Skip to main content

Cowboys and Indians unite against Keystone XL

By Mary Annette Pember
April 27, 2014 -- Updated 2329 GMT (0729 HKT)
Several Native Americans and ranchers have come out against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline through the Midwest.
Several Native Americans and ranchers have come out against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline through the Midwest.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mary Annette Pember thinks the push to build the Keystone XL pipeline will hurt the land
  • She says there is no escape from the order of nature if we poison our land and water
  • She contends the land, water and wildlife are also members of the community

Editor's note: Mary Annette Pember is an independent journalist and former President of the Native American Journalists Association. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- "You sure can't eat oil," Billy Redwing Tayac, chief of the Piscataway Nation, noted in video from the Cowboys and Indians Alliance protest last week in Washington against the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

Ranchers and farmers have joined forces with tribal communities and created the unified coalition in opposing the construction of the pipeline that would transport tar sands oil through their lands from Canada to Texas.

Despite TransCanada's promises of jobs and money for the Great Plains region, the CIA is loudly voicing opposition to this shortsighted, quick-cash scheme that would poison the environment as well as humans who live there.

Mary Annette Pember
Mary Annette Pember

It's a simple message really, and one that Native peoples have been repeating for centuries. Whatever we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. It's not because we are closer to nature than others, have spirit animals or look really attractive on horseback that we know this basic fact. Everyone on Earth knows it, too, but they get pressured to ignore it.

There is no escape from the order of nature. We are all subject to the same processes regardless of wealth, position or politics. In the end, there's no way to stave off the simple true-ism that if we poison our land and water, we will sicken and die.

Greed and its childish illusions of invincibility have long driven the uniquely foolhardy mindset that dominates American economics. To speak against it was to be marginalized as being a tree-hugger, a hippie or downright un-American.

Perhaps until now.

Keystone delay: 'stupid' move?
Ruling jeopardizes Keystone pipeline
Jones: 3 myths about Keystone Pipeline

At the Protect the Sacred Gathering on the Dakota reservation in South Dakota last year, I witnessed the beginnings of the CIA's current plan of action. I watched and listened as non-Native ranchers, farmers and environmentalists met with tribal folks, perhaps for the first time, creating a common language of love for the land, their families and community.

More than a classic sociology 101 class experiment that draws disparate groups together by introducing a common enemy, the CIA's current Reject and Protect action in Washington represents a consciousness shift among non-Natives.

In the traditional Native worldview, the land, water and wildlife are also members of the community. We care for these relatives as we would care for other members of our families.

As they have learned about this continuity of Native culture and environmental responsibility, the non-Native participants are embracing this philosophy, grateful that someone has finally given them permission to express it.

Interviewed by the coordinators of the Reject and Protect website, Ben Gotchall, fourth-generation Nebraska rancher said, "Historically, cowboys and Indians have been at odds, but no more. The CIA shows our cooperation and working together in mutual respect.

"That shared bond proves that we pipeline fighters are not just a few angry land owners holding out or environmentalists pushing a narrow agenda. We are people from all walks of life and include the people who have been here the longest and know the land best.

"Sadly, they know what it's like to lose their land, to lose the ground that gives a nation its identity. We're proud that they have joined us in this fight. Together this time, we cannot lose."

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
If Obama thinks pushing out Hagel will be seen as the housecleaning many have eyed for his national security process, he'll be disappointed, says David Rothkopf.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
The decision by the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney to announce the Ferguson grand jury decision at night was dangerous, says Jeff Toobin.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
China's influence in Latin America is nothing new. Beijing has a voracious appetite for natural resources and deep pockets, says Frida Ghitis.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 2151 GMT (0551 HKT)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran on June 14, 2014.
The decision to extend the deadline for talks over Iran's nuclear program doesn't change Tehran's dubious history on the issue, writes Michael Rubin.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2329 GMT (0729 HKT)
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0134 GMT (0934 HKT)
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 2011 GMT (0411 HKT)
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2141 GMT (0541 HKT)
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT