Native American Alliance: Keystone XL Pipeline To Face ‘Epic’ Opposition

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A Native American alliance is forming to block construction of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline which still needs final approval from U.S. President Barack Obama after the State Department released an environmental report indicating the project wouldn’t have a significant impact Alberta tar sands production.

Keystone Pipeline Map from the US Department of State.

Keystone Pipeline Map from the US Department of State.

Members from the seven tribes of the Lakota Nation, along with tribal members and tribes in Idaho, Oklahoma, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon, have been preparing to stop construction of the 1,400 kilometre pipeline which is slated to run, on the U.S. side, from Morgan, Mon., to Steel City, Neb., and pump 830,000 barrels per day from Alberta’s tar sands. The pipeline would originate in Hardisty, Alta.

“It poses a threat to our sacred water and the product is coming from the tar sands and our tribes oppose the tar sands mining,” said Deborah White Plume, of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, which is part of the Lakota Nation in South Dakota. “All of our tribes have taken action to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.”

The U.S. State Department released its long awaited environmental report on TransCanada’s proposed pipeline Friday. The report found that the pipeline’s operation would not have a major impact on Alberta tar sands production which is also at the mercy of market forces.

“Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil prices, oil sand supply costs, transport costs and supply-demand scenarios,” said the report.

The project will now go into a final phase which focuses on whether Keystone XL “serves the national interest.” Pipeline’s environmental, cultural and economic impacts will be weighed in this phase and at least eight agencies will have input on the outcome, including the Department Defence, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency.

A 30-day public comment period will also be initiated on Feb. 5.

The State Department is also in the midst of probing conflict-of-interest allegations levelled against contractors who both worked on the report and for TransCanada.

The Lakota Nation is preparing for the eventuality the pipeline receives approval. The nation has led the formation of a project called “Shielding the People” to stop the pipeline. The Lakota also launched a “moccasins on the ground” program to train people in Indigenous communities to oppose the pipeline.

There are also plans to set up spiritual camps along the pipeline’s route. But when and where those camps will spring up remains a closely guarded secret.

“It will band all Lakota to live together and you can’t cross a living area if it’s occupied,” said Greg Grey Cloud, of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “If it does get approved we aim to stop it.”

Gary Dorr, from the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho, was in Rosebud Friday for a meeting to discuss opposition to Keystone.

The Nez Perce tribe has already used its treaty rights to block the transport of so-called megaloads of mining equipment headed to Alberta’s tar sands through its territory. The tribe launched blockades and won a court battle to stop the shipments from traversing its lands.

“It will be obvious, it will be concrete, and I think once it starts and they start building you will start to see the momentum and the force of the tribal people…it is an epic project, it will have an epic response from the tribal people,” said Dorr. “The tar sands is already affecting the people (for Fort Chipewyan in Alberta), climate change is already obvious. To facilitate that is not something the Native people of the U.S. are going to do. We are not going to sit idly by and let it happen.”

The pipeline has been called the ‘black snake’ in reference to prophecies that had previously been linked to construction of highways and railways. In recent ceremonies, however, discussions sifting through the prophecies noted that the black snake goes under ground.

“That would be a referral to the pipeline,” said Dorr.

Paula Antoine, who works for the Rosebud Tribe’s land office, said while the pipeline does not cross any Lakota reservation lands, it comes close, sometimes metres away. Antoine said the pipeline, however, cuts through their treaty territory, sacred sites and waterways.

“They aren’t recognizing our treaties, they are violating our treaty rights and our boundaries by going through there,” said Antoine. “Any ground disturbance around that proposed line will affect us.”

The battle lines have already been drawn in tribal council chambers. The Oglala Sioux Tribe passed a resolution Friday banning TransCanada and former AFN national chief Phil Fontaine, who has been hired by the energy firm to deal with First Nations opposition to its Energy East project in Canada, from entering its territory.

The resolution received unanimous consent,said White Plume.

The Lakota, Dakota and Nakota make up the Lakota Nation. The nation includes the tribes of Rosebud, Oglala and the Cheyenne Indian reservation, the Yankton Sioux Tribe, Standing Rock, Flandreau Sioux Tribe and the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.


