Written by Sikowis (Christine Nobiss)
Last week, Deb Haaland spoke with the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and we all know how this contingent must be feeling about a Native American woman up for the role of Secretary of the Interior. There is nothing more threatening to settler descendant conservatives than Indigenous power and sovereignty, which of course Haaland represents. For the majority of the hearing the members of the committee, mostly old white men, focused on money and jobs and not the insight that she might have to help bring our “interior” back from the brink of extinction. This is not surprising though, as we know how single-minded colonizers can be as they are who are usually motivated by greed.
For instance, Senator Risch (R-ID) asked Deb Haaland about 5 times if she agreed with the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline even though she repeatedly responded with an affirmative in her support for President Biden’s decision. Risch obviously wanted a resounding yes or no so he could use that against her during the hearing or at a later date. He then went off about the Nord Stream pipeline in Russia and said that it's not fair for the government to take away jobs in the US and support jobs in Russia. BUT, it's not even about the fact that the US is supporting jobs in Russia; he wants the administration to stop jobs in Russia because it's a national security issue.
Firstly, jobs in other countries are a national security issue? Or is it that other countries with higher oil and gas production are a threat to the US economy? Men like Risch are still openly and actively engaged in the enterprise of manifest destiny and can’t fathom that another country might prosper economically. This is especially true when it comes to oil as the heteropatriarchy is a particularly shortsighted breed that can’t imagine a world without the predatory economics that made their family fortunes.
Secondly, maybe KXL is the national security issue and not the Nord Stream because it is a threat to the drinking water of millions if and when it leaks and a massive contributor to the climate crisis. If a pipeline as large as the Keystone leaks, it could mean the end of precious aquifers and waterways throughout the US.
Thirdly, if you want to look at it from a twisted heteropatriarchal perspective--building a pipeline in Russia puts their water and natural resources at risk...so they all should feel "good" about that, right? If Russia is dealing with a natural disaster, then they have fewer resources to compete with the US on the global economic stage and it lessens their “threat” level.
In the end, the colonial-capitalist racket is about ultimate profit and nothing else matters, even over the health and wellness of millions. Risch and other greedy colonial-capitalists have chosen to be on the Committee for Energy and Natural Resources for that very reason. In fact, he is actively working against Biden’s executive order and pushing to introduce legislation to continue the construction of the KXL Pipeline--along with Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and John Hoeven (R-N.D.). On his website, Risch states, “Shutting it down leaves us dependent on the likes of OPEC and Russia to help power the country and undermines the pact we made with our northern ally, Canada, which remains supportive of the project. This is compounded by the reality that stopping construction terminates thousands of jobs in the middle of a pandemic, no less.”
It seems that Risch is disconnected from the reality of the situation as building a pipeline in the middle of a pandemic is a serious threat to the health of locals in the area. Pipeline construction can bring thousands of transient workers from across the country to gather in temporary workforce housing, also known as man-camps. In the middle of a deadly pandemic, is it really wise to bring folks from all over, house them together and insert them into small communities and reservations that are working hard to quarantine? Furthermore, Mancamps increase violence in their vicinities, particularly in Indigenous communities. As James Anaya has stated, “Indigenous women have reported that the influx of workers into Indigenous communities as a result of extractive projects also led to increased incidents of sexual harassment and violence, including rape and assault.” New studies back up this statement, which report that there absolutely is a correlation between an increase of violence in Indigenous communities and an influx of temporary workers for large construction projects.
In the end, there is no argument that Risch or his buddies can make that can’t be refuted by the simple fact that fossil fuel extraction is outdated technology and perpetuates violence to people and living beings everywhere through immediate physical violence, an environmental calamity, and, possibly extinction. Deb Haaland is a symbol of hope as we stand at the precipice of a world no longer inhabitable as she represents a way forward that embodies the traditional ecological knowledge that colonial-capitalists have tried so hard to oppress.