US Government Ran Decade-Long Campaign Against The Anti-Pipeline Movement

"Newly released documents show the FBI monitoring anti-Keystone protesters much earlier than previously known. Young Native activists were among its first targets."

"On the morning of March 5, 2012, Debra White Plume received an urgent phone call. A convoy of large trucks transporting pipeline servicing equipment was attempting to cross the Pine Ridge Reservation near the town of Wanblee, South Dakota. White Plume, a prominent Lakota activist, immediately dropped what she was doing and headed to the site, where, within a few hours, a group of about 75 people from the Pine Ridge Reservation gathered.

More than a dozen cars formed a blockade along one of the roads that runs through the reservation. Plume and other activists were outspoken critics of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, part of a larger network carrying oil from the tar sands of northern Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Many Indigenous nations in South Dakota, whose land the convoy was attempting to pass through on its way to the Canadian tar sands, fiercely objected to the project.

“We have resolutions opposing the whole entity of the tar sands oil mine and the Keystone XL pipeline,” White Plume declared after arriving at the site where the trucks had been stopped. “They need to turn around and go back. … They are not coming through here.” But the trucks were so big and unwieldy that the drivers said it would be dangerous, if not impossible, to turn them around.

The standoff in Wanblee was a relatively small protest compared to subsequent actions against the Keystone XL pipeline, which drew tens of thousands into the streets of Washington, D.C., and garnered national attention. Police arrested five activists, including White Plume (who died in 2020) and her husband, Alex White Plume Sr., on charges of disorderly conduct, and released them later that day. Beyond a few stories in Indigenous news outlets and regional papers, the protest hardly registered. Though tribes and landowners in the region had begun organizing around Keystone XL in 2011 and 2012, the pipeline had not yet become the galvanizing force for one of the largest campaigns in the history of the modern environmental movement."

Adam Federman reports for Type Investigations in partnership with Grist February 14, 2024.

Source: Type Investigations, 02/16/2024