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Pipelines Protested by Native Americans

Video Page of Speeches, Circle Dance and Ceremonies

Click on green link for full videos, including Neil Young speech, traditional water ceremony
and presentation of Steve Tamayo's tipi art

Native Protest of Keystone at Sec. John Kerry's Home

Native KXL opponents led a rally in Georgetown, Washington DC

April 25, 2014 - The Cowboy and Indian Alliance, which has camped on the National Mall in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline, took its prayers and protests to the home of Secretary of State John Kerry, later marching through Georgetown and performing a circle dance in that neighborhood's main intersection.

Because the Keystone XL pipeline crosses the international boundary from Canada, the Department of State must approve it as being in the national interest. President Obama on Good Friday delayed making a decision pending the outcome of a Nebraska court case over the pipeline.

Nonetheless, the Native Americans and farmers and ranchers from Great Plains states marched to Kerry's O Street residence where DC police and Federal security agents looked on. Metal gates enclosed the front sidewalk and yard of Kerry's street.

The protesters set up a simple public address amplifier on the sidewalk opposite the Georgetown mansion and, as the video above describes, issued speeches, prayers and chants. About 50 protesters and a similar number of journalists were present.

Casey Camp, leader of the Ponca nation of Oklahoma, began with a prayer, some of which was in her native language and the majority in English. Afterwards, she participated in a water ceremony, drinking of water transported from the Plains area where the pipeline would cross.

Reuben George, chief of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation of British Columbia, told the crowd of a similar pipeline conflict in Canada. Kinder Morgan is attempting to establish a pipeline west from the Alberta tar sands fields to export facilities on the Pacific; by contrast Trans-Canada is attempting to build the Keystone XL pipeline south and connect to another pipe which will take the diluted bitumen from the tar sands to export facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

George said that his nation had rejected a multi-million dollar offer by Kinder Morgan for easements for the pipeline. He said that protection of the land was worth more to his nation than the money.

After the speeches, which included representatives of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish communities, the protesters marched to the main shopping district of Georgetown, a prayer drum leading the way.

Reaching the principal intersection of Georgetown, the marchers formed a circle in the crossing and began a circle dance in rhythm with the prayer drum. For about five minutes traffic was stopped as the dancers held hands and revolved around the intersection.

Slowly the circle shrank as police directed some traffic around the circle until the dance ended.

Indians and Cowboys Unite at DC Camp against KXL

April 25, 2014 - In April 2014, Indians and cowboys built a camp on the National Mall in Washington to protest the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline would cross several Indian reservations in South Dakota as well as crossing major rivers and water supply routes.

The protest camp provided the Indians with an opportunity to make their case to the government and to people visiting the mall. The action included traditional ceremonies as well as visits to officials and public protests.

The video above describes the nature of the camp and details one woman's motivation to come to Washington and her actions against pipelines near her homeland.

The Obama administration had just delayed a decision on the pipeline pending a court case in Nebraska. That case revolves around the constitutionality of the method by which the pipeline was approved there. A new law gave the governor power to approve the pipeline and its route, but a state judge found that the Nebraska constitution reserved that right to the public utility commission. The case is on appeal.

Further, the South Dakota permit for the pipeline expires on June 20, 2014.

Because of the delay over the Nebraska case, commentators believe that Obama will not make a decision whether to approve the pipeline until after the November Congressional elections.

Sioux Build Prayer Camp Opposing Keystone XL

April 1, 2014 - Members and tribes of the Sioux nation in the Great Plains have established a prayer camp in South Dakota to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline would run through reservation land secured by the tribes under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty and the members of the camp say the route violates their treaty rights. Their views are expressed in the KSFY video report below.

The Keystone pipeline would carry 830,000 gallons of diluted bitumen from the tar sands of Alberta Canada to export facilities on the Gulf coast of Texas. The "XL" section which the Sioux are protesting runs through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Because the pipeline crosses international borders it must receive presidential approval. President Obama has denied a prior routing of the pipeline, saying it endangered the Oglalla acquirer, then delayed a decision on the revised route. Recently the State Department released an environmental impact statement that said the pipeline by itself would not significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions.

But the Sioux praying against the pipeline are concerned about threats to water as well as the violation of their sovereignty.

MSNBC Interview with Rep. Raul Grijalva on Keystone XL Pipeline

Opposition to Canadian Pipelines

March 21, 2013 - Pipelines from the Alberta tar sand fields are facing increasing opposition, with Native American tribes from two countries joining forces to fight them.

A coalition of Native American groups from Canada and the US convened in Ottawa Wednesday saying they would fight three pipelines that carry products from the tar sands to the Pacific and to the US Gulf Coast.

They asserted that in addition to the environmental threats posed by the pipelines, the intrusions of the construction would violate long-standing treaties.

Pipeline Builders Seek Approval Amidst Controversy

The pipelines would originate in Alberta where bitumen, a tar-like hydrocarbon, is extracted from sands near or below the surface of the earth. This bitumen is heated and processed into a petroleum type of substance that can then be transmitted through pipelines for further refining into useable and marketable products.

Protesters have long said this unconventional form of oil is highly polluting in its own right and that the proposed pipelines carry the risk of spills and other environmental hazards.

The pipelines which are awaiting regulatory approval are: the Keystone XL, which would carry oil through the US Great Plains to Texas; the Northern Gateway, which would cross the Canadian Rocky Mountains into British Columbia to be loaded onto tankers for export; and the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, which would increase flow to Vancouver.

Native Groups Organize Against Pipelines

The Ottawa statement this week is part of a larger effort by Native Americans to oppose the pipeline. In Canada a number of First Nation tribes and bands have formed the Yinka Dene Alliance to fight the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.

In the United States members of the Sioux nation recently held a Mocassins on the Ground march and training session to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. This pipeline would cross their traditional homeland, their designated reservation and would cross numerous bodies of water. It would also traverse the Ogallala Aquifer, a giant underground reservoir of ancient glacial waters that serves the population and agriculture of the Great Plains.

The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) also issued a communique soon after the Obama adminstration released a draft environmental impact statement. The IEN said the impact statement discounted many of the known environmental hazards of the Keystone pipeline and failed to take into account uncertainties that are posed along the pipeline route.

Sovereign Native nations have also signed an International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands Projects. In part, it reads "We affirm that our laws define our solemn duty and responsibility to our ancestors, to ourselves, and to future generations, to protect the lands and waters of our homelands and we agree to mutually and collectively oppose tar sands projects which would impact our territories."

In addition, Cree, Chipewyan and other Canadian native groups have been engaged in actions against the actual mining of tar sands themselves. A recent film, "Standing on Sacred Ground: Profit and Loss," includes their story among those of other indigenous people around the planet who find mineral extraction encroaching on their homes.

Keystone Xl Pipeline Public Comments

On March 1, 2013 the US Department of State issued a draft Supplement Environmental Impact Statement about the effects of permitting the Keystone XL Pipeline to traverse three US states (from the Canadian bordere with Montana, through South Dakota and Nebraska to connect with an existing pipeline at Steele City, Neb.).

The public may comment on this draft with e-mails to through April 15, 2013. More information about the impact statement can be found at

Tar sands pipelines face increasing opposition. Click for larger maps

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