms and ranches, and to protect the waters and traditional lands from the real threat to the farms that comes from the oil industry.

“Sicangu Wicoti Iyuksan stands on treaty land and we the people, the Oyate Wahacanka Woecun, fear nothing except the failure to bring this understanding to our global family,” said the group,” Please do not idly stand by and allow our nation’s land to be polluted and our water to become undrinkable.”

The proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline threat is set to hit Nebraska livelihoods with the dangers of both oil spills and climate change. This concert comes at a time when the fight against tar sands is gaining momentum and showing real results on the ground with postponement and cancellation of tar sands projects.

Currently Congress is pushing for approval of Keystone XL over the head of the president even before a route has been legally identified in Nebraska. Last week 400,000 strong climate protesters marched in New York City, making it clear that people are joining forces across the country to defend their land, water and climate.

"We've been trying to figure out what to do with the farmers and their situations for 29 years and for 29 years, the corporations have tried to take the land away from the farmers," Nelson.

When Neil Young joined Willie Nelson on stage and they sang “I went out walking, in the beautiful Sandhills... this land is made for you and me. Let’s walk together and raise our voices, we’re gonna stand together for the world to see.”

“For our grandchildren’s survival we must begin to live differently,” said Young.”The Keystone XL pipeline is a large step in the wrong direction for the health of the earth. America must lead the world again and stop the Keystone XL.”

Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer was present at the concert with a large contingency of Oglala Lakota members. Cyril “Whitey” Scott, Rosebud Sioux Tribe chairman and many of his fellow tribal members were also present. Both Brewer and Scott were invited onstage by Dallas Goldtooth, who served as a co-emcee of sorts, to speak on behalf of their tribe and to offer encouragement and support for the protest.

Frank Waln, Sicangu, was the only hip-hop artist on the bill, but was powerful in his performance. Waln has been a huge opponent of the pipeline, using his platform as a means to help promote the message of demonstration against the pipeline among the younger generations.

The devastation of the tar sands oil is witnessed in Canada’s Boreal forest and on the traditional lands of the First Nation’s tribes. Strip-mined or heated out, the tar sands oil would be carried across the interior region of the United States by the Keystone XL Pipeline, cutting through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and on down to through Texas to the Gulf of Mexico.

The farms and ranches along the proposed route, which again has not been made official, and the great Ogallala Aquifer are all considered at risk; a risk that, according to protestors of the pipeline, sees all the reward going to the big multi-national oil companies and the Canadian pipeline company TransCanada.

Art and Helen Tanderup invited the group Bold Nebraska onto the farm that their family has stewarded for 100 years. Art’s corn towered above my head, but he spoke about how the changing climate has already affected other crops like soybeans and he is concerned for the future of his farm.

The organizers of the event including Bold Nebraska were the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Cowboy and Indian Alliance. The Cowboy and Indian Alliance is a group of ranchers, farmers and tribal communities from along the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline route.

TransCanada, the Canadian pipeline company that has been pushing this project on landowners, responded to the project with tired arguments about the relative safety of pipelines versus rail. The bottom-line is that both pipelines and rail are not considered safe by the protesting groups when it comes to tar sands oil.

Despite many arguments that the development of the tar sands as being inevitable the groups maintain the truth of the matter is that companies are finding tar sands risky and expensive while communities are saying “no” to tar sands pipelines.

The Norwegian oil company Statoil just shelved one of their in situ tar sands drilling projects for at least three years due to a lack of pipeline. Since Neil Young launched the Honour the Treaties concert tour in Canada to help fight tar sands expansion, three major tar sands projects have been cancelled or postponed.

One of the arguments for the pipeline is that it would create job opportunities by the thousands along the pipeline’s path. Opponents argue that the real jobs that bring long term, sustainable employment are at stake; jobs on the many farms and ranches. More than a quarter million jobs in the Great Plains states that the pipeline would cross would be at risk if farms were to close down or move.

In a statement issued by Bold Nebraska, the message is clear, “The outpouring of opposition in Nebraska serves as a reminder to our nation’s leaders that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline still has no route through the state.”

“Lawmakers in Washington DC should not try to take the decision away from the president and force Keystone XL on Nebraska’s farmers, ranchers, landowners and indigenous communities,” Bold Nebraska continues,” And President Obama has an opportunity to do the right thing and listen to the people in Nebraska.”

Neil Young ended with his new song. He sang, “Who’s gonna stand up?” with the crowd, seven thousand strong, answering back, “WE ARE.”

"Look in to Europe, where Germany exists; where Germany has the same sun and the same field of plants that we have and they are 50 percent renewable today, 50 percent, and America is less than 2 percent,” Young said.

Following the last song performed by Young, and the Young Nelson’s, the crowd was welcomed to join the Tanderup’s at a point on their farm that was also cleared of their corn crop to show an exact point of the proposed pipeline as it would cross over their farm. Several acres of their crop were sacrificed for the purpose of the event; a sacrifice that Art Tanderup said he was honored to make.

When at the location of the marked pathway, a human chain was created along the quarter mile swath that was cleared. Four rows of humans, of all races and stations in life, from all corners of the United States and beyond, held hands in solidarity. One young Lakota man of the Oglala band of Lakota’s stepped forward and symbolically attacked the pathway, “counting coup” on the pipeline.

Further north of the farm was a large three to four acre crop art formation that features a Cowboy and an “Indian”. The two are joined in a symbol of solidarity with the words “No XL Pipeline”, created by a team of artists who volunteered their time and effort earlier in the year.

While the future of the pipeline isn't certain at this point, the concert's performers and landowners are confident more people are now aware of how they feel.

For more information about Bold Nebraska visit the website

More information about the spirit camp Sicangu Wicoti Iyuskan can be found at

A teepee from the Cowboy and Indian Alliance at the Harvest the Hope concert. Photo from Bold Nebraska / Facebook

(Contact Karin Eagle at Copyright permission Native Sun News

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