by Jamison Maeda
In what is being called “religious protection legislation,” politicians in the US state of Arizona have voted to allow businesses to refuse service to gay people. While at the same time the religious beliefs and traditions of Native American people are once again being completely ignored as oil company Trans Canada continues working on the Keystone XL Pipeline which would carry the planet’s dirtiest fossil fuel across sacred Native American land in the US.
Called “the black snake” by Native Americans, the 1,700 mile long Keystone XL pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels per day to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, much of it to be exported tax free to Europe and Latin America.
Native people have recently held vigils, protests, and a conference the Ogallala Sioux Tribe called “Help Save Mother Earth from the Keystone Pipeline.
“If you like to drink water, if you like your children not being harmed, if you don’t want your women being harmed, then say no to the pipeline,” says Greg Grey Cloud of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, who fears environmental damage and increased violence against Native American residents. “Because once it comes, it’s going to destruct everything.”
The pipeline would cut through some of the poorest Native American reservations in the state of South Dakota, and though the US government claims sacred land and waters will be protected, the government has very little credibility with native people in South Dakota which was the scene of the bloodiest battles between Native Americans and the government, including the massacre at Wounded Knee which killed hundreds of Sioux.
“It seems like the government just sees dollar signs per usual when it comes to deals with Big Oil,” says Sophia B., a Native American woman from California. “The fact that they are even considering putting a pipeline through sacred Native American land just shows the level of insignificance the government feels towards Native American people in general.”
Though proponents of the pipeline claim there is no risk of an accident, less than one year ago in the state of Arkansas, Exxon Mobil’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured, spilling 7,000 barrels of crude oil into a residential area, contaminating homes, waterways, wetlands and a nearby lake. BP’s Deep Horizon spilled hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and over 8,000 birds, turtles, and other animals were reported dead immediately afterward. Sick and dying dolphins are still being found with missing teeth and terminal lung disease caused by the spill, not to mention the human and environmental cost. The keystone Pipeline would pass directly over the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest aquifers. Contamination of this major water source would affect the entire Continental US.
Recently a judge invalidated legislation which would allow the Keystone XL Pipeline to pass through her state. This could delay plans for up to seven months, but without more opposition, the pipeline plans will most likely continue.
The US Secretary of the Interior said it’s very important that the government come to an agreement with native tribes regarding any areas of their land they hold sacred. What the Secretary needs to remember is, to Native Americans, all areas of this country are sacred. And to them, it’s all their land.