Owe Aku Sends its Voice to Tar Sands Healing Walk

Owe Aku Bear ButteA message from our allies at Owe Aku of the Lakota Nation

On June 28, 2014, Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way), a Lakota (Sioux) organization from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation dedicated to the preservation of SacredWater, stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline and all threats to Mother Earth, demonstrated support for the 5th and final Tar Sands Healing Walk. Although Owe Aku members could not travel to Ft. McMurray in Canada because of border issues created by fat taker (the literal translation from the Lakota of the word for greedy, selfish people and corporations), Owe Aku was on the Lakota sacred mountain Matopaha (Bear Butte). A camp was set up for four days and the people climbed to the top of the mountain while relatives and allies walked the toxic land created by fat taker in Alberta. This consensus statement was delivered to the people gathered at Tar Sands:

“Greetings Relatives and Allies from the Lakota People of Moccasins on the Ground, Owe Aku. We are with you in this spiritual work to protect sacred water. We send our voice in solidarity while we stand on our sacred mountain Mato Paha. We pray with you for the healing of Mother Earth and protection of sacred water, and for the spirits to turn the mind of fat taker. Together through prayer and nonviolent direct action we work to shut down the tarsands without bloodshed. On our sacred mountain we make offerings and send our voice in loving memory of all the Red Nations who have been killed by tarsands genocide. We urge solidarity by land defenders and sacred water protectors everywhere so that our future generations may collectively live on, free from the environmental slaughter inflicted by Fat Taker Corporations. As you walk the tarsands healing walk, our Warrior Society puts our Moccasins on the Ground, we stand with you, we pray with you, we fight beside you. SHUT DOWN TARSANDS. NO PIPELINE. NO TANKERS. NO COMPROMISE. Lila wopila heca.”

Tar Sands Healing Walk in Alberta. Photo credit: Healing Walk

Tar Sands Healing Walk in Alberta. Photo credit: Healing Walk

Tar Sands Healing Walk in Alberta. Photo credit: Healing Walk

Tar Sands Healing Walk in Alberta. Photo credit: Healing Walk

View more photos from the Tar Sands Healing Walk here.

Permanent link to this article: https://tarsandsblockade.org/bearbutte/

No Más Tar Sands! — Healing Begins at the Source

By Bryan Parras, reposted from t.e.j.a.s. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services)


The Keystone XL pipeline begins in Alberta, Canada and ends in my backyard.

Here in Houston’s East End, we’re well acquainted with the risks of living so close to the oil refineries whose toxic emissions poison us every day. Like so many other kids in this neighborhood, I grew up with constant headaches, asthma and skin rashes. Cardiovascular diseases and cancer are not uncommon.

Now, the tar sands are here in my home. Today the dirtiest, most toxic oil on the planet is being pumped into our communities via the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline — and our families are being forced to breath the additional pollution. Just last week, one of the first shipments of refined tar sands was exported to Europe via nearby Freeport, TX. This serves as a terrible precedent and reminds us that despite wide opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands is making its way through our communities along the Gulf Coast and across the Atlantic ocean.

Growing up in a city built almost entirely from oil and gas revenues, it is difficult to understand or even discuss the negative impacts that 40 plus miles of refineries, chemical plants and other subsidiary industries have on nearby communities. Our homes have become living examples of environmental racism in which low-income communities of color are bearing the disproportionate burden of petrochemical pollution. It wasn’t until I left for college and returned to teach at a local elementary school that I began to see how different Houston’s East End is from other parts of the country.

At the same time, I also began to realize that we in Houston are not alone. Everywhere tar sands is mined, transported or refined, there’s a community that’s suffering the health consequences of living so near the world’s dirtiest oil.

Healing from toxic pollution begins with getting to the source of the destruction impacting our lives. 

From these communities, there’s a growing network of leaders who are fighting tar sands and other forms of dirty energy wherever they arise. As the rest of the country debates the merits of the northern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, the Gulf Coast is slated to be the main recipient of much of this toxic stuff — so frontline communities are mobilizing for our survival.

Which is why, at the end of this month, frontline leaders from the Gulf Coast are making our first trip to tar sands ground zero in solidarity with communities everywhere that face the same threats. On June 27, I—along with other t.e.j.a.s representatives, and four others from tar sands-affected communities along the Gulf Coast—have been invited to join the fifth and final Healing Walk through the epicenter of tar sands devastation in Alberta. It’s a peaceful pilgrimage led by indigenous elders. It’s a time for frontline leaders to meet, share skills and experiences, and strengthen the ties between us.

