Treaty Series: Keystone XL Pipeline
Many of you may have heard of the Keystone Pipeline XL, which is a proposed pipeline that will transport toxic tar sands from the oil fields of Alberta, Canada, into the U.S. to be converted into oil. This is topic of much debate. TransCanada, the company that wants to build the proposed pipeline, touts the project as completely safe, stating that the Keystone XL Pipeline “will be the safest and most advanced pipeline operation in North America. It will not only bring essential infrastructure to North American oil producers, but it will also provide jobs, long-term energy independence and an economic boost to Americans.” TransCanada fails to see that safety and economic gain is not the point – the point is harm to the environment and to tribes as sovereign nations.
Besides toxic threats to our water, animals and plants, the pipeline will be a behemoth drag on climate change. The U.S. would need 19.7 million acres of new forest to offset the extra carbon/emissions from Keystone, an area the size of West Virginia – and we are already behind in the climate change race. One staunch opponent of Keystone XL who happens to not be a Native American, Tom Steyer, said, “We think we’re representing the vast bulk of citizens of the United States. We’re not representing our pockets” …and this from a billionaire who knows about endeavor and profit. He has already spent $2 million fighting the pipeline. Other environmentalists, scientists, and celebrities have also spoken out against the pipeline from Robert Redford to Ian Somerhalder and ISF to Darryl Hannah to the NRDC, the EPA, and the Sierra Club.
The Keystone XL pipeline also affects Indian tribes because they are sovereign nations. Native lands are bound by treaties – and the pipeline will be passing through several stretches of Native lands. If you ask me, the ENTIRE pipeline is passing through tribal lands…but I digress. I think about treaties and the way they are living documents… the way that they should continue to compel the signers to honor them… unbound by time and social shifts… that the words in these treaties should mean something. When you look at the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 with regard to land sovereignty and water rights, you cannot simply say “there is no legal obligation to work with the tribes” or that the pipeline “is not passing through any tribal lands” as Lou Thompson stated when speaking to the Washington Post. Thompson, TransCanada’s liaison to the tribes, dismissed the treaties the U.S. government has with the tribes. The last time I checked, treaties ARE, in fact, legal documents and binding.
This type of dismissal by TransCanada is not okay with the many people who have formed blockades against the trucks going to and from the Alberta oil fields. It is not okay with the Native American tribes or the National Congress of American Indians that have spoken out in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. So, I just want you to think about why this pipeline might not be a dream of the many Native Americans it could affect as it passes through their homelands, lands the U.S. set aside in trust for the tribes. I also want you, Native and Non-Native, to think about the deep consequences this project will have for us all. The Keystone XL pipeline will profit a very select few, while affecting all of us and accelerating the ruin of the very earth on which we live. Definitely something to think about.