Leaders from 11 Native American tribes stormed out of a meeting with US federal officials in Rapid City, South Dakota, to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which they say will lead to ‘environmental genocide.’
Native Americans are opposed to the 1,179-mile (1,897km) Keystone XL project, a system to transport tar sands oil from Canada and the northern United States to refineries in Texas for various reasons, including possible damage to sacred sites, pollution, and water contamination.
Although the planned pipeline would not pass directly through any Native American reservation, tribes in proximity to the proposed system say it will violate their traditional lands and that the environmental risks of the project are simply too great.
Russ Girling, CEO of TransCanada, the company that hopes to build the pipeline, has promised in the past that Keystone XL will be “the safest pipeline ever built.”
The Indian groups, as well as other activist organizations, doubt the claim, saying the risks involved in the project are too high.
In an effort to ease their concerns, officials from the Department of State agreed to meet with tribal leaders on Thursday in the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City, Michigan.
Before the talks could begin, however, tribal leaders walked out, angered that the government had sent what they considered low-level representatives.
In a press conference following the walkout, tribal leaders took turns criticizing the project, as well as the Obama administration.
“I will only meet with President Obama,” Bryan Brewer, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, told the Rapid City Journal.
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