Twenty-five people, mainly native Americans, staged a demonstration on Friday in front of Choctaw Nation headquarters in Durant to deliver a two-fold message.
The protest was held in solidarity with the three-month-old “Idle No More” movement sparked by native opposition to recent Canadian laws seen as unfriendly to First Nation (native Canadian) people.
It was also used as a platform to show local opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would pump oil-rich “tar sands” from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Part of the pipeline would pass through eastern Bryan County, with a pump station proposed southeast of Bennington, according to a map provided by National Public Radio.
Friday’s demonstration was the second organized by local native Americans, mostly of Choctaw descent. A previous demonstration was held outside of the Choctaw Resort and Casino south of Durant.
Yannash Scott, one of three speakers at the demonstration, led those gathered in a chant of “Idle no more!” directed toward the tribal headquarters.
“You need to know where your tribal leadership stands on ‘Idle No More,’” Scott said. “Nobody is speaking up and today that is changing. We are idle no more. The natives in this area are awake.”
The tone then switched to comments against the Keystone XL project, which has been opposed by several native and non-native groups and individuals on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.
“All these comments about water and land mean nothing if we dirty our hands with the Keystone XL,” said a protester named Leedhorse. “There’s no way this pipeline can come through this area. We have to unite, we have to do our part. We have to think of those seven generations (ahead of us).”
Fannie Bates of Boswell said she was setting up a “hospitality house” in that area for anyone working against the pipeline project. She is concerned that the tar sands which would be pumped through the pipeline would pose a significant hazard to water resources in the event of a spill.
After the speeches, the demonstrators participated in a Circle Dance and heard native American prayer songs and traditional Choctaw hymns. The demonstration was organized mainly on popular social media websites, and Scott said there would be more such protests in the Durant area in the near future.