About 200 American Indians sang, danced and chanted Monday outside the state Capitol to bring attention to environmental and sovereignty issues.
Those attending said they support the group, Idle No More. Many oppose TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, which would move crude oil from Canada and North Dakota to the Gulf Coast.
They said they are concerned the project is harming the environment and could decimate tribal lands. About 850 workers are involved in the Oklahoma portion of its Gulf Coast pipeline.
“We would like to not see that happen mainly for our concerns with the earth and the land and the contamination aspects,” said Dave Narcomey, of Bristow and a member of the Seminole Nation. “There are also concerns about burial ground issues and violations … not just here but all over the country.”
“We want people to know that we are aware of these things,” said Rodney Factor, of Seminole and a member of the Seminole Nation. “I understand we need jobs and a lot of people around here are out of work. But what cost are we willing to give up for those things? We can't drink oil, and we can't drink money. If our water's contaminated, then we're going to be in a bad situation.”
Others said they support the federal lawsuit filed by the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations against the state of Oklahoma in 2011, seeking to maintain control of the water in southeastern Oklahoma. The suit has been delayed while the two sides continue to work with a court-appointed mediator.
They also said they are disappointed Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation passed in 2011 that eliminated the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission and established a liaison post in her office.
“There was not a task force,” said Brenda Golden, of Oklahoma City, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. “They didn't seek public comment asking what we thought about that. They just did it. … Isn't this our government too? I consider myself a dual citizen — of the Muscogee Creek Nation and of Oklahoma.”
Narcomey said Oklahoma with 39 federally recognized tribes should have an agency dedicated to American Indian affairs and issues.
The governor's office defended the legislation and the Keystone pipeline.
“We believe that having a tribal affairs division within the governor's office is better for the tribes,” said Fallin's communications director, Alex Weintz. “The governor has the sole authority to negotiate compacts with tribes. She deals directly with tribes … therefore it makes sense to have a liaison in her office.”
I see a lot of anti-
Indian attitude from a lot of the non- Indian community. That attitude still prevails.”
member of the Seminole Nation