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The cloudless blue sky above Washington DC on Saturday, April 26th, reflected the expanding passion and commitment expressed by the speakers and participants in the Reject and Protect Tipi Gifting Ceremony, the culminating event of several days of protest on the National Mall against the Keystone XL pipeline.

It was a festive and high-spirited event in some aspects, but a solemn and determined one in others. Organizers with the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, the Sierra Club,, and Bold Nebraska had hosted events since Wednesday with great ceremony and panache. (Please see these diaries by mimi here and here for coverage of other days.) Several tipis adorned the lawn, but one in particular, the backdrop for the speeches and the focus for the presentation, was meant to carry an essential set of messages (paraphrasing here) to President Obama: Reject the KXL pipeline permit request. Protect the land and water along the pipeline route, and the people whose lives and traditions derive from them. Honor your commitment to the future, starting now. The sentiment was very clear from the crowd that they were calling on the President to do the right thing. So much so that  Wizipan Little Elk,of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe who worked directly for President Obama's transition team in 2008 and also worked for former Senate leader Tom Daschle asked why President Obama would not uphold the promises he made to protect the land from development? That they had taken him in, given him a name, and made him one of them in honor. It was quite remarkable to hear.

The speakers carried a powerful message that the Ogallala Aquifer would be put directly at risk if the pipeline was approved. The aquifer carries water for some five million people and is one of the largest fresh water aquifers in the United States. Beyond providing clean drinking water for much of the western United States the aquifer is used extensively to grow crops and feed live stock. If the pipeline were to rupture even just (as the industry likes to say) in a negligible way then we would destroy one of our fundamental economic and human resources in ways terrorists could not.

That alone should be enough for president Obama to reject this pipeline. It is not in our national interest and it should be noted that the main reason this pipeline does not go east to west across Canada is that the first nation peoples of Canada have their land rights written into their constitution.  In the United States that is not the case and more oft than not the mighty dollars holds sway over our policy rather than common sense. Should we really believe that the Koch brothers have our best interest at heart when they hold one of the biggest stakes in seeing this pipeline completed? One of the common misconceptions is that if we build this pipeline than the price of oil will be reduced and we will slowly ween our nation off of foreign oil. That is not the truth. Most of the oil is not meant for domestic competition but bound for the global market where we would still have to be the highest bidder in order to purchase the oil. We would however be assuming a massive risk on behalf of the oil corporations to further enrich their bottom line at the expense of poisoning millions.

This is an interview that the Cowboy and Indian Alliance gave on Democracy Now shortly before the protest. In this video they explain a great deal about the aquifer and explain further the rationale on why they have come together on this critical issue.


Here is a livestream of the event which includes most of the speeches and the march.

The (mostly complete) lineup of speakers, though not everyone who spoke is included in the livestream, follows.

MCs: Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska and Dallas Goldtooth, Lower Sioux

Water ceremony leader: Casey Camp Horinek, Ponca Nation

4 Directions song leader: Greg Grey Cloud, Rosebud Sioux Tribe

Protestant prayer: John Ellwood from Bold Nebraska

1st Speaker: Wizipan Little Elk, Rosebud Sioux Tribe

2nd Speaker: Meghan Hammond, Bold Nebraska

3rd Speaker: Diana Steskal, Bold Nebraska

4th Speaker: Eriel Deranger, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

Explanation of art on tipi: Steve Tamayo, Sicangu Lakota

Surprise guest: Neil Young

Final prayer: Chief Reuben George, Tsleil‐Waututh Nation

Closing prayer and next steps: Gitz Crazyboy, Dene and Blackfoot Nations

Final performer: Frank Waln, Rosebud Sioux Tribe

You will note that Casey Camp Horinek delivered the water blessing, after a powerful introduction by her son, Mikasee. A life-long community and environmental activist, as well as a noted Ponca actress, Camp Horinek is also a sister of the recently departed and long-to-be-honored warrior Carter Camp.

Notable comments, among many:

Casey Camp Horinek, at 16:08: "Pray hard for our elected leaders as we go through this ceremony. Think of them in your minds and in your hearts, because they're pitiful. Somehow, some way they have forgotten who they are, where they're from, what gives them life."
Eriel Deranger, at 39:40: "We need to not just stop this pipeline, but every pipeline."
Neil Young
Neil Young, at 49:43: "We love the earth....We need to end the fossil fuel age and move into something better.... I say to President Obama...Why not stand up and put America on the right side of history?
Chief Reuben George
Chief Reuben George, at 53:44: "We as indigenous people know you can't put a price on the sacred. An elder held up a dollar bill and he said, this will be gone tomorrow. And he held up some earth and he said, this is here forever."

Further links to check out:

An interview with Eriel Deranger can be found here.  
Background on Camp Family activism, going back to Wounded Knee, can be found here.

Please join us below for photos of the Rally and march!

Thanks to the indefatigable mimi, who prepared a Daily Kos banner courtesy in turn of navajo, the three Kossacks in attendance throughout the rally and march (Tool, mimi, and I) were able to promote our presence in support of this powerful event. (Edward Adams was also present for most of the rally, finding us via the sign.) Several people in the march spoke to each of us in pleased recognition of the site name and logo.

The messages carried by other march participants were sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, sometimes harsh.

None of us feel strongly confident in estimating the number of participants, except to say that the crowd was several thousand strong. We know that many others are supportive in spirit, however, and we are confident that the whole series of protest events will have a positive effect.

Many thanks to Tool for adding photos, video, and commentary to this diary. Many thanks to Tool and mimi for their companionship and solidarity during an inspiring (but long) event. As I say in my tip jar comment, I will be available only sporadically today, since I am still on the road. But I will return to rec and reply as I am able, likely very late this evening for most.

Originally posted to peregrine kate on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 07:45 AM PDT.

Also republished by Native American Netroots, Climate Change SOS, Kitchen Table Kibitzing, DK GreenRoots, DC Kossacks, and Motor City Kossacks.

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