|Photo credit: Jim Dougherty.
By Anders Lorenzen
In an extra driving force to pressure Obama to outright reject the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a coalition calling themselves the Cowboy and Indian Alliance has been formed.
In Washington, DC Thousands of people joined the farmers, ranchers, and tribal leaders of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance for a ceremonial procession along the National Mall to protest the Keystone XL pipeline Saturday last week. The procession is part of the five-day “Reject and Protect” encampment.
The Cowboy and Indian Alliance is a coalition formed by ranchers, farmers and tribal communities all with the common goal of fighting the Keystone XL pipeline, which Obama recently postponed the decision on again. The alliance also got the backing of the large environmental networks 350.org and the Sierra Club, as well as the group Bold Nebraska who have been fighting Keystone XL in Nebraska.
The day’s procession included the presentation of a hand-painted tipi to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian as a gift to President Obama. The tipi represented the Cowboy and Indian Alliance’s hopes for protected land and clean water. The formal name of the tipi is “Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuuxshish” and “Oyate Wookiye,” two names given to President Obama by the Lakota and the Crow Nations upon his visit to those Nations in 2008. The title translates from the Lakota and Crow languages, respectively, as “Man Who Helps the People” and “One Who Helps People throughout the Land.”
Amongst the thousands who marched on the National Mall in Washington and passing Capitol Hill, were musician Neil Young and actress Daryl Hannah. Young told the crowd “We need to end the age of fossil fuels and move on to something better.”
Bold Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb, who is one of the key organizers of Reject and Protect commented: “Today, boots and moccasins showed President Obama an unlikely alliance has his back to reject Keystone XL to protect our land and water.”
The five-day Reject and Protect encampment began with a march and opening ceremony on Earth Day, April 22. On Wednesday, members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance met with the White House to voice their concerns about Keystone XL and tar sands expansion. And the movement has won political support. On Friday last week, Senator Barbara Boxer offered her support for the encampment stating “I commend all of the ranchers, farmers and indigenous leaders from throughout our nation’s heartland who have come to Washington, D.C. this week’’. Boxer, a Democrat who has sponsored and enacted climate change bills in the Senate continued: “Although I cannot be with you in person, I want you to know that your presence sends a strong signal to Congress and the administration about the need to protect our communities and families from the impacts of dirty tar sands oil.’’
“Keystone XL is a death warrant for our people,” said the Tribal President of the Oglala Sioux, Bryan Brewer. He further stated: “President Obama must reject this pipeline and protect our sacred land and water. The United States needs to respect our treaty rights and say no to Keystone XL’’
But there was hope and optimism that the delay of the pipeline is good for the movement. Meghan Hammond, a sixth-generation Nebraska rancher said: “Every time Keystone XL gets delayed it just gives us more time to speak up and tell the truth about this dangerous pipeline’’. Ms. Hammond is, along with her family, working on building a crowd-funded clean-energy powered barn on her property which will sit directly on the proposed route of Keystone XL.
The Cowboy and Indian Alliance have said this is only the beginning, we can expect to hear much more from them. In true Cowboy-style, expect the alliance to saddle their horses and ride into the horizon to protect what they rightfully see as their land.
Sub edited by Charlotte Paton
The Keystone XL debate steps up a gear