Keystone XL: Native Americans outraged

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After President Obama endorsed a southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline on Mar. 22 (which would carry oil from Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas), Native American activists in Okalahoma expressed outrage at the news. They claim it will affect sacred grounds and artifacts in Texas, as well as be a threat to the environment.

Obama discussed the pipeline during a speech in Cushing, Okla.; the Native Americans were forced by local authorities to hold their protest in a caged enclosure erected in Memorial Park, rather than at the speech itself.

The protesters were insulted at this move to put distance between the President and their demonstration, which they felt was an attack on their freedom of speech, according to the Global Justice Ecology Project.

"A lot of tribal councils and Indian businesses struggle to find a balance between economic resources and our inherited responsibilites for the Earth," said Native American actor and activist Richard Ray Whitman. The question to keep in mind, he added, is, "How will the decisions we make now affect coming generations?"

Marty Cobenais, of the Indigenous Environmental Network, felt that Obama's fast-tracking of "a project that will desecrate known sacred sites and artifacts is a real disappointment and betrayal.

"Tar sands is devastating First Nation communities in Canada already and now they want to bring that environmental, health, and social devastation to U.S. tribes."

In backing the revised plan for Keystone XL, Obama sided with TransCanada executives, said Common Dreams. A major concern of activists is that the designated path for the pipeline will intrude upon areas of land important to indigenous people, and affect them - and the land itself - negatively.

Many "Natives in Canada live downstream from toxic tar sands mines," said activist Earl Hatley, "and they are experiencing spikes in colon, liver, blood, and bile-duct cancers, which the Canadian government and oil companies simply ignore. And now they want to pipe these tar sands through the heart of Indian country, bulldozing gravesites and ripping out our heritage."

To back up such a statement, they point to studies conducted by the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey, which found 88 archaeological sites and 34 historic structures that Keystone XL put at risk. TransCanada was asked to reroute only around a small portion of these, however - leaving the rest (93 sites) to be potentially decimated.

Though the protesters have asked for a list of those sites - and to oversee operations that might threaten important grounds, neither request has been honored, or even acknowledged.

But the protesters pointed out that not only is this a terrible assault on their heritage, but also on nature: "The Ogallala Aquifier is not the only source of water in the area," Rosemary Crawford, Project Manager for the Center for Energy Matters, pointed out. "Tar sands pipelines have a terrible safety record, and leaks are inevitable."

"We can't stop global warming with more fossil fuel pipelines," she concluded. "The people who voted for this President did so believing he would help us address the global environmental catastrophe that our pollution is creating. He said he would free us from "the tyranny of oil." Today that campaign promise has been trampled."

Photo: Native Americans and First Nation leaders speak about concerns over the Keystone XL pipeline. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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  • Why Don't we appease both by rerouting the pipe around the areas? We get the pipeline and the natives get to keep their Sacred Grounds, I grew up around natives, and I know how much their culture means to them.

    Posted by Kyle, 03/26/2012 11:40pm (2 years ago)

  • Hopefully the anger and dissappointment subsides, concerning the normal political liberal versus conservative cherade , i want to say distraction. As native americans, surely you must know, we as a proud people, are always really never heard, we don't have lobbying efforts on our behalf, some of our tribal entitities aren't cohesive enough for stability, let alone all tribes coming together on core issues. Our perceptions of power, native versus non-native viewpoints, will always be skewed, and they will never understand us; nor would they want to, they think we are beneath them. My opinion = wooden nickel.

    Posted by Andrew Whiteshirt, 03/26/2012 9:02pm (2 years ago)

  • Obama wants to go ahead with Keystone Pipeline. You voted for Obama so why are you complaining? Sounds like people can't swallow that Obama lied and flip flopped on the Pipeline.

    Posted by salomon, 03/25/2012 10:42pm (2 years ago)

  • I would stand by the natives of the land to protest the building of this pipeline.

    Posted by Balazs Dibuz, 03/25/2012 10:13pm (2 years ago)

  • The U.S. Government only cares about the dollar. It cares not for people of any race heritage, or culture.

    Posted by Jack Adkins, 03/25/2012 10:04pm (2 years ago)

  • the president should be 100% ashamed of himself. we are apart of this country too and so is the little pieces of land we have managed to hold onto and keep from everyone else destroying. leave it be.

    Posted by Jenifer BlackElk, 03/25/2012 9:06pm (2 years ago)

  • It's sickening to me that the government continues to rape OUR land. When I say our I speak of everyones behalf for the earth itself is sacred and a gift for every soul inhabiting this planet, man and animal alike we share the same home, but some of us treat OUR home with hatred in the form of greed we cut into our mother and rob her of her very life force, we are slowly allowing others to succeed in destroying her for the ultimate evil in this land = money and its not your wallet nor mine that is fattening but theirs. The keystone pipeline has already happened. It is called the Ruby Pipeline, ancestral lands were destroyed and desecrated and they walked all over my people, insulted us by sending out "archaeologists" to discredit the remnants of a raped culture. I went out with my father and vice-chairman of my tribe to these lands before they destroyed them and I captured pieces in pictures to a sacred ground that I will never be able to show to my future children, I have yet to return after the fact because it nothing I wish to see anymore, I have only my memory to return to now. Time is but a cycle and this time I have my voice. I am no longer a friend to the disgraceful tyrants in charge of this country, they continue to decieve us while taking whatever they want and honestly expect us to continue allowing it? They are pushing hard and you are taking it, I will no longer do so, I will no longer pay taxes to fund a government that isn't working, I will no longer be silent for my voice is now full of passion, and Earth is my Passion. I speak for that which cannot, we need to wake up, nature is trying to do that for us yet we continue to sleep, so nature tries harder, and the more we sleep while atrocities are being done to the land and people the harder nature will try. I'm awake, are you?

    Posted by A Pissed off Paiute, 03/25/2012 6:00pm (2 years ago)

  • Obama flip flopped on the Keystone Pipeline. Who wouldn't be upset?

    Posted by rick, 03/24/2012 5:16pm (2 years ago)

  • More broken promises. You can trust your government. Just ask a Native American.
    Disgusted, sad, outraged.
    Leigh Lustre

    Posted by Leigh Lustre, 03/24/2012 12:26pm (2 years ago)

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