U.S. and Canadian Tribal leaders draw a line at tar sands

This week, tribal leaders are raising their voices loudly to oppose the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and tars sands development in Canada. Tomorrow, American Indian and Canadian First Nation leaders will announce their opposition to Keystone XL and point to ongoing concerns regarding the effects of the propose pipeline on tribal nations. They intend to bring this message to President Obama on Friday, December 2 as part of the White House Tribal Nations Conference.  Meanwhile in Canada, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations (ACFN), directly affected by tar sands development in Alberta, will be sending a message to the tar sands oil company Shell.  The ACFN says that Shell failed to meet agreements with their community to lessen the impacts of tarsands projects on their community.  Tribal leaders are drawing a line against tar sands development and pipeline infrastructure.  It is time for the U.S. and Canadian decision makers listen.   

In Washington D.C., President John Steele of the Oglala Sioux Nation in South Dakota will announce that his community is opposed to Keystone XL.  The Oglala Sioux Tribe’s water supply area and lands of the Great Sioux Nation are located directly in the path of the Keystone XL pipeline.  A pipeline spill to their water line would be devastating to their drinking water supply.  The Oglala Sioux’s concerns are also held by eight other tribes in South Dakota and North Dakota.  Additionally, the United Sioux Tribes of South Dakota representing 11 Sioux Tribes in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska have also expressed serious concerned that they were not adequately consulted for the Keystone XL process by the State Department.

Tomorrow’s announcement is endorsed by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), representing the nation’s oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments.  The NCAI passed a resolution earlier this year against Keystone XL earlier this year. At tomorrow’s announcement, President Steele will be joined by other tribal leaders from the U.S. and Canada expressing the Keystone XL pipeline threatens water quality, public health, and cultural preservation in both the United States and Canada.  

On Friday as part of the White House Tribal Nations Conference, tribal leaders intend to present the Mother Earth Accord which states “We urge President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to reject the Presidential Permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.”  Signatories to the Accord include American Indian tribes and Canadian First Nations. 

Meanwhile in Canada, Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is speaking out today at the Shell Canada corporate headquarters in downtown Calgary. The ACFN has filed a lawsuit with Shell asserting it broke its agreement with the First Nation to lessen the impact of tars sands mines on their community.  Chief Adam said, “We’re drawing the line, and taking a strong stand against Shell. ACFN wants no further developments until Shell is brought to justice and our broader concerns about the cumulative impacts in the region are addressed.”  The ACFN has said that not only has Shell failed to meet its commitments to the tribe but also that Canadian governments have failed saying that “Shell cannot be trusted to monitor itself.” 

The message from these tribal leaders is clear: they are drawing a line at tar sands.  It is time the Obama administration heard their concerns about the impacts on local communities both from Keystone XL pipeline and tar sands development.  Tar sands oil brings significant risks to local communities, the environment, and particularly water supply.  The voices of these communities will only grow to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and expanding tar sands development.