Cowboys and Indians unite |

Cowboys and Indians unite

“…nor shall any person … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Fifth Amendment, U.S. Constitution

On April 22, an alliance of ranchers, farmers and Native Americans arrived in Washington D.C. and set up a tipi camp on the National Mall. On April 26, this Cowboy-Indian Alliance marched together peacefully, by the thousands, to protest an unlawful taking of their land. Who is taking the land of these hard-working Americans, while breaking treaties that protect Native American rights? A foreign corporation which has already taken land from at least 89 landowners in Texas.

Now this corporation is trying to take land from residents of Nebraska. Fortunately for Nebraska, in February a judge struck down the law that would have let this foreign corporation take private land under the guise of eminent domain. This corporation is TransCanada, the company building the Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico, to be refined and shipped to the highest bidder.

There are many reasons to oppose the Keystone pipeline. Since 2002, there have been 6,367 pipeline incidents. 154 people have died, 540 people have been injured and $4.7 billion in property damage has resulted. There have been 14 spills on the operational parts of the pipeline in the past three years. (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration; Cornell University). When TransCanada is done with the pipeline, it will be allowed to “abandon in place,” which means the company walks away and landowners have to clean up any spills, rusting pipeline, etc.

But before the stretch in Nebraska is built, TransCanada has to acquire land from people who don’t want to give it up. The pipeline will negatively impact sacred Native American sites. It will negatively impact local ranchers and farmers. Most troubling, it can potentially contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides water for eight states. If the pipeline leaks, where do these people go for water?

You would think that Fox News and other conservative groups would stand by the side of these beleaguered landowners. You might even expect militia groups to stand against a foreign company doing this to Americans. You would be wrong.

Fox News and the militias have been too busy defending a man who doesn’t even believe the United States of America exists. He doesn’t believe in the Constitution or the American flag. Cliven Bundy is a deadbeat southern Nevada rancher who has been grazing his cattle on heavily subsidized federal land and has refused to pay his bills. He owes over $1 million to you and me. Records show the Bundy family bought the ranch in 1948, when Cliven was two years old. The family didn’t start grazing on Bureau of Land Management land until 1954, eight years after BLM was created. Not quite the story Bundy tells.

If Bundy was a California surfer dude who took food stamps he wasn’t entitled to, he would be Public Enemy No. One to the Right-wing. Fox would be going crazy. In fact, they did. Bundy robs the government of $1.2 million and he’s a hero to the Right. What he is not is a patriot. Since Bundy doesn’t recognize the U.S. government, he doesn’t recognize the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which means his land still belongs to Mexico. He should be speaking Spanish and dealing with the Federales. That I would pay to see!

What is happening to the people of Nebraska is equivalent to me living peacefully in my home and having a private corporation show up at my door with guns and bulldozers, telling me I have to move; they want my land, so they can make a profit. What is happening to Bundy is equivalent to me renting my house to someone, and having the tenant not only refuse to pay rent, but also deny that I own the house, while threatening me with a gun. Fox News has defended this squatter; they are ignoring the people in Nebraska whose land is literally being stolen from them, for profit.

Those defending the Keystone XL pipeline are defending TransCanada. Business interests are trumping the right of Americans to live on and work their own land. I think both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are on the side of landowners defending their rights against this pipeline. But when has the Right-wing ever let justice get in the way of business? Certainly not this time.

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Jeanette Strong is an LVN columnist.