Cowboy-Indian Solidarity Challenges the Keystone XL
Earlier this month nearly 400 students were arrested in front of the White House protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline. The next group of people to head to Washington, D.C. will be the Cowboy Indian Alliance, farmers and ranchers and American Indian communities living along the proposed northern part of the Keystone XL pipeline, mostly based in Nebraska and South Dakota. They will camp out near the White House for a week beginning April 22 (Earth Day), ending with a mass demonstration on April 27.
The Alliance is representing people on the front lines of the Keystone XL. Their goal is to protect their land and water for future generations. The proposed pipeline is planned to go through the Ogallala Aquifer (Northern Nebraska), which is the largest source of water for drinking, ranching and farming in the area. If there was a spill, and pipeline spills aren’t uncommon, it would put crops, public water supplies and wildlife in danger.
This type of coalition is rare in the Western United States. Ever since the encroachment of settlers onto native lands, many whites and Native Americans have been at odds over water, land, and hunting rights. The U.S. laid its foundation on stolen native land and resources, which further expanded its interests internationally as it became the global power it is today.
Many of those participating in the Cowboy Indian Alliance are fighting to defend land originally theirs under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 and 1868; a legally binding agreement between the Lakota (Sioux) and the U.S. government that was to create the “Great Sioux Reservation.” The territory includes all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River, hunting grounds in Northern Nebraska (the location of the Ogallala Aquifer), North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. The treaty stated that “no white person or persons shall be permitted to settle upon or occupy any portion of the [territory]; or without the consent of the Indians, first had and obtained, to pass through the same.”
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