Cowboy and Indian Alliance Launches “Reject and Protect” Encampment on the National Mall to Protest the Keystone XL Pipeline

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jamie Henn, jamie@350.org, 415-601-9337
Jane Kleeb, jane@boldnebraska.org, 402-705-3622

Cowboy and Indian Alliance Launches “Reject and Protect” Encampment on the National Mall to Protest the Keystone XL Pipeline

WASHINGTON - The Cowboy and Indian Alliance (CIA), a group of ranchers, farmers and indigenous leaders, launched a five-day “Reject and Protect” encampment on National Mall this morning to urge President Obama to “reject” the Keystone XL pipeline and “protect” their land, water, climate, and tribal rights.

"Historically, cowboys and Indians have been at odds—but no more. The Cowboy and Indian Alliance shows our cooperation and our working together in mutual respect,” said Ben Gotschall, a fourth generation rancher who grew up in Nebraska's Sand Hills. “That shared bond proves that we pipeline fighters are not just a few angry landowners holding out or environmentalists pushing a narrow agenda. We are people from all walks of life and include the people who have been here the longest and know the land best. They, sadly, know what it's like to lose their land, to lose the ground that gives a nation its identity. We're proud that they have joined us in this fight. Together this time, we cannot lose."

The encampment began this morning with a traditional tribal ceremony in front of the Capitol reflecting pool. The alliance poured a bucket of water from family wells along the pipeline route into the pool to highlight the need to protect this sacred resource. Twenty tribal leaders and ranchers and farmers from Nebraska then led a procession on horseback from the Capitol to a group of nine tipis on the National Mall near the Natural History Museum.

The Reject and Protect camp will be the center of five-days of activities and demonstrations to protest Keystone XL and tar sands development. On Saturday, over 5,000 people are expected to join the Cowboy and Indian Alliance for a procession by the Capitol. The encampment will end with a interfaith ceremony on the morning of Sunday, April 27.

"What can come about when you bring cowboys and Indians together for a common cause is a prayer. This prayer for protection of the resources of our children’s children can come from many hearts and minds, but when we come together, we make one prayer. We make one heart. We make one mind,” said Gary Dorr, a Army veteran who now helps lead “Oyate Wahacanka Woecun,” the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s  “Shield the People” project, an effort to defend against the Keystone XL pipeline. “We want President Obama and the rest of the world to know that we are praying with one heart and one mind for the seven generations to come behind us. We can now show that we are standing the line together in prayer and in deed against a common threat to our children’s children’s future.”

On Friday, the State Department announced that it would delay a final decision on Keystone XL because of the lack of an approved route for the pipeline through Nebraska. The Obama Administration is now unlikely to make a final decision on the pipeline until after the mid-term elections in November.

The delay was a clear victory for pipeline opponents, who have pressured the State Department to take more seriously the concerns of landowners, tribes, and scientists, who have repeatedly warned that Keystone XL is a climate disaster. With the State Department’s focus now turning back to Nebraska, Reject and Protect could not be more timely according to Cowboy and Indian Alliance representatives.

“President Obama knows his decision on the pipeline has direct impact on our land, water and property rights. The delay honors our legal victory invalidating the Nebraska route and strengthens our resolve to stop this pipeline and tarsands at the source,” said Jane Kleeb, Executive Director of Bold Nebraska.

If built, the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline would cross some of the most fertile farms and ranches in Heartland America and put critical freshwater sources, such as the Ogallala Aquifer, at risk of dangerous tar sands spills. The first Keystone pipeline leaked 13 times in its first year of operation. Families in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Mayflower, Arkansas are still recovering from tar sands spills in their communities in 2010 and 2013, while First Nations in the Canadian tar sands zone are facing devastating health and environmental impacts.

“Our elders remind us that we cannot drink oil and we cannot eat money,” said Crystal Lameman, of the Beaver Lake Creek Nation, located in the tar sands region of Alberta, Canada. “We’re here in solidarity with all the First Nations in Canada--the Dene, Cree and Metis Peoples--who are directly impacted by tar sands expansion. This is about more than a single pipeline: we need to stop the destructive expansion of the tar sands at its source.”

Reject and Protect is being supported by a wide coalition of groups, including Bold Nebraska, Idle No More, Honor the Earth, 350.org, the Sierra Club, and more.

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Reject and Protect is led by the “Cowboy Indian Alliance,” a group of ranchers, farmers, and tribal communities from along the Keystone XL pipeline route.

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