  • john smith

    so, like fracking, americans get no benefit and all the risk and all the profits will flow to oil corporations…many of which now locate outside the us in ultimate act of hypocrisy to avoid us legal system (like halliburton) when sh1t inevitably happens. and which big oil knows will happen.

    and ignore ongoing climate catastrophe big oil is causing. otherwise it would not be in the “national interest” more orwellian truthspeak.

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  • bwbw123

    Native Americans protected this great continent for thousands of years and their children suffered far too much to make way for us. Seems more than time enough to stand with them for the same land and their children which of course saves our children too. This is a crime against First Nations children who live downstream of cleaning in Canada and knowing we all live down stream makes the TarSands and Keystone a crime against humanity. Hope they let us stand next to them.

  • chuck

    Bless the Native Americans.But their power today is about the same as it was at Wounded Knee. If Keystone isnt built, a doubtful fact, it wont be because of Nat Ams. The US public wants cheap energy and the ads they see promote Keystone, not Native Americans. Most Americans of all races dont really care about Native Americans other than to spend a few minutes in high school., maybe feeling sorry. Maybe.

  • chuck

    Most Americans wouldnt have the slightest idea of what you are talking about and would find your diction a bit weird, and thus would ignore it.

    I know what you mean. But history means nothing to most people. They are interested in keeping their house, their credit, going to a Disney World, and moving to a bigger house where they can use more electronic devices.

  • chuck

    Yes, but they are told by Obama that gas is good.

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  • bwbw123

    When they turned around to look at you and you looked back no more that great song writen long ago will remind you that we are everything and everything is them. You may want to be there.

  • chuck

    Clear communication is critical to struggle; one weapon in an arsenal. Who do you think is winning the communications battle? Nothing you say is false. How you say it can impede the struggle.

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  • bwbw123

    like a bad investment what happened when the same stock or investment went up before is often not what will happen. People around the globe are starting to stand up for and with each other. The old divide and rule of people like the checkerboard theory of Army Corp. of Eng. to get a large piece of land while dividing people will be challenged more as people understand how it hurts their neighbors and outsiders see the same connections. First Nations in Canada are more like one with Native American’s here and more of us on outside see ourselves and our future best served by standing with them.

  • bwbw123

    see above.

  • gbossa_25

    If we White folks are not successful in our ceaseless efforts to destroy the habitability of the planet, it will be because we finally overcome our cultural arrogance, and see our Native brothers and sisters for the amazing stewards of earth they have always been. My culture posits “Greed” as the most sacred value. The Native cultures I have been lucky enough to be near and with value “connection” and “balance” and therefore have a very different way of imagining the world. If there is a world 20 years from now, it will be because Native peoples lead us all back into a new “balance” and “connection” to each other and mother earth.

  • chuck

    Obama may kill Keystone. Or not. Either way, Native Americans will have little or no influence on the decision. Their opinions matter little, and never have. That’s not something to celebrate, but it’s a fact. Blue collar and lower middle class employees and parents of all backgrounds have little or no true influence in either the US or Canada(or Russia or Britain, China or India). However, the media slick Bamawhitehouse does have ethnic specialists in their political office, and no doubt have already called a few tribal leaders and assured them the “President” is aware of their concerns. What will matter is if people Kerry and Obama care about think Keystone itself is not a big deal in terrms of global trade, futures trading and energy profits, and is simply symbolic. Thus O can kill the project if it really isnt the “Key” to natural gas profits, and keep the support for him and the people who will employ him and his luxury loving wife in future yrs. So the Davos crowd or his Commerce Sec, and chief fundraiser and billionaire Penny “Ms Chicago Real Estate” Pritzker(we give to liberal causes so we’re good, right?) will make the final decisions. The closest they get to “Native” Americans is when they take their other annual junket with other billionaires and hedge fund/currency manipulators to Jackson Hole Resort. Any “First Nations” attending Davos or Jackson Hole? Suites are only three grand plus a night, and they can canoe at Jackson Hole.

    Sorry. But I dont know what real world you’re in.

  • bwbw123

    Understand the history and denial. It has been very easy to divide and rule over Native and other people whenever and wherever as we were like native prairie islands hanging on and dependent on the next glimer of restoration minded few. Those islands are stranded and few and so the Native people around the world are for once saying NO to the divide and rule and next bid to take them out. It is about time and we all have a stake in putting the fences around the corporations and there destruction for once.