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Lakotas Launch Hunger Strike Against Tar Sands Pipelines

Rocky Kistner

Posted April 3, 2012 in Curbing Pollution, Environmental Justice, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Moving Beyond Oil

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In the Dakotas, members of the proud Lakota Nation rose in protest this week to join a  48-hour hunger strike in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline—and all tar sands pipelines—they say will destroy precious water resources and ancestral lands in the U.S and in Canada.  

On Sunday, dozens of hunger strikers and supporters marched at a rally against tar sands oil mining operations and pipelines in Eagle Butte, SD, a impoverished community on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, close to TransCanada’s 1,700 mile proposed Keystone XL pipeline route to refineries in the Gulf.

Lakota tribal members and their children drove to a camp in the rugged hills near the Missouri River to fast in solidarity with a hunger strike at the Bella Bella Community School in British Columbia. Children at the school are protesting a plan to ship millions of barrels of oil through a potentially dangerous “Northern Gateway” pipeline that would pipe corrosive tar sands oil from Alberta to giant super tankers navigating Canada’s treacherous Pacific coast.

Tar sands oil protesters in Eagle Butte, SD            Photos: Rocky Kistner/NRDC

The massive environmental devastation caused by tar sands mining in Canada and oil company plans to ship it through the U.S. has united Native Americans against proposals to build tar sands pipelines here in the U.S. Here's how veteran Lakota activist Debra White Plume described it at hunger strike near Eagle Butte;

"This pipeline is about rich people getting richer, this pipeline is about raping Mother Earth and feeding the machine. For us this pipeline is genocide for us and the First Nations people in Canada. I think our native nations will stay opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline and stay opposed to other pipelines that come through here because we understand that water is a gift from our Grandfather, it’s a gift of life. Our leaders understand that and they’re not going to make a deal. It’s a battle for our water, it’s a battle for our children. These are our grandchildren at the hunger strike, we’re really proud of them for going hungry for Mother Earth and for their elders who are doing this.”

Karen Ducheneaux, who lives on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, one of the poorest regions in the country, came up with the hunger strike idea after seeing a powerful video protesting tar sands oil by the children of the Bella Bella Community School in Canada. After talking to her family members and tribal leaders, Ducheneaux decided it was time to act in solidarity with the First Nation peoples of Canada.

“What they’re facing doesn’t just affect them, doesn’t just affect the west coast of Canada or Alberta where the tar sands are. It doesn’t just affect people along the where the pipelines are, it affects the whole world. What they’re doing, poisoning the water and polluting the earth affects all mankind, not just the Lakota or people of South Dakota, but everyone....I'm so proud of the group of school children in Bella Bella and so proud to be able to support them....we can’t drink oil, we’re going to destroy our own ground water and our own ecosystem and then we’re going to be stuck with nothing.”

Debra White Plume (top), Karen Duchenaux and the Lakota hunger strike camp

Photos: Rocky Kistner/NRDC

 

So on a unusually hot April 1st in the Dakotas, a few dozen hunger-strikers and supporters gathered on family-owned land nestled in the rumpled hills near the Missouri River, land that has been a source of life and nourishment long before settlers invaded their Lakota Sioux  territories over a century ago. Lakota supporters built a sweat lodge and elders sang songs and prayers in support of hunger strikers in Canada over a thousand miles away. They were there to support and protect Mother Earth, a powerful Lakota tradition passed down through the generations, long before oil and mining companies came and polluted their land.

It is a tradition these hunger strikers say they will fight for until there are no Lakota left, a struggle we all should respect and support. 

You can take action against tar sands oil pipelines by going to www.StopTar.org and www.SavetheSpiritBear.org.   

 

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Comments

BenjaminApr 5 2012 12:38 AM

I wish I could be there to help! if I can't find any jobs soon, I might just go anyhow! please keep fighting! many people, Indians, whites and otherwise, are with you. please the more media you bring to this the better, alot of people have no Idea that these monsters are still being allowed to do this to the Lakota Oyate!

misty davisApr 6 2012 10:09 AM

you should get your facts straight before you post anything..there wasnt a few dozen..there was misty sioux ,olowan, bo, louie, luke, cody, lisa marie(from canada), crow(also from canada) might i add they hitch hiked to come and fast with us, makipiya(child), ilecus(child), and lets not forget kyanne, karen, and candace who came every morning and stayed with us until dark..the supporters that came and stayed with us also was jackie dunn and vivian high elk..thank you ladies..also 2 others stopped by raven and polly they were passing through on their fight to save unci maka..and lets not forget robin who fights for the buffalo and her son..yea it was a good fast and all worth it..

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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