By Rocky Kirstner
On Sunday, dozens of hunger strikers and supporters marched at a rally against tar sands oil mining operations and pipelines in Eagle Butte, SD, a impoverished community on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, close to TransCanada’s 1,700 mile proposed Keystone XL pipeline route to refineries in the Gulf.
Lakota tribal members and their children drove to a camp in the rugged hills near the Missouri River to fast in solidarity with a hunger strike at the Bella Bella Community School in British Columbia. Children at the school are protesting a plan to ship millions of barrels of oil through a potentially dangerous “Northern Gateway” pipeline that would pipe corrosive tar sands oil from Alberta to giant super tankers navigating Canada’s treacherous Pacific coast.
Natives Have Environmental and Spiritual Concerns Over “Prioritized” Keystone XL
The artist, actor and activist Richard Ray Whitman, Yuchi Creek, observed that “A lot of tribal councils and Indian businesses struggle to find a balance between economic resources and our inherited responsibilites for the Earth,” according to peoplesworld.org. He added that the important question is, “How will the decisions we make now affect coming generations?”
Additionally, some tribes are now worried about sacred sites in the path of the seemingly imminent pipeline. According to an Associated Press report, Chief George Thurman of the Sac and Fox Tribe has expressed concern that the pipeline will disturb unmarked graves. A spokesperson for Transcanada, the company building the pipeline, said that its route had been selected to avoid as many registered sacred sites as possible, and that there are procedures in place to deal with unexpected archaeological finds. But for many Natives, it’s not just about what’s in the ground—it’s also about the ground itself. As Sandra Massey, the Sac and Fox Nation’s historic preservation officer, said, according to the AP, “Even if nothing is left, it’s still a sacred site.”
For more on the Keystone XL pipeline, see Protesters Block Trucks on Pine Ridge and Chief Predicts "Aboriginal Uprising."
Below: "Tar sands oil protesters in Eagle Butte, SD." (Rocky Kistner/NRDC)