First, of all make no mistake, it was Native Americans who spearheaded and bore the brunt of the campaign against the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline. Native peoples whose health and land was being destroyed by tar sands oil extraction were the first to speak out against the pipeline. This caught the attention of climate scientists, environmentalists and others.

The news media continues to engage in loathsome racist marginalization by ignoring Native involvement in this struggle, touting the opposition of environmentalists. With all due respect to our environmentalist allies, they were following the Indian lead, but it was Native Americans of Canada and the U.S. in the forefront of this protracted struggle, which is still far from over. Nonetheless, a major battle has been won.

The rejection of the pipeline by President Obama was a tremendous victory for tribal nations of the U.S. and Canada. Obama listened to the voices of this land’s first peoples. In early December Native leaders presented the president with the “Mother Earth Accord” that outlined the unique U.S. tribal and Canadian First Nations objections to the pipeline. In Alberta, Canada, for example, it was pointed out that the extraction of tar sands oil had already been linked to a 30 percent elevated rate of rare cancers and autoimmune diseases in First Nations communities downstream from the project.

The Mother Earth Accord was developed this past September at the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Emergency Summit. Over 20 tribal nations and private landowners, private citizens, environmental organizations and Canadian political parties endorsed the Accord in opposition to the pipeline.

There were of course, the naysayers to this decision, led by the Republicans with their typical inane, vociferating, hypocritical temerity. Perhaps, the Obama administration is finally realizing that attempting to work with them is akin to entering a Faustian compact.

Republicans contended that the project would have produced tens of thousands of jobs. Balderdash. With the exception of possibly a couple of thousand temporary construction jobs along the pipeline route from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast there was little prospective job creation. Further, latest studies estimate that the pipeline would create fewer than 100 permanent jobs.

News pundits continue to downplay the massive coalition led by Native people with such comments as Obama is ” pandering to a small environmental constituency.” They deny that Native people are a political force to be reckoned with.

There were massive demonstrations against the pipeline at the White House. In a two-week August-September protest, of mostly American Indians, 1,253 were arrested. On November 6, over 12,000, Native Americans and others, demonstrated in a “human chain” protest that encircled the White House! Incredibly, neither massive protest was initially reported by the TV or newspaper media; a woeful commentary on the stranglehold exerted on news by corporate moguls.

The proposed pipeline would have been deadly for Canadian tribal nations and at least five U.S. Native American reservations and six states, endangering a huge water source- the Ogallala Aquifer- a vital and vast underground water table that covers nine states. This aquifer provides potable water to over 3 million people.

President Obama is to be lauded for his disapproval of this heinous enterprise. Further, this rejection represents a history-making Native American victory over the mammon-obsessed jackals of corporate greed.


Albert Bender
Albert Bender

Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty and working on a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war He is a consulting attorney on Indigenous sovereignty, land restoration, and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues and a former staff attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma (LSEO) in Muskogee, Okla.