Native Americans protesting the Keystone XL pipeline will be compelled to stay in enclosure located miles from President’s pro-oil event
Native American’s gathering in Cushing, OK today to protest President Obama’s words of praise for the Keystone XL pipeline were forced by local authorities to hold their event in a cage erected in Memorial Park. The protestors were stunned that their community, so long mistreated, would be insulted in such an open manner instead of being given the same freedom of speech expected by all Americans simply for taking a stance consistent with their values.
“A lot of tribal councils and Indian businesses struggle to find a balance between economic resources and our inherited responsibilities for the earth,” said Indian actor and activist Richard Ray Whitman in a statement. “How will the decisions we make now effect coming generations?”
“President Obama is an adopted member of the Crow Tribe, so his fast-tracking a project that will desecrate known sacred sites and artifacts is a real betrayal and disappointment for his Native relatives everywhere,” said Marty Cobenais of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Tar sands is devastating First Nations communities in Canada already and now they want to bring that environmental, health, and social devastation to US tribes.”
The President visited Cushing to stand with executives from TransCanada and throw his support behind a plan to build the southern half of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to move tar sands bitumen and crude oil from Cushing to the Gulf Coast refineries in Texas.
A major concern for Native Americans in Oklahoma, according to spokespeople at the event, is that Keystone XL and the Canadian tar sands mines that would supply it ignore impacts to indigenous communities and their sacred spaces.
“Natives in Canada live downstream from toxic tar sands mines,” said Earl Hatley, “and they are experiencing spikes in colon, liver, blood and rare bile-duct cancers which the Canadian government and oil companies simply ignore. And now they want to pipe these tar sands through the heart of Indian country, bulldozing grave sites and ripping out our heritage.”
The group points to a survey done by the Oklahoma Archeological Survey which found 88 archaeological sites and 34 historic structures that were threatened by Keystone XL. TransCanada was asked to reroute around only a small portion of these, leaving 71 archaeological sites and 22 historic structures at risk. The group says they have asked for a list of these sites and to oversee operations that might threaten sacred burial grounds, but neither request has been honored.
Beyond the threat to their own cultural heritage, the group voiced opposition to the pipeline’s environmental impacts.
“The Ogallala Aquifer is not the only source of water in the plains,” said RoseMary Crawford, Project Manager of the Center for Energy Matters. “Tar sands pipelines have a terrible safety record and leaks are inevitable.”
“We can’t stop global warming with more fossil fuel pipelines,” added Crawford. “The people who voted for this President did so believing he would help us address the global environmental catastrophe that our pollution is creating. He said he would free us from ‘the tyranny of oil.’ Today that campaign promise is being trampled to boost the President’s poll numbers.”