by Jamison Maeda
Native Americans have historically not had a voice in American government. But today they are standing up to politicians and oil industry lobbyists, and their voice is being heard.Last week the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline in yet another demonstration of the influence of oil industry money in American politics, as both Republicans and Democrats voted in favor of the pipeline.
President Cyril Scott of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe responded to the vote by saying “We are outraged at the lack of intergovernment cooperation. We are a sovereign nation and we are not being treated as such. We will close our borders to Keystone XL. Authorizing Keystone XL is an act of war against our people.”
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) say they were not properly consulted on the pipeline project, which would cross through tribal land. The U.S. government recognizes over 300 tribal nations as domestic dependent nations. They have limited autonomy over land and local laws.
The Keystone XL Pipeline would run from Canada’s tar-sands fields through the U.S., transporting bitumen and liquefied natural gas to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. Proponents of the pipeline say that it will be a job-creator, and is a limited threat to the
environment. However, according to the U.S. State Department, it would create only 35 jobs. And as far as an ecological threat, pipeline leaks and spills are extremely dangerous to the environment and nearby residents.
In 2010, over 840,000 gallons of bitumen leaked into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. Cleanup has already cost over $1 billion and will continue to cost millions more. In 2013, a pipeline in Arkansas leaked more than 200,000 gallons of bitumen in a residential area, Residents
suffered severe respiratory problems, headaches, and nausea.
But the greatest danger of the Keystone XL pipeline is that it would pass over the Ogallala Aquifer. A leak could poison the water supply of over a quarter of American farmland. And on a global level, tar sands emit 80% more greenhouse gases than conventional oil. It is the
dirtiest fuel on the planet.
President Scott of the Rosebud Sioux says people need to stop supporting risky fossil fuel projects like TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline and start remembering that the earth is our mother. Our focus should be reducing pollution, and preserving land and water for
future generations. “The Lakota people have always been stewards of this land,” added President Scott. “We feel it is imperative that we provide safe and responsible alternative energy resources not only to tribal members but to non-tribal members as well.”