Keystone XL, Dakota Pipelines Will Draw Mass Resistance, Native Groups Promise

Native American activists assail President Trump's executive action to revive the pipelines: 'We will mobilize, we will resist.'

Protesters outside the White House after Trump's executive order revived two pipelines
Protesters gathered outside the White House after President Trump signed executive actions reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Credit: Getty Images

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Native rights groups promised to lead a mass mobilization against the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, saying on Monday that they would do everything they could to oppose President Trump’s executive action to revive the projects.  

After Trump signed executive memoranda attempting to push the pipeline projects forward last week, Native groups and others decried his decision to give the pipelines his full backing.

“He effectively called a war against the Great Sioux Nation, saying that he didn’t care about the indigenous people here in the U.S.,” Joye Braun of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota said at a press event on Monday. “We will stand and we will fight using nonviolent action and prayer to protect our people, to protect our land, and to protect our water.”

Trump’s Dakota Access memorandum urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite an ongoing environmental review and approve the project. A memorandum on Keystone XL encouraged Canadian pipeline company TransCanada to reapply for a permit that President Obama denied in 2015, which TransCanada promptly filed with the State Department.

Legal experts were quick to question the president’s capacity to push the projects through, and the leaders of the initially successful protests vowed to continue mobilizing.

“We have demonstrated that there is interest and support from across the country and across the globe to support indigenous resistance to protect our rights and we want to continue that fight onward,” Dallas Goldtooth, campaign organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network said on Monday.

Goldtooth said Native Americans, who rallied forcefully against Dakota Access in support of the Standing Rock tribe, would be equally forceful against Keystone XL.

“We will mobilize, we will resist, we will be setting up camps in very strategic locations along the KXL route,” Goldtooth said. “We will fight Trump tooth and nail to ensure that this pipeline is not built.”

Native leaders urged pipeline opponents, however, to respect the wishes of the Standing Rock tribe not to continue large-scale protests against Dakota Access near their reservation.

Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock tribe has repeatedly called for demonstrators at Oceti Sakowin, the main Dakota Access protest camp, to go home. The camp is located in a floodplain that will likely be underwater when snow melts in the spring. Protests near the camp also resulted in the closure of a highway between the Standing Rock reservation and Bismarck, N.D., a route that many on the reservation depend on to get to work, for shopping, and for health care.

“Hopefully all of us will respect that Standing Rock is having to foot the resources of what is going on and it is impacting their emergency services, their roads, and their kids,” said Faith Spotted Eagle, a member of the Yankton Sioux tribe of South Dakota.

Goldtooth suggested pipeline opponents may want to consider opposing other pipelines as well.

“If you have a choice you might want to go and support other frontline fights where they are fighting the same beasts, which is pipelines and the fossil fuel industry,” he said. “Whether it is the Trans-Pecos pipeline in Texas, or the Bayou Bridge fight in Louisiana, or the Sabal Trail pipeline in Florida, those are all other camps that are asking for people to go there.”

Veterans Stand, a group of military veterans who oppose the Dakota Access pipeline, announced a new campaign last week to support the Standing Rock tribe and others who oppose the project. The group rallied about 4,000 veterans to the North Dakota protest camp in December. The group is now seeking funds to assist those remaining at the camp, but said it will refrain from deploying additional volunteers there. Any decision to send additional protesters would be made with tribal leaders, the group said.  

“We stand in unity with our brothers and sisters in Standing Rock (and beyond) and our community is ready to mobilize,” the group said on its GoFundMe page.