Despite the support for the TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline by both political parties, the pipeline debate is still unsettled and many continue to insist the plan should be seriously reconsidered.
It has been hundreds of years since Europeans first arrived in North America, but the territorial and political boundaries are still being challenged. The current conflict involves the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, the Indian territory it endangers, and the neglect of North American leaders to consult with tribal nation leaders before making plans.
Despite the support for the TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline by both political parties, the pipeline debate is still unsettled and many continue to insist the plan should be seriously reconsidered. According to Trans Canada’s website, the Keystone XL Pipeline “will be the safest and most advanced oil pipeline operation in North America. It will not only bring essential infrastructure to North American oil producers, but it will also provide jobs, long-term energy independence and an economic boost to Americans.” Unfortunately, the three benefits they claim are largely exaggerated and disguise drastic flaws in the proposal, including genuine harm to our Native American neighbors and our relationship with them.
One of the main reasons that the
Keystone Pipeline addition is being looked at formally is because of the rumored creation of a plethora of jobs. It is true that the Keystone XL would provide about 42,000 construction jobs, each of which would benefit the jobholder and the economy. Unfortunately, as valuable and important construction and other support jobs are, they are temporary. According to Coral Davenport of the New York Times, however, after the two-year construction period, only 35 permanent jobs would remain. This massive loss of jobs may have greater negative effects than hiring them would have positive ones. The Keystone XL Pipeline website lists job creation first in its list of benefits, but unfortunately it is not a real benefit at all.
Second in this list is long-term energy independence. Of course, energy independence is a goal that the United States should strive for. The Keystone XL Pipeline would surely aid in accomplishing this monumental goal for some time. Although long term, that time is limited. If the United States were to become energy independent through the Keystone XL Pipeline, it would be relying entirely on a limited resource to support a large part of its economy. It would be wise to invest the same money into research and engineering for alternative energy sources that could potentially replace oil altogether. Long-term energy independence sounds ideal, but it is not infinite and will likely lead to serious problems in the future.
Instead of being entirely beneficial to the United States, the Keystone XL Pipeline will likely cause a variety of problems. These issues include environmental, geopolitical, and political disputes that could all result in tremendous conflicts. In addition to these massive controversies is the age-old problem of Native American suppression.
The Keystone XL Pipeline addition will pass through a variety of Native American lands, such as the Oceti Sakowin territory in the Great Plains, one of the larger lands that Native Americans still have control of. The pipeline brings with it an assortment of complications to Native American land and people. First, the pipeline runs through the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking water for 2.2 million people including many Native American tribes. According to Friends of the Earth International, in regions of Canada that are already being affected, indigenous communities “living downstream from tailing ponds have seen spikes in rates of rare cancers, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism. In the lakeside village of Fort Chipewyan, for example, 100 of the town’s 1,200 residents have died from cancer.” We are now on the verge of bringing these dangers here to our people.
The threat that a leak poses to the little remaining Native American lands is massive. Advocates for the Keystone XL Pipeline claim that a leak is highly unlikely, yet the current Keystone line has had 14 “spills” in the last four years, according to a US State Department report. Many of the tribes sustain themselves on the natural resources they acquire from and around the Ogallala Aquifer, and the Keystone XL Pipeline jeopardizes their survival.
The pipeline also threatens the cultural and historic preservation of many Native American tribes. The pipeline requires digging massive paths to lay the pipeline in, many of which could destroy sacred sites. Native Americans have been relocated throughout the United States time and time again. Because of this, their sacred lands, such as graveyards, lie in many areas not necessarily within their current borders. Their graveyards, many due to the smallpox introduced into their society, are extremely spiritual and at risk of destruction.
Although these physical conflicts with Native American lands are damaging and appalling, the most serious issue is that the nations and tribes are not being consulted with in regards to the Keystone XL Pipeline. Because of this, many Native American leaders and tribe members protested the pipeline’s construction in Washington DC. President Cyril Scott of the Rosebud Sioux told the pipeline advocates “don’t come without expecting a fight, because we will give you a fight. I am willing to spill my blood on behalf of our people.” He is not alone; many Native Americans are considering the Keystone XL Pipeline to be an act of war on their nations.
Native Americans have been struggling in the United States for far too long. They have been treated like cattle and herded where the rest of the United States wants them. The land that they have been promised through treaties is being altered and destroyed. The Keystone XL Pipeline is causing the United States to once again take advantage of Native Americans. Lou Thompson, TransCanada’s top liaison with Native Americans, insists that even communicating with Native American tribes is not a legal obligation. These skewed views and tactics of negotiating with the Native American tribes is leading to harsh relations yet again.
The Keystone XL Pipeline addition will bring with it monumental changes for the United States. These changes are extraordinarily hard to predict, as it will be so involved with economic, political, environmental, and physical aspects of the country. It is impossible for the Keystone XL Pipeline advocates to say that it will only bring with it benefits, as the thought of the project has already enraged tens of thousands. With the benefits so uncertain, and the gains so small, should the United States really take advantage of the Native Americans again? And at what cost?
Photo credit: Getty Images
Originally published in the Vanderbilt Political Review