The updates coming in are heartbreaking: TransCanada and its bulldozers have begun seizing and clearing land to construct the southern portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline in Texas.
It’s nearly impossible to fight the use of eminent domain against private landowners. But now TransCanada is trampling on the rights of sovereign native tribes. If we stand with the tribes, we may be able to block the pipeline’s construction.
A story last week in the Washington Post highlights TransCanada’s assault on tribal sovereignty on lands throughout Oklahoma. The Canadian corporation is blazing ahead with construction despite tribal concerns about the protection of burial grounds and other sacred tribal sites.
TransCanada arrogantly claims “there is no legal obligation to work with the tribes.” But that flies in the face of the historic treaties affirming tribal authority over their sovereign lands, and the more recent National Historic Preservation Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990.
The U.S. government was responsible for genocidal death marches of Native Americans in the 19th century. Today, there are more than 38 tribes in Oklahoma as a result of this forced relocation, and each retains sovereignty over its own land and affairs. The Keystone XL Pipeline will bisect the entire state, starting in Cushing, Oklahoma, on a site that sits within the Sac and Fox Nation.
Tribal leaders fear that digging the route could disturb mass graves or other important sites. As the Sac and Fox official Sandra Massey said, “How many times do we have to move? Our dead are never at rest.”
We know the Bureau of Indian Affairs is aware of the issue because it held a listening session in Oklahoma last week to discuss the protection of sacred tribal sites.2 Now we need to make sure that the agency knows that it is unacceptable to allow a Canadian oil company to trample on tribal sovereignty and sacred sites to build their fuse to the carbon bomb of the Alberta Tar Sands.
TransCanada’s attitude toward the rights of Native Americans should come as no surprise — the company has earned a reputation for lying, deceiving and strong-arming landowners into giving property easements to TransCanada.
As construction gets underway, TransCanada’s surveyors and crews have also been met with resistance from local activists, who have on two occasions been arrested for boldly chaining themselves to construction equipment, and on Monday started a sustained tree-sit to indefinitely stall construction.
These efforts are vitally important, because the courts have so far sided with TransCanada’s dubious claims that it is eligible to seize private land under eminent domain — a questionable premise, since the pipeline primarily benefits a Canadian company.
While the Obama administration has bent over backward to promote TransCanada’s efforts to drain Alberta’s “game over for the climate” tar sands fields, it remains to be seen if the Bureau of Indian Affairs will stand by as TransCanada also threatens tribal sovereignty and sacred sites.
Urge the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take action. Click below to automatically sign the petition:
Thanks for fighting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets