Anishinaabe and Lakota Riders Protest Pipelines, on Horseback
Thundering across the plains on horseback, along the routes of two proposed oil pipelines, Earth’s Army has wound up its journey to draw attention to not just TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, but also a lesser-known one being proposed by Enbridge across White Earth territory.
On Monday October 14, while many across Turtle Island were flocking to malls in search of Columbus Day sales, a group of riders were on Day 2 of their 150-mile journey from the Pine Ridge Reservation to the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, tracing the approximate route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Led by Percy White Plume, a descendant of the survivors of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre, they rode to oppose the so-called man camps built to house the transient laborers who will be brought in to build the pipeline, as well as “to protect our water,” White Plume said.
“We can drink bottled water, but our relatives in the horse nation, the buffalo nation and the animals cannot drink bottled water, our water is sacred,” he said.
Keystone XL would cross Lakota territory and the Oglala Aquifer, which is the primary source of water for most of the region, noted the organizers. The ride was organized by the Horse Spirit Society of Wounded Knee, sponsored by Honor the Earth, and supported by the Swift Family Foundation, U.S. Climate Action Network and 350.org.
“The ride began the same day as the 800,000 gallon plus pipeline spill from a Tesoro six inch line near Tioga, North Dakota was revealed to the press, and amidst a federal shutdown, in which it is not clear that [pipeline safety inspectors] are available,” the organizers said in a statement on the ride’s second day. “The ride also follows a freak … two-foot blizzard which killed over 100,000 cattle in the largely rural ranching state. Amidst the changing weather, and riding through fields still littered with the carcasses of dead cattle, overturned trees and flooded creeks, 25 riders and supporters continue north.”
It was the second ride in as many weeks. During the first week of October a smaller, Anishinaabe group headed by LaDuke rode along the proposed route of another would-be pipeline. The construction of the Sandpiper pipeline and the expansion of the Alberta Clipper pipeline have not garnered the attention that the Keystone XL has, though they too would cut through sacred lands and ecologically sensitive areas.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is considering the Enbridge Alberta Clipper expansion proposal, which would create a pipeline much larger than Keystone XL. It would run from Hardisty, Alberta across northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The rides are winding up just as Congress begins hearings on the climate change initiatives proposed by President Barack Obama, as Bloomberg newswire pointed out. In addition, Thursday October 17 “marks the fifth anniversary of the Keystone XL pipeline’s non-approval,” the newswire said, with Friday a deadline imposed by Obama for stronger coal-plant-emission rules.
“We will oppose the devastation that the proposed Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline would cause in our home community of White Earth,” said LaDuke in a statement from Honor the Earth. “We will be working in coordination with partner organizations and allies to launch a media campaign and public education effort against the Alberta Clipper expansion and the Sandpiper pipelines. We will also join our Lakota relatives to ride in the west.”
This they did, and here is the photographic record of the prayer-filled rides. Below, the riders in action.