Indigenous people feel their concerns about pipelines fall on deaf ears

TranscanadaA Canadian oil company is suing the American government for denying the Keystone XL pipeline.

Aldo Seoane is the Co-founder of the Wicaheli League, and an advocate for indigenous peoples rights.

Seoane said while the legal issues are being handled in court, there is a voice going unheard.

Dominic Trimboli spoke to Seoane about how he feels Native American concerns are often overlooked when their land is put on the table, without their consent.

Trimboli “Can we talk about that a little bit more, about how the indigenous peoples are being affected by this, are you talking just in America, or do you mean in Canada as well.”

Seoane “I’m talking about all over the world. Look at our relatives to the north. Look at how tar sands infrastructure is affecting the people. I mean there’s places in Canada where there is no clean water, you can’t even bathe your children. That in turn goes through our communities here in the United States. Look at Oak Flats. A lot of these hills where they want to mine are where our relatives are buried. We go into South Dakota, and into where the Keystone is. We go to the department of interior and we say ‘Hey, these types of extractive industries, we don’t want them. We don’t want them on our land.’ Instead of the Department of Interior standing up and saying ‘Alright, we agree we’re gonna support you, we’re gonna have consultations.’ They don’t even return our calls. So tribes aren’t really notified until plans are already in place. The EIS, Environmental Impact Statements, are lacking. So we know there’s going to be leaks, we know there’s gonna be leaks on our land. What happens with indigenous communities, where do you get to go? This is all you got. Your creation story is here, this is where you’re from. You contaminate the watershed and where do your people get to go. Instant genocide.”

Trimboli “Who are you most frustrated with? Are you more frustrated with the fact that these Canadian companies are attempting to undermine the legislation that’s in place now, or are you more frustrated with the fact that the government…”

Seoane “I think there’s a mutual level of frustration my friend. I think on one level yes, I don’t think any country should be able to come into the United States and be able to dictate the terms of it’s people. That’s grounds for war man. I don’t think that that’s right. I think that’s extremely frustrating. I think that yea, in a lot of ways the United States government does circumvent Indian policy. I think it’s all about what’s going to be the most profitable for the United States. What’s going to make the most sense. I think congressmen don’t really know what the implications of the their actions are. A lot of people are looking at us as something of the past, but were here in the present and we’re thriving, and our children are thriving. A lot of congressmen don’t understand what their responsibility is to indigenous people, and how were woven into the fabric of this country. So, ya know, shame on them both. You look at the natural resources in this country you look at untouched land and it’s going to be National Parks, and on Reservations. Where do they get the idea that they can come into this country, tear into our soil, and leave destruction behind them. Everyone wants to talk about the Flint Water crisis but look at what happened to the Navajo nation and their water system still being contaminated, and nobody doing anything about that. We’re second class citizens, we’re very marginalized, and it becomes frustrating.”

“What is the number one thing that you really want people to know about this.”

Seoane “The best interests of our grandchildren and of the people of the United States isn’t being looked after. The human consequences of their actions the real life consequences, whether it’s from the domestic and sexual violence that’s brought by these types of pipelines, or the increased rates of cancer, we’re being neglected as American people, and that’s enough. We know that after the tar sands extraction site there’s missing and murdered indigenous women. When you’re bringing in a large population of transient people into a community that doesn’t have the infrastructure to respond to crimes, you’re creating a breeding ground for these types of problems. We saw it in the Bakken oil fields, we saw it in the tar sands development project on the southern lake, and we’re seeing it now, of course, in Canada. We’re trying to protect our communities from that piece too. The domestic and sexual abuse that follows these pipelines is horrible. It impacts our communities on a real big level. Be it Tribal, be it American citizens, Tribal citizens, Native, Non-Native, we’re being put at a great disadvantage and it’s affecting our physical health and well being. You can’t put profits over people, and you can’t let foreign powers have eminent domain in the United States, that’s just crazy.”