Demonstrate your support by making a generous donation to sponsor our journey to the Tar Sands Healing Walk.

Our team of leaders representing the Gulf Coast will include:

  • My father, Juan Parras, who co-founded our organization, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.) to work for justice in refinery communities
  • Yudith Nieto, whose community of Manchester in Houston already has some of the worst air in the United States–and now faces even more deadly pollution from tar sands refining
  • Cherri Foytlin, a bold Louisiana journalist with the Bridge the Gulf Project, indigenous woman, mother of six and diehard advocate for the victims of the BP Drilling Disaster
  • Mae Jones and Louise Moorer from Mobile, Alabama, who have taken leading roles in the fight to prevent Mobile from becoming the newest tar sands hub of the Gulf Coast

Stopping tar sands exploitation starts with connecting frontline leaders at both ends of the pipeline. It’s important for Gulf Coast communities breathing pollution at the “tailpipe” to connect and strategize with impacted indigenous leaders near the mining sites so we can build a continental movement strong enough to stop tar sands once and for all.

Frontline communities are leading the fight for environmental justice and carry with them the experience, expertise and knowledge that can bring about change. From the Gulf and the Pacific Coast to the Lakota in the Black Hills of South Dakota, to the Cree and Dene who have lived in the boreal forests of Alberta for thousands of years, together we are the greatest threat to the tar sands industry.

This spiritual march through the heart of the tar sands mines will be a powerful chance to raise awareness of the most destructive industrial project on the continent and to connect the struggles of all who oppose it.

Permanent link to this article: https://tarsandsblockade.org/healing-walk-tejas/

Texans Demand Answers for Suspicious Pipeline Shutdown

pump station
HOUSTON, TX– It’s been one week since pipeline operator TransCanada shut down its Keystone XL pipeline and
federal regulators still have no idea why. Although TransCanada claims that “planned maintenance” was
responsible for the shut down, The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has not made any inquiries as to why this brand new pipeline, which has only been in service since late January, already requires maintenance.

The shut down comes on the heels of recent news that PHMSA has designed new special regulatory conditions
that it will apply to TransCanada if the northern portion of the Keystone pipeline is permitted. “Their new special
conditions for the northern leg clearly shows that PHMSA thought the problems with KXL’s southern leg were very
serious,” says Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, “Yet PHMSA has not acted to assure the southern leg is safe by investigating this shut down or requiring retesting of the line.”

Regulations only require PHMSA to investigate if an incident is reported. However, many Texans who live along the pipeline’s route are outraged by PHMSA’s lack of initiative. Last year PHMSA sent two warning letters to TransCanada detailing multiple safety code violations and shoddy construction practices witnessed in Texas and
Oklahoma, yet the regulator has no plans to investigate this recent shut down.

side boom“PHMSA’s two warning letters to TransCanada are clear evidence that codes were not followed during construction,” says Vicki Baggett, a safety advocate with the grassroots organization NacStop. “For TransCanada to shut down its entire line so soon after start-up is a huge red flag. Do we have to wait for a huge spill before PHMSA will involve themselves?”

“Will we ever get any straight answers?” Asks landowner and member of Texas Pipeline Watch Julia Trigg Crawford.

“TransCanada won’t even tell me what they’re pumping across my land, it’s been 33 days since I asked. Add it up, a suspect shutdown of the pipeline after just a few months online, plus a governmental oversight organization totally out of the loop, and the refusal to inform a landowner on what’s coursing under the soil. Texas landowners have a right know what’s going on with this project. Promoted as the finest pipeline ever built, secrecy, shutdowns and new special conditions further validate that Keystone XL isn’t living up to the hype.”

Bill Lowry, from PHMSA’s southwest regional office, says there is no reason to inquire about line shut down
because PHMSA “trusts TransCanada’s process.”

“With PHMSA openly acknowledging concerns with the flaws in the construction of KXL South, the reasonable
expectation is for this regulatory agency to immediately shut off the line and require a third party in-line inspection,”
asserts Kathy DaSilva, organizer with the Tar Sands Blockade. “To do less is putting the safety and welfare of those already living with this inadequate pipeline at risk and indicates an appalling lack of concern for those along the route.”

Permanent link to this article: https://tarsandsblockade.org/no-answers/