Published May 15, 2017
CALGARY, ALBERTA – On Wednesday May 17, leaders of the Blackfoot Confederacy and the Great Sioux Nation (Očhéthi Šakówiŋ) will reignite a historic union to send a message to US President Donald Trump that the stroke of his pen on an executive order cannot erase the weight of history. In solidarity with Tribal Nations from British Columbia to Oklahoma, Chief Stan Grier of the Piikani Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy and Chairman Brandon Sazue of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, will sign the “Declaration Opposing Oil Sands Expansion and the Construction of the Keystone-XL Pipeline” in the Morris Schumiatcher Room at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, at a ceremony beginning at 11 am.
“We, The First People, were and remain the stewards of the land and with this Declaration renew our vow to carry that sacred obligation in defense of our Mother, the Earth, and all born of her body and nurtured at her breast who are no longer heard amidst the dissonance of industrialization and corporate domination,” reads the preamble to the historic document. Among those quoted in the Declaration is Chief Vern Janvier, Chief of the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation, a tribe on the frontlines of the Oil Sands. In the document, Chief Janvier articulates how the sacrifice of sacred beings on the altars of fossil fuel profits is an act of cultural genocide. “I am honored that my words are in this declaration, and I’m proud to see the brotherhood of Nations continues,” says Chief Janvier.
The sixteen-page “Declaration Opposing Oil Sands Expansion and the Construction of the Keystone-XL Pipeline” is described as the most comprehensive proclamation of its kind against the immense fossil-fuel sacrifice zone and pipeline that will carry its bitumen crude across sacred and environmentally fragile tribal lands. “This is a new chapter in the old story of Manifest Destiny. Greed knows no limits, and those in the way are simply collateral damage to corporate profits,” says Chairman Brandon Sazue. A prominent figure in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) struggle, Sazue is serving his third term as chairman of the Hunkpati Dakota Oyate, the Mdewakanton and Ihanktonwan of Crow Creek.
The Declaration details not only the physical, cultural, and environmental impacts of Oil Sands development and the proposed Keystone-XL Pipeline, but “follows the money” to Trump’s boosters and political allies in the US Congress and the president’s cabinet. Extractive industry campaign finance benefits to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Senator John Barrasso are detailed, and many of Barrasso’s claims about Keystone-XL, particularly on job creation, are debunked as false through the Pulitzer prize-winning PolitiFact.
A major emphasis of the Declaration is treaty rights and consultation mandates. “The dire human and environmental costs of these and corresponding projects provides the strongest illustration that the existing tribal consultation processes in both Canada and the United States must be overhauled, and that for any proposal to be activated that impacts Tribal Nations, the consultation process must conclude with tribal consent,” states the Declaration.
In the wake of Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey for his apparent persistence in investigating Russia-gate, Chairman Sazue sees the connection to Keystone-XL. “Trump family friend and Putin-financier, the Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich, is positioned to profit from both Keystone-XL and DAPL. It is Ambramovich’s steel that will carry this toxic crude from the oil sands into our sacred lands,” explains Sazue, as Native News Online previously exposed. “Former Suncor Energy CEO, Rick George, known as ‘Mr. Oil Sands,’ is linked to Putin through Petro-Canada and Gazprom. A Russian energy minister once described Putin as ‘the acting CEO of Gazprom.’ Rick George is now a director of Anadarko Petroleum and Gas, a benefactor to politicians who are clamoring to remove protections from the sacred grizzly in Greater Yellowstone, so that the protections on those lands, and restrictions on fossil fuel operations there will be lifted.”
Chief Stan Grier and the Piikani Nation Council initiated what is now the most signed tribal treaty in history, “The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration.” Some 125 Tribal Nations have signed the treaty, and after Chief Grier provided testimony to the UN on the violations of tribal rights that have taken place during the US government’s drive to delist the grizzly in the lower-48, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, signed the treaty. “There is no separation between these issues. They are both acts of cultural genocide,” explains Chief Grier. “We ignore the warnings on continued Oil Sands development and the construction of the Keystone-XL Pipeline at our collective peril. Not without reason did NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen call Keystone-XL the fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet,” he says.
Joining Chief Grier and Chairman Sazue to make presentations at the Declaration signing are Chief Judy Wilson of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Executive, and Councilwoman Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma. A founder of Indigenous Women Rising, Councilwoman Camp-Horinek is at the forefront of the struggle against the Keystone-XL Pipeline. “The Ponca Nation of Oklahoma and our sister tribe, the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, have both passed resolutions in opposition of KXL. We will not continue to serve as sacrifice zones for the extractive industries to use and leave behind the environmental devastation for us to die in. We are determined to protect the sacred air, water, earth and all life for the generation to come.” As a delegate of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Councilwoman Camp-Horinek has previously addressed the UN Permanent Forum on indigenous issues.
“Our economies must change from fossil fuels to clean energy. As the caretakers of our Mother Earth we are constantly challenged with the responsibility of defending the sacred. This Declaration shows that the awakening continues, and that the solidarity between the First Peoples of this land continues to grow,” continues Chief Judy Wilson, Chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band in the BC Interior. “Our brothers and sisters who gathered at Standing Rock to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline kindled the flame that continues to burn with this Declaration. This is a historic moment, the Remaking of the Sacred Hoop between the Blackfoot Confederacy and the Great Sioux Nation,” adds Chief Grier.
The “Remaking the Sacred Hoop” is in remembrance of when Blackfoot and Lakota ancestors interacted following the so-called Minnesota Sioux War in 1862 and again in 1877, when after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, camps of the Lakota-Dakota alliance with Sitting Bull came into Blackfoot Confederacy country and made a historic accord with Chief Crowfoot and Chief Sitting on Eagle Tail Feathers. “As Chief Grier has said, these acts of cultural and environmental genocide do not occur in isolation. Our ancestors understood this. At the Little Bighorn, they confronted the army of the Military Industrial Complex. Today we do the same, and I am honored to retrace their footsteps to the Blackfoot Confederacy. With this historic Declaration, we are truly Remaking that Sacred Hoop,” concludes Chairman Sazue.
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