Native Americans, Ranchers Take to National Mall to Protest Keystone Pipeline

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Over the past five days, seven Native American tribes have joined ranchers and farmers from the Great Plains to stage a protest on the National Mall in Washington, DC, against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

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The theme of the week was “Cowboys and Indians” — a tongue-in-cheek reference to classic, if politically incorrect, westerns and kids’ games of shoot-’em-up. Today the two groups stand united in opposition to the pipeline; in coming to DC, they hoped to make President Obama and the US Department of State aware that the project could have devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of all who were present.

“We’re here to show the very faces of the people that a decision on the KXL pipeline represents,” Dallas Goldtooth of the Lower Sioux Nation told the crowd. “These people represent families, they represent communities, they represent entire nations, so [they]… bring their stories here to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline and to all pipelines.”

On April 22, the first day of the protest, members of the group rode on horseback from the reflecting pool in front of the capitol to a camp on the National Mall, where they erected teepees, one of which will remain on display in the National Museum of the American Indian.

Native Americans in Canada oppose tapping the Alberta tar sands for fossil fuels, citing the local environmental implications as well as their contribution to global warming. In the US, First Nations say the State Department has not adequately evaluated the effects the pipeline will have on their communities and sacred spaces. Ranchers and farmers spoke out against their land being confiscated under eminent domain to make way for the pipeline, and environmental problems the pipeline could cause once built.

The protest followed on the heels of an announcement by the State Department that the Obama administration would put off making a final decision on the pipeline until after the November midterm elections. Meanwhile, the battle over the pipeline’s path through the midwest is being fought in state courts.

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