Indian Country Today

Tribal leaders and advocates across Indian Country are lauding President Joe Biden’s executive order rescinding the Keystone XL pipeline’s permit to cross from Canada into the United States.

“I would like to say thank you to the President of the United States for acknowledging the danger this project poses to our land and our people,” Chairman Harold Frazier wrote in a statement released by Remi Bald Eagle, head of intergovernmental affairs for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

“It is rare that a promise to our people is kept by the United States; I appreciate your honesty.”

Leaders in Canada, however, were disappointed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the past has repeatedly indicated that the Canadian government fully supported the pipeline project, which originates in Alberta. The 1,210-mile pipeline was scheduled to begin transporting Alberta oil sands to Nebraska beginning in 2023.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a statement in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, regarding infrastructure disruptions caused by blockades across the country. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

On Friday, Biden met via telephone with Trudeau in the new president's first official call to a foreign leader.

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Trudeau expressed his dismay with Biden’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Biden acknowledged the hardship the decision would create in Canada, CBC News reported, citing a senior government official. But the president defended the move, saying he was upholding a campaign promise and restoring a decision made by the Obama administration.

The idea of retaliatory sanctions against the United States didn't come up during the discussion, the CBC reported. In a letter to Trudeau, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney had called on the prime minister to seek “proportional economic consequences” from the U.S. for the decision.

Earlier Friday, Trudeau said in comments to the press that Biden’s administration represents the beginning of a new era of friendship. Trudeau and former President Donald Trump had a notoriously poor relationship in which Trump described Trudeau as weak and dishonest while placing tariffs on Canadian products.

“The fact that we have so much alignment, not just me and President Biden, but Canadians and President Biden, on values, creating jobs and prosperity for everyone, investing in the fight against climate change as a way of growing the economy, these are things we can dig into significantly,” Trudeau said. “It’s not always going to be a perfect alignment with the United States; that is the case with any president.”

According to the CBC, both Trudeau and Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman have said it’s time to respect Biden’s decision and move on.

Made on his first day in office, Biden’s order sends a message upholding tribal sovereignty and protecting the rights and health of Native peoples, according to Judith LeBlanc of the Caddo Tribe. LeBlanc is executive director of Native Organizers Alliance, an organization dedicated to building a support network of Native leaders and grassroots organizers.

President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“President Biden’s action is the result of the relentless work and dedication from tribes and grassroots organizers. The fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline brings into sharp focus that for too long tribal nations and Native peoples have been forced to spend millions of dollars of the scarce resources to fight developers who fail to consult with our sovereign nations,” LeBlanc said.

Kevin Killer, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, wrote in a statement released Wednesday on Facebook, “As one of President Biden’s first acts in office, the cancelation of the Keystone XL pipeline permit sends a strong message to tribal nations, and symbolizes a willingness to build on government-to-government relationships established through our treaties (specifically, the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie treaties of the Great Sioux Nation).

The Keystone XL Pipeline was set to take course through the original treaty lands of the Oceti Sakowin (also known as the Great Sioux Nation).”

Killer said Biden’s decision to cancel the permits for the Keystone XL demonstrates his willingness to listen and follow through for tribal nations.

“For your actions in protection of our Mni (water) and Unci Maka (lands) Mr. President, myself and the Oglala Lakota Nation want to thank you,” he said.

Andy Pearson, Midwest tar sands coordinator for the activist group MN350.org, said: “We’re very encouraged because of what this means for folks who have been fighting the Keystone XL pipeline for so long. That has been a huge battle that has inspired us in our work opposing Enbridge’s Line 3.”

Pearson said his group was excited that Biden is “doing the right thing.”

“The way we see it, if Keystone’s not going to be built then Line 3 should not be built either; Biden has the keys to turn it off.”

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