United against the pipeline

The Obama administration appears to be getting closer and closer to approving the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. Last week, a group of Native American leaders representing 10 different sovereign nations walked out of a meeting with State Department officials after an attempt to have "nation to nation" talks in Rapid City, S.D.

The pipeline would go through the Ogallala Aquifer, the source of drinking water for much of the Great Plains region, including the tribes in South Dakota. Debra White Plume, an Oglala Lakota activist and founder of Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way), said, "We know that without drinking water on the Pine Ridge, it is genocide for our people, our nation. We are working as best we can to stop the tar sands oil pipeline from entering our territory."

In late February, 30,000 to 50,000 people came to Washington, D.C., to tell Obama no to the Keystone XL Pipeline. During the march, there was a large presence of indigenous leaders from all over North America. Chief Jacqueline Thomas of the Saik'uz First Nation in British Columbia spoke at the rally about the new surge of native unity against both the Keystone pipeline and other pipelines crisscrossing Canada, saying, "Never in my life have I ever seen white and Native work together until now."

This statement by sovereign nations leaders explains why they walked out on the meeting with State Department officials.

Native resistance mobilized for a demonstration in Washington, D.C., against the Keystone XL pipeline (Steven Melkisethian)Native resistance mobilized for a demonstration in Washington, D.C., against the Keystone XL pipeline (Steven Melkisethian)

ON THIS historic day of May 16, 2013, 10 sovereign Indigenous nations maintain that the proposed TransCanada/Keystone XL pipeline does not serve the national interest and in fact would be detrimental not only to the collected sovereigns but all future generations on planet earth. This morning the following sovereigns informed the Department of State (DOS) Tribal Consultation effort at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City, S.D., that the gathering was not recognized as a valid consultation on a "nation to nation" level:

Southern Ponca
Pawnee Nation
Nez Perce Nation

And the following Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires People):

Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate
Ihanktonwan Dakota (Yankton Sioux)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe
Oglala Sioux Tribe
Standing Rock Tribe
Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
Crow Creek Sioux Tribe

The Great Plains Tribal Chairmans Association supports this position, which is in solidarity with elected leaders, Treaty Councils and the grassroots community, and is guided by spiritual leaders. On Saturday, May 18, the Sacred Pipe Bundle of the Oceti Sakowin will be brought out to pray with the people to stop the KXL pipeline, and other tribal nation prayer circles will gather to do the same.

Pursuant to Executive Order 13175, the above sovereigns directed the DOS to invite President Obama to engage in "true Nation to Nation" consultation with them at the nearest date, at a designated location to be communicated by each of the above sovereigns. After delivering that message, the large contingent of tribal people walked out of the DOS meeting and asked the other tribal people present to support this effort and to leave the meeting. Eventually all remaining tribal representatives and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers left the meeting at the direct urging of the grassroots organization Owe Aku. Owe Aku, Moccasins on the Ground, and Protect the Sacred are preparing communities to resist the Keystone XL pipeline through Keystone Blockade Training.

This unprecedented unity of tribes against the desecration of Ina Maka (Mother Earth) was motivated by the signing on January 25, 2013, of the historic International Treaty to Protect the Sacred Against the Tar Sands. Signatories were the Pawnee Nation, the Ponca Nation, the Ihanktonwan Dakota and the Oglala Lakota. Since then ten First Nations Chiefs in Canada have signed the Treaty to protect themselves against tar sands development in Canada.

The above sovereigns notify President Obama to consult with each of them because of the following:

The nations have had no direct role in identifying and evaluating cultural resources.

The nations question the status of the programmatic agreement and how it may or may not be amended.

The nations are deeply concerned about potential pipeline impacts on natural resources, especially our water: potential spills and leaks, groundwater and surface water contamination.

The nations have no desire to contribute to climate change, to which the pipeline will directly contribute.

The nations recognize that the pipeline will increase environmental injustice, disproportionately impacting native communities.

The nations deplore the environmental impacts of tar sands mining being endured by tribes in Canada. The pipeline would service the tar sands extractive industry.

The nations insist that their treaty rights be respected the pipeline would violate them.

The nations support an energy policy that promotes renewables and efficiency instead of one that features fossil fuels.

The nations regard the consultation process as flawed in favor of corporate interests.

The sovereigns of these nations contend that it is not in America's interest to facilitate and contribute to environmental devastation on the scale caused by the extraction of tar sands in Canada. America would be better served by a comprehensive program to reduce its reliance on oil, and to invest in the development and deployment of sustainable energy technologies, such as electric vehicles that are charged using solar and wind power.

If the Keystone XL pipeline is allowed to be built, TransCanada, a Canadian corporation, would be occupying sacred treaty lands as reserved in the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties. It will be stopped by unified resistance.

Brian Ward contributed to this article.