President Obama has declared that 2014 should be a “year of action,” but the recent pledge by Native American activists might not be the sort of action he was hoping for. Indigenous groups all over the United States and Canada have vowed to take part in a “direct action” campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline project if the President does not.
President Obama has said that he will continue to study the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline plan, which has come across as indecision, delay and even “studying the matter to death” according to some critics. The Oglala Sioux nation and its allies have pledged that they will stop the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline by any means necessary if it encroaches on their territory.
Now, members of the Sioux Nation have begun touring the United States and Canada to rally support for their pledge.
Oglala Sioux president Bryan Brewer, along with organizations Honour the Earth, Owe Aku and Protect the Sacred, released a statement that calls on Native American activists and all friends of the Earth to join their direct action campaign should the President approve the pipeline.
The following joint statement comes from: Honor the Earth, the Oglala Sioux Nation, Owe Aku, and Protect the Sacred.
“The Oglala Lakota Nation has taken leadership by saying “NO” to the Keystone XL Pipeline. They have done what is right for the land, for their people, who, from grassroots organizers like Owe Aku and Protect the Sacred have called on their leaders to stand and protect their sacred lands. And they have: KXL will NOT cross their treaty territory, which extends past the reservation boundaries. Their horses are ready. So are ours. We stand with the Lakota Nation, we stand on the side of protecting sacred water, we stand for Indigenous land-based lifeways which will NOT be corrupted by a hazardous, toxic pipeline. WE ALL NEED TO STAND WITH THEM.
On Friday, January 27th, the State Department issued its Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline. President Obama said that he won’t approve the pipeline if it increases carbon emissions. The report was drafted in coordination with consultants who have worked for TransCanada — the company seeking to build the pipeline. Jack Gerard, the head of the American Petroleum Institute, was briefed by “sources within the administration” on the timing and content of the report before its release, and was pleased to say that it will not impact the environment.
As Native Nations, we’re ready to protect our homelands from this pipeline, and we need to SHORE UP OUR SUPPORT of organizations like Owe Aku and Protect the Sacred, who are on the ground organizing in the Lakota Nation.
We also need to put the pressure on Barack Obama to recognize that:
1) The Lakota Nation – a sovereign governmental body – has united its government and grassroots against the pipeline, and the United States needs to honor treaty rights by denying the pipeline.
2) There is direct conflict of interest in the report issued by the State Department — the process is broken, and a new report which reflects the true environmental impact is needed.
3) This pipeline will, in fact, increase carbon emissions and cause grave and irreversible environmental harm globally. This pipeline would cause direct environmental harm — and put the well-being of all who live in relationship with the Oglala Aquifer at risk.
4) In recognition of our responsibilities to protect Mother Earth, Native peoples will not allow this pipeline to come across our treaty areas. We will defend our lives, and our mother Earth, and we need Barack Obama to do the same.
On Monday night, all across the country, people will be gathering to mark this moment together at protest vigils organized by 350.org, Oil Change International, and others, where the night will be alight with our resolve to keep fighting. We need to show the media, big oil and the President that we, as Indigenous Peoples (especially from the Great Sioux Nation), the entire state of Nebraska, and the tens of thousands of American citizens that have signed up to put their bodies on the line using non violent civil disobedience in every state in the lower 48 and Alaska, First Nations, and allies in Canada, are mobilized and unafraid.
As Idle No More campaigner and friend Clayton Thomas-Muller said “Its time to light the fire in your hearts and at your lodges…no one said this wouldn’t end up being a ditch fight lets honour the trail blazers from Keystone XL south fight, time for some action and yes some of us may get arrested!”
The statement has sparked solidarity across Native American Nations and activist communities alike. One of the key groups involved is Moccasins on the Ground which focuses on direct action training. Debra White Plum of the Lakota Sioux nation is a trainer for the grassroots organization. She said that the group has been training Native activists for this moment for the past year.
This training includes seminars on knowing your rights, blockading and self-defense, first aid and social media. She says that the training has brought together many geographically distant native groups, fighting towards a common goal.
“This way a community can do whatever they need to do when threatened and they’ll have the skills right here, and that’s really important out here where we live,” she said. “We want this non-violent, direct way that everybody engaging in across the country to be successful,” she explained. “But if it’s not and if the final door is closed, then that’s why we’re doing the training.”
Politicians, she said further, have left the group with no other choice.
“Every door has been closed through this process. Court decisions have been made that favoured the corporations and there are a few cases here and there where the landowners are still asserting their rights under American law.”
For her and those she is training, this is not simply a matter of doing what is right for the environment, it is also about the government honoring treaties made with Indigenous Peoples.
“As red nations people we have seen the federal government violate treaties clear to this day.”
In the case of Keystone the Fort Laramie Treaty made between the American government and the Oglala Sioux, would be breeched if the Keystone XL pipeline continues to move forward. Chief Phil Lane says that the direct action being planned cannot even rightly be called “civil disobedience”.
“It is not civil disobedience. This is simply acting out of an aboriginal legal order to stand up for what is right. It is standing up for an ancient aboriginal legal order that has never been extinguished.”
If you want to take a stand with the First Peoples of North America, click here to look for an event near you.
Then, sign the petition to urge Obama to stop the Keystone XL, and SPREAD THE WORD!
(Article by Mike Ahnigilahi; image of Chief Phil Lane Jr.)