Land grab in Indian Country: keystone XL is a 'Declaration of War'.

AuthorRolo, Mark Anthony

Just outside Winner, South Dakota, on sparsely populated land, sits a small camp made up of two Army tents and a few teepees, surrounded by 1,500-pound hay bales that protect against the prairie's raging winter winds.

Above the camp fly flags from six Sioux Indian tribes. And down a nearby embankment is the camp's sweat lodge. Though fragile and vulnerable to the elements, Spirit Camp is a revered spiritual fortress for these Sioux nations. Spirit Camp was raised for prayer, council fires, and ceremonies, but should a proposed Canadian oil pipeline get President Obama's clearance to run through the Dakotas and down to Texas, Spirit Camp will become the headquarters of a people prepared to go to war.

"We buried medicine in that pipeline route," says Gary Dorr, who is a Nez Perce native and one of Spirit Camp's coordinators. "In February, we held a ceremony and a spirit leader said the camp is the embodiment of a prayer. Right now, we are a spiritual camp. But if construction of that pipeline does break ground we'll become a blockade camp."

From coal and uranium mining in the Southwest, nuclear waste dumping in southern Minnesota, an oil boom of hydraulic fracking in North Dakota, to what could become the world's largest open pit iron mine on the southern shores of Lake Superior, Indian Country has been battling against more resource extraction threats and potential hazardous spills as a greed-driven globalized economy surges.

According to Patty Loew (Bad River Ojibwe), a professor of Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Native peoples have their own surge happening throughout Indian Country. They are pushing back. Loew, who is the author of Seventh Generation Earth Ethics: Native Voices of Wisconsin, says this rise in Native American environmental activism is rooted in a renewal of Native American traditions, values, and spirituality. She cites the "Wisconsin Walleye Wars" of the late 1980s, when Ojibwe tribes began invoking long-ignored treaty rights to regulate their own hunting and fishing separately from the state.

"I really think the fight over Ojibwe treaty rights was an environmental issue," Loew says. "Native people went back and read the treaties. They began talking to grandmothers. They realized protecting the land was about becoming stewards of the land. It meant sharing in the management of land resources."

Now, the plains and the Midwest have turned into a hotbed for resource extraction corporations.

"We have...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT