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Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network strongly speaking out against the Keystone XL

You give respect, you get respect. Right now, we’re not giving respect and we’re paying for it. – Kandi Mossett

“I was getting interviewed and this lady was saying, ‘Well, we obviously need oil. It’s just that’s the way it is,’” recounted Kandi Mossett, an activist with the Indigenous Environmental Network and member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota. As she stood outside the White House Sept. 3, the final day of the recent two-week mass civil disobedience against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, Mossett continued:

First of all, [I told the reporter], “No, we don’t need [oil].” How are you going to tell a group of indigenous folks, who’ve lived here for thousands of years without it, that we need oil when you’ve almost destroyed the world in just two hundred years, since the industrial revolution?

You can’t tell us that because we know, we’ve been here, we’ve done this without it and we can do it again, and in fact will. We don’t have a choice. Oil will end. I just need people to wrap their minds around the idea.

Instead of scaling down oil production to help ease our inevitable transition off the stuff, the U.S. and Canadian governments appear to be moving forward with the proposed 1,700 mile Keystone XL pipeline, which will deliver oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada down to the Gulf Coast.

Extracting oil from the tar sands is neither easy nor sensible, according to Mossett.

When I say it doesn’t make sense, get this: they’re using intense amounts of natural gas [that] they’re piping down to power the tar sands, to get the oil out, to have that energy, when they could just be using the natural gas [in the first place].

Mossett described the environmental impact caused by the production of tar sands oil:

When they destroy boreal forests up in Alberta… in the tar sands area, those don’t come back. Those are old growth forests. They call it “overburden” and they just totally blaze them down. They don’t even use the trees, they just leave them out there dead. Then they dig down another hundred meters, I think it is, and dig out this disgusting bitumen oil, and only ten percent of it in those sands is actually oil. [It’s] just intensive to get this unconventional stuff, which tells us that we’re running out [of oil].

… There was only so many dinosaurs. There was only so much oil reserves that were created over millions of years. So it’s clear that all of the fossil fuels will run out. They’re debating about when, [but] who cares if it’s two hundred years from now (… I don’t think it’s even that long)? Why, when you know what it’s doing – destroying air, destroying ecosystems, destroying life – would you keep doing it? It just doesn’t make any sense.

Mossett witnessed many of those whom she grew up with on the Fort Berthold Reservation die of cancer and other diseases, which she attributes to the oil rigs that were nearby. Given her history, it’s not surprising that Mossett, who is a cancer survivor herself, has chosen to organize instead of throwing in the towel. She takes the fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline personally and feels the only hope in winning lies in getting those standing on the sidelines to join the effort.

Complacency is [a] very dangerous place to be. I think it’s [a] mechanism of control… to make people be complacent and think that there isn’t really hope, or things just are the way they are and that’s the way they’re always going to be… When people feel that way, in that stage, they don’t want to come out and demonstrate.

But… think about something as simple as a Disney movie [and] the ants or the bugs: they all get together… [and] one little clumsy ant… organizes and mobilizes everybody, gets them all fired up. And boom, they defeat the grasshoppers. They’re no longer controlled by them. You know? It’s just as simple as that.


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