Why Indigenous Communities Are Fighting Back

By Taylor Meding

There is a new pipeline coming to the area, its name? The Keystone Pipeline. What is it you ask, the pipeline is, “a proposed 36 inch- diameter crude oil pipeline”, (The Project | Keystone XL Pipeline). It is something that is looked for carrying energy in a safe and environmentally friendly way across the United States from North America. With that being said this pipeline built to transport resources is planned to be used daily by every American. They plan for the pipeline to help keep the environmental footprint down while protecting the land of indigenous communities, even planning on preserving it. Now this has become a problem to many people of the indigenous communities because of the meaning the land has to the culture. The company who is building the pipeline states, “If construction uncovers artifacts, understanding they may have historic, religious, or cultural significance and will retain the services of local Cultural and Paleontological Resource Monitors who have the authority to redirect or stop work in the area”, (The Project | Keystone XL Pipeline). That should be seen as a good thing, but yet many people are very worried about what is going to happen to their land that means so much to them and their culture. Could you imagine something that you do not know about coming to something that means so much to your community, history, and even life style? These people can lose something that means so much to them, and to them it feels like they do not have a say as to what is going on.

Some of the indigenous communities that will be affected by the pipeline are the communities of Dene nations, Creek nations, Omaha tribes, Ho-chunk tribes, and the Panka tribes. There is so much fear that there will a major overlook of the treaties the tribes have with the federal government. Can you imagine the war that it could start if the federal government goes back on what they promised what not to do? This land means so much to these communities, and who is someone to say that it is okay to just go in and destroy the land? Robert Boos had an interview with a member of Indigenous Environmental Network members who stated, “The KeyStone pipeline passes right through the heart of the Oceti Sacowin Treaty area that was established before the Laramie Treaty back in 1868. A lot of tribe nations really stick to the wondering and negotiated agreements that were made and our treaties and we really encourage the federal government stick to those,” (Native American Tribes Unite to Fight the Keystone Pipeline and Government ‘Disrespect). This is a fear that many indigenous communities fear. They do not want to live in fear that their treaties will not be respected, they want to be able to have their wishes kept as is and live life as before this pipeline was put into place. There is a huge feeling of disrespect for those of the members of the communities.

Maybe the people who have this fear are right? Maybe there should be fear. According to Martin Smith, “an archaeological survey found that the Keystone XL threatened 88 archeological sites and 34 historical Structures,” (Smith).  It has been found that many Native American cultures have beliefs that lead back to way before our time that involve conserving the environment. This belief goes into the thought that the Indigenous groups culture has taught them to believe that everything has spirit, including the land. This pipeline could destroy that spirit. Each tribe has their own way in showing that the land has spirit that includes rituals among many other things such as beliefs that the land leads to other worlds. Some also believe that the land is sacred and needs to be protected from others. This land has so much more meaning than it being just land, some are ancient burial grounds that host the bodies of those long before us. While it may seem like empty space to just a blind eye, it has so much more meaning and history making it more than just land.

How can one argue that their land is being taken away from them and then others not see the importance of it? There are many examples as to why this pipeline may not be a good idea, even though there are some good benefits that may come from building the pipeline, is it worth disturbing treaties that have been around for years and years? Or even upsetting those whose beliefs go back to way before we even walked this earth. There are many factors into why the indigenous communities are being affected, maybe there needs to be more looks into what is going to happen to those 88 communities and 34 structures as well as some of the impacts it will have to the people around this project and those of these communities. There are so many questions that need to be asked, and to these people who are fighting this pipeline seem to think that there is more to this than just a pipeline. It is disturbing their peace with the land. This is messing with their beliefs on the land. Yes, oil does have a lot of meaning to it and can provide so much energy to those of America, but is it worth the price to pay for disturbing something that has been around for ages.

The Project | Keystone XL Pipeline”. Keystone-xl.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 Mar. 2017


Boos, Robert. “Native American tribes unite to fight the Keystone pipeline and government ‘disrespect'” Public Radio International. N.p. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.


Smith, Martin. “Cultural Differences Create Conflict Over the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline.” The Modern Ape. N.p., 18 Nov. 2014. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.



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