Thousands March with Cowboy and Indian Alliance at “Reject and Protect” to Protest Keystone XL Pipeline
Cowboy and Indian Alliance Present a Painted Tipi to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian as a Gift to President Obama
Washington, DC — Thousands of people joined the farmers, ranchers, and tribal leaders of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance for a ceremonial procession along the National Mall to protest the Keystone XL pipeline this afternoon. The procession was the largest event yet of the five-day “Reject and Protect” encampment.
“Today, boots and moccasins showed President Obama an unlikely alliance has his back to reject Keystone XL to protect our land and water,” said Jane Kleeb, Executive Director of Bold Nebraska, one of the key organizers of Reject and Protect.
Legendary musician Neil Young and actress Daryl Hannah were amongst the crowd of thousands who rallied on the National Mall and then marched past the Capitol building. “We need to end the age of fossil fuels and move on to something better,” Mr. Young told the crowd.
The day’s procession included the presentation of a hand-painted tipi to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian as a gift to President Obama. The tipi represented the Cowboy and Indian Alliance’s hopes for protected land and clean water. The formal name of the tipi is “Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuuxshish” and “Oyate Wookiye,” two names given to President Obama by the Lakota and the Crow Nations upon his visit to those Nations in 2008. The title translates from the Lakota and Crow languages, respectively, as “Man Who Helps the People” and “One Who Helps People throughout the Land.”
“Keystone XL is a death warrant for our people,” said Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer, who helped lead the presentation of the tipi to the Smithsonian. “President Obama must reject this pipeline and protect our sacred land and water. The United States needs to respect our treaty rights and say no to Keystone XL.”
Reject and Protect has helped shine a spotlight on the strengthening opposition to Keystone XL amongst ranchers, farmers, and Native American tribes along the pipeline route. Buoyed by the State Department’s recent delay of the project, the Cowboy and Indian Alliance has pledged to intensify their efforts to convince President Obama to “reject” the pipeline and “protect” their families, land, water, treaty rights, and climate.
“Every time Keystone XL gets delayed it just gives us more time to speak up and tell the truth about this dangerous pipeline,” Meghan Hammond, a sixth-generation Nebraska rancher told the crowd of thousands. Ms. Hammond worked with her family to build a crowd-funded, clean-energy powered barn on her property, directly on the proposed route of Keystone XL.
The five-day Reject and Protect encampment began with a march and opening ceremony on Earth Day, April 22. On Wednesday, members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance met with the White House to voice their concerns about Keystone XL and tar sands expansion. On Thursday, the Alliance hosted a protest at the Lincoln Memorial where Rosebud Sioux member Wizipan Little Elk and Nebraska farmer Art Tanderup risked arrest by walking into the reflecting pool with a sign that read, “Standing in the water could get me arrested, TransCanada pollutes drinking water and nothing happens.” On Friday, the Alliance hosted an interfaith prayer ceremony outside Secretary of State John Kerry’s house, before marching through Georgetown and holding a round dance in the middle of the M St. and Wisconsin Ave. intersection.
“The proposed pipeline is going to be coming through our backyard,” said Robert Allpress, a rancher from North-Central Nebraska. “We live in an area that is very slide-prone and TransCanada has never checked that out. They’re in the wrong place at the wrong time and we don’t need them because they’re not beneficial for the United States.”
Reject and Protect also included representatives from First Nations communities living in Alberta, Canada, where tar sands production is devastating tribal land, water, and health. First Nations are increasingly fighting back by demanding the Canadian government honor their treaty rights.
“We have come to a point where we have no choice left but to lift up our inherent treaty rights – our birthrights,” said Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Treaty No. 6. “The Crown and this Government do not get to pick the pieces of their law it likes and which ones it does not. They made their laws thus they have to abide by them. As First Nations people, we abide by natural law, and there is nothing natural about a people dying from cancer and suffering from respiratory illnesses caused by tar sands production.”
On Friday, Senator Barbara Boxer offered her support for the encampment, “I commend all of the ranchers, farmers and indigenous leaders from throughout our nation’s heartland who have come to Washington, D.C. this week. Although I cannot be with you in person, I want you to know that your presence sends a strong signal to Congress and the administration about the need to protect our communities and families from the impacts of dirty tar sands oil.”
