In the week ahead, a coalition of tribal communities, ranchers, farmers and allies calling itself the 'Cowboy Indian Alliance' plans to lead a series of protests, ceremonies, and direct actions in the heart of Washington, DC in order to drive home their united opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and the destructive expansion of tar sands mining and fossil fuel dependence it represents.
Under the banner 'Reject and Project,' the five-day long event will kick off on this year's Earth Day—Tuesday, April 23—and culminate on Saturday with a ceremony and procession expected to draw thousands.
“We are writing a new history by standing on common ground by preventing the black snake of Keystone XL from risking our land and water," said Faith Spotted Eagle of the Yankton Sioux tribe and a spokesperson for the Cowboy Indian Alliance (C.I.A.). "We have thousands of Native sacred sites that will be affected adversely. The Americans facing eminent domain now know what it felt like for us to lose land to a foreign country. There is no fairness or rationale to justify the risk of polluting our waterways with benzene and other carcinogens. Native people are ready to speak for the four-leggeds and the grandchildren who cannot speak for themselves. The answer is no pipeline.”
The coalition, though made up of those from specifically impacted communities, makes a point to say that because "everyone is needed" in the fight against tar sands, "everyone is welcome" in the events, ceremonies, and actions that will take place.
Roger Milk, a member of the Rosebud Sioux, makes it clear: “This just isn’t an Indian thing," he says. "We all drink the same water.”
“Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of mankind," adds coalition member Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader among the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota people. "Do you think that the creator would create unnecessary people in a time of danger? Know that you are essential to this world. The biggest cancer spreading upon Mother Earth is the tar sands.”
“Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of mankind." —Chief Arvol Looking Horse
The series of events, says the coalition, will ask President Obama a single, but fundamental question: "Is an export pipeline for dirty tar sands worth risking our sacred land and water for the next seven generations?"
According to their call to action, the organizers say it past time for Obama to acknowledge whether or not he truly understands the stakes involved if this pipeline proceed.
The Cowboy and Indian Alliance (C.I.A) brings together tribal communities with ranchers and farmers living along the Keystone XL pipeline proposed route. Farmers and ranchers know the risk first-hand. They work the land every day. Tribes know the risk first-hand. They protect the sacred water, and defend sacred sites of their ancestors every day. They have united out of love and respect for the land and water on which we all depend.
This is not the first time Cowboys and Indians have come together to stop projects that risk our land and water. In the 80s, they came together to protect water and the Black Hills from uranium mining and risky munitions testing. In the American imagination, cowboys and Indians are still at odds. However, in reality, opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has brought communities together like few causes in our history. Tribes, farmers and ranchers are all people of the land, who consider it their duty as stewards to conserve the land and protect the water for future generations.
Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, promises the diverse but unified coalition representing front-line communities will bring their "pipeline fighting spirit" to Washington, DC and the Obama White House.
"The President said he wants to be able to look at his daughters and say ‘yes he did’ do everything he could to combat climate change," said Kleeb. "We intend to ensure he honors his word.”