Friday, 20 January 2012

Just Say No: Obama rejects the permit for the Tar Sands Pipeline and hearing on the Haskell Wetlands

On 19 January, President Obama of the United States rejected a permit that was needed for the construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, also known as the tar sands pipeline. Considerable environmental concerns as well as health concerns had been raised in opposition to the creation of the pipeline, and were the subject of some earlier blog postings here. There have been a large number of indigenous groups arguing against the construction of the pipeline, including the Mother Earth Accord (at this link, and calls to support the Mother Earth Accord by such groups as the Indigenous Alliance without Borders (information about their support of the Mother Earth Accord at this link)).

The mainstream press is filled with arguments for and against the Obama decision. Some argue that the Obama decision has destroyed the possibility of jobs and cheaply available energy with this decision; others argue that the claims of jobs and cheaply available energy were mere chimera—without basis in fact.

An article is carried on the website of Indian Country today (here) that has the reactions of politicians and indigenous leaders about the Obama decision. At this link

One of the concerns raised by the Mother Earth Accord was whether appropriate “free, prior and informed consent” had been obtained from those indigenous peoples whose land and lives would be impacted by the construction of the pipeline. The standard of free, prior and informed consent is found in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, at Article 19 and Article 32.

There is another important event today, and that is the oral arguments scheduled in the United States Tenth Court of Appeal on the Haskell Wetlands in Lawrence, Kansas, USA, which have been the subject of prior posts on this blog. (here and here)

The UNDRIP principles are just as important to the Wetlands as they are to the lands under threat by the tar sands pipeline construction,

And Article 27 seems especially applicable to the Wetlands situation:
“ States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with indigenous
peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and
transparent process, giving due recognition to indigenous peoples’
laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and
adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands,
territories and resources, including those which were traditionally
owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have
the right to participate in this process.”

The unique history of the Wetlands as adjacent to the Haskell boarding school, now a four year university, certainly fit within the ambit of Article 27—and the occupation and use of these Wetlands must be respected under the spirit and the letter of the UNDRIP.

Some good news today with the Obama rejection of the pipeline, at least for now, and hopes that similar protections and respect can be granted by the Tenth Circuit District Court to the sacred space of the Wetlands.

Written by Sarah Sargent.

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