Reject and Protect will end with an interfaith ceremony at the encampment on Sunday morning, but according to lead organizers, the Cowboy and Indian Alliance will continue to build its ground campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline until President Obama rejects it once and for all.
This is just the beginning. The Cowboy and Indian Alliance will ride again,” said Bold Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb.
Additional information about the tipi delivery:
The tipi is a gift to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) from the Native Nations’ Leaders with the Cowboy and Indian Alliance. A spiritual object of historical importance, the tipi represents their hopes for protected land and clean water.
The title of the tipi is, “Oyate Owicakiye Wicasa /Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuuxshish,” which are the two names given to President Obama by the Lakota and the Crow Nations upon his visit to those Nations in 2008.
The title translates from the Lakota and Crow languages, respectively, as “Man Who Helps the People” and “One Who Helps People throughout the Land.”
Oyate Wahacanka Woecun, a community of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, provided the theme and narrative for the tipi.
“Oyate Owicakiye Wicasa /Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuuxshish,” is presented to the museum by:
Bryan Brewer, President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Oglala Lakota Nation;
Tom Poor Bear, Vice President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Oglala Lakota Nation;
Cyril Scott, President of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Upper Brule Sioux Nation;
Phyllis Young, At Large, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dakota and Lakota Nations.
In attendance with,
Chief Reuben George, Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, British Colombia;
Robin Lebeau, Council Representative, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Lakota Nation;
Justin Song Hawk, Councilman, Yankton Sioux Nation
And received by the museum’s curators and historian:
Emil Her Many Horses, Oglala Lakota Nation, NMAI Associate Curator;
Dr. Gabrielle Tayac, Piscataway Indian Nation, NMAI Historian;
Joe D. Horse Capture, A’aninin (Gros Ventre) Indian Nation, NMAI Associate Curator;
Sharyl Pahe, Navajo Nation/San Carlos Apache, NMAI Interpretive Services Manager; and
Steve Tamayo, a distinguished traditional Sicangu Lakota artist, whose family is originally from Milk’s Camp community on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, designed and painted the tipi.
The images on the tipi are:
Water = Blue line around the base. Representing the Ogallala Aquifer and it is also the foundation that unites all living beings.
Earth= Green line around the base. This represents the land and the second foundational element that unifies us.
Cedar Tree up the spine of the tipi= The roots of the tree represent Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires). The cedar tree was the first tree created and has a relationship to the Thunder Beings. The Thunders represent balance and protection. In the trunk of the tree is a large turtle with its shell representing the earth and also represents the connection and responsibility we have to the entire world. The cedar tree is always green and represents long life. The long life is for our future generations, the earth, the water and for the Cowboy and Indian Alliance.
The horses running toward the opening of the tipi signify the unification of the alliance.
The painted horses represent sovereign Native Nations; the solid colored-horses represent the States’ Farmers and Ranchers. Images on the horses depict regions and affiliations.
The top of the tipi is black signifying the night sky and the stars of the Big Dipper that are placed there represent our Ancestors. The stars are also significant because they provide direction and even in the dark of night, they are consistent.
The liner of the tipi, also gifted to the museum as part of the historical record, is marked by the palm and thumb prints of “the people, standing together to protect the land and the water.” Their message to the President being, “Leave your mark on history, as we leave our marks on this tipi.”
The tipi was blessed on the Ponca Trail of Tears in Neligh, Nebraska on the land of Art and Helen Tanderup. The land could be crossed by the Keystone XL pipeline. A spirit camp was held in November, 2013 with the un-painted tipi with the Ponca Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe, and Rosebud Sioux Tribe, along with allied citizen group Bold Nebraska. The tipi was blessed again on the same land in early April, 2014 after the Cowboy and Indian Alliance used a tractor to create an image of a Cowboy and an Indian Warrior with a symbol of water under both of them. The crop art image created was the size of over 80 football fields. The tipi was blessed for the last time before gifting to the museum at the Cowboy and Indian Alliance’s event called Reject and Protect to symbolize the farmers, ranchers, and tribal communities’ shared love for the land and water.