For the past week I have been amazed, humbled, and inspired by the power of people.
This last week an area between the Washington monument and the US Capitol building in Washington D.C. was transformed into a meeting place, a coming together of people from all walks of life committed to protecting the land, the water, and the planet from the devastating impacts the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would cause.
The events led by First Nations, ranchers and farmers, the self-proclaimed ‘Cowboy and Indian Alliance’, showed all week the power that people can have. For 5-years TransCanada, one of the world’s largest pipeline companies, has tried to push the Keystone XL pipeline through their lands and for 5-years they have been denied as the opposition just continues to grow.
My friend once said ‘as much as these pipelines are lines of destruction, they are also maps of resistance.’ They provide road maps of communities to connect to, people to unite, and causes to align and with the fight against Keystone that’s exactly what they’ve done.
Republican ranchers, many of which have never been involved in much politics before this week marched and stood with First Nations representatives and people from across Canada and the United States. They held water ceremonies and prayed together. They shared stories and struggles together, and in some cases even risked arrest together.
Jane Kleeb, with Bold Nebraska said, ‘there is no red water or blue water, there is only clean or dirty water, and it’s that fight that unites us. ‘
The fight against the tar sands is a fight for water, it’s a fight to protect the land, it’s a fight for the climate, and a fight for the future we want not just for our own generation but for the generations to come.
BC T’seil Waututh Sundance Chief Rueben George, who came down to the week long camp put it best, ‘this is a fight for the sacred, it’s a fight we fight not just for ourselves and our future generations, but for their’s (TransCanada’s) as well'.
Every day this week the diverse constituency raised their voices. Every morning they held water ceremonies, bringing water from the precious Ogala aquifer all the way to D.C. to help feed the land and to connect the two places together.
On Tuesday, the opening procession, First Nations, ranchers and farmers rode on horseback into the camp together. Together they raised the last teepee as ranchers passed the poles and First Nation men and women from the Rosebud Sioux, Wounded Knee, the Lakota and Dakota amongst other Nations put the poles in places and wrapped the painted covering. (Pictures of Day 1)
On Wednesday, we went to the Canadian Embassy to deliver copies of the broken treaties the government of Canada has failed to live up to and tar sands development continue to break. (Pictures of Day 2)
On Thursday, a huge mock Keystone XL pipeline was erected as one rancher and one First Nation representative went into the waters of the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln memorial. The pool, a sacred institution to many Americans, was chosen just for that reason because water is sacred not just in the reflecting pool but everywhere, including along the proposed pipeline route and in the areas surrounded and in the tar sands destruction zone.
At night projections lit up the sky encouraging the US EPA to do it's job and reject the pipeline.(Pictures of Day 3)
On Friday, we went to Secretary of State Kerry’s house. There the group reminded Kerry of his obligation to stop what he described as ‘a weapon of mass destruction’ – climate change. The group also united, hand to hand, in song and with the drum in a round dance in the streets of Georgetown. (Pictures of Day 4)
Saturday, thousands more joined. Celebrities Neil Young and Daryl Hannah lent their support and the crowd and solidarity grew as groups from Philadelphia, Maine, New York, Florida and beyond filled the camp. Speeches were spoken, prayers were given and then finally we marched en masse to deliver a teepee – jointly painted and marked with the finger and handprints of thousands – to the National Museum of the American Indian. (Pictures of Day 5)
Sunday, things wrapped up the way the same way they began with prayer and solidarity.
Many things were accomplished last week. A strong message was sent to President Obama about the dangers of Keystone and tar sands expansion, the Canadian government was reminded about there trail of broken treaties, and TransCanada was called out on their lies. But even with all that perhaps the most important thing that happened last week are the bonds that formed, the resolves that were strengthened and the relations built.
Relationships that cannot be bought by money, that will not be weakened by payoffs, because they are based on something deeper. Based on a duty and a commitment to protect the land and to honour each other. What TransCanada, Enbridge, KinderMorgan and the Canadian government fail to understand is that you can’t put a price on what is sacred.
We know that a better world is out there, that many countries are already building it, and step-by-step, relationship-by-relationship we will bring it here.
This week was a beautiful reminder of the beauty of that dream, of our collective ability and duty to make it real, and that even against the most unlikely of odds together we can and will beat the biggest of foes.
Canada it's your tun this May 10th - Defend our Climate. Make your voice heard.