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Keystone XL: Hillary Clinton Opposes, Native Activists Guardedly Optimistic

Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton opposes Keystone XL pipeline; Native environmentalists call on Obama to reject outright.
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Native grassroots environmental leaders of Oceti Sakowin, the Great Sioux Nation, on Wednesday expressed “skepticism and guarded celebration” at Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s position against the Keystone XL pipeline.

"I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is—a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change," said Clinton at a town hall meeting in Iowa on September 22, according to the Associated Press. “I oppose it because I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change.”

As Secretary of State, Clinton had supported the project. But she had not expressed a position since announcing her Presidential run. The switch drew some skepticism at the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). Noting the growing nationwide resistance to the 1,179-mile-long, 830,000-barrel-per-day pipeline, which would traverse treaty lands of the Oceti Sakowin Great Plains tribal nations, the Indigenous Environmental Network said that besides lacking consent from those tribes,TransCanada also does not have permits to run the route through South Dakota or Nebraska.

“Now, with Clinton joining fellow Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in opposition to this tar sands pipeline, all focus now lies on President Obama to deliver the final blow and reject the Keystone XL pipeline,” the Indigenous Environmental Network said in a statement on September 23.

“We were disappointed when Hillary Clinton took a stand supporting KXL as Secretary of State but we are happy to hear of her changed position now opposing the tar sands pipeline,” said Gay Kingman, Executive Director of Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association Coalition of Large Tribes, in a statement from the network. “Hillary Clinton’s new stance reflects the clear facts that this pipeline is all risk with no rewards for the people of this land. Now, it is time for President Obama to end this debate once and for all and reject KXL.”

However, the optimism about Clinton was cautious and was not accompanied by trust.

“Hillary’s switched opinion on KXL is a plus for our climate change efforts. However, given her previous support of this pipeline, our celebratory reaction as Oceti Sakowin people remains guarded,” said Ihanktonwan Treaty Council spokesperson Faith Spotted Eagle. “Hillary is like sand cherries to us, moving in whatever direction the strongest wind is blowing. She knows how to harvest votes. It’s ok though, we from the Oceti Sakowin appreciate her new position on Keystone XL. Mr. Obama, reject the pipeline now.”

Others called on her to go verbal opposition, and to take action.

“Hillary Clinton, your stance opposing Keystone XL pipeline is encouraging yet is met with skepticism,” said Pt’e Ospaye Headsman Byron Buffalo in the IEN statement. “The indigenous people of America stand strong against the Black Snake known as KXL. We implore you to not only voice your opposition but to actively seek ways to stop the climate destroying corporations that believe continued mutilation of our earth is the only way progress can be made. All we have this one Earth, we must ALL protect it, for we, ALL living beings, are truly ALL related. Mitakuye Oyasin.”

They and Bold Nebraska, which has represented farmers and ranchers against the project, also called upon President Barack Obama to take a stand and reject the project.

“Secretary Clinton stood with farmers and ranchers over foreign oil by opposing Keystone XL today,” said Bold Nebraska Director Jane Kleeb in a statement that also invoked tribal interests. “All front runners in the Democratic Party see the lies Big Oil tried to tell in order to shove this export pipeline down our throats. Now all that is left is for Pres. Obama to reject the permit so landowners and Tribal Nations can get on to producing food with clean water.”

“Hillary Clinton is just now realizing that foreign tar sands crude, by way of the Keystone XL pipeline, is NOT for the American people,” said Greg Grey Cloud, Wica Agli, who famously got arrested for singing an honor song after a Keystone XL vote in the Senate last November.

RELATED: Greg Grey Cloud: The Native Who Sang an Honor Song for the Senate (and Got Arrested for It)

“However, I see yet another political ploy taken as a wrongful gain to run for president,” Grey Cloud said. “I reserve my celebration for the moment President Obama takes action and rejects the permit for KXL.”