Begaye voices concerns over pipeline orders

Noel Lyn Smith
The Daily Times
President Donald Trump signs an executive order on the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.
  • Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye calls on Native Americans to stand together to protect natural resources.
  • In December, the tribe passed a resolution supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's effort to secure an environmental assessment of the pipeline's pathway.
  • Sen. Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee says Trump is prioritizing "short-term political gains and corporate profits."
  • Sen. Heinrich says the action shows "blatant" disregard for tribal sovereignty and responsible energy development.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye has voiced opposition to President Donald Trump's actions today to expedite approvals for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

Environmental groups and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have heavily protested against the Dakota Access project. Demonstrators, who use the term "water protectors," remain at the site near the Cannonball River in North Dakota and continue to clash with law enforcement. The tribe, whose traditional land is in the pipeline's pathway, has stated the project threatens their drinking water source and would destroy sacred sites.

President Begaye expressed concern about the potential for an oil spill and the impact that would have on water for humans, animals and agriculture.

"We hope President Trump understands that Native Americans will always stand to protect our land, water, air and resources given to us by our creator," Begaye said in statement  today.

He also called on Native Americans to stand together, especially if similar actions are taken in the next four years, and to refrain from violence if pipeline construction proceeds.

Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez joined Begaye in calling for Native Americans to unite and protect natural resources.

Begaye and Nez were among the hundreds of Native Americans who last year visited the demonstration site in North Dakota, where they spoke to Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II.

In December, the Navajo Nation Council's Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee issued a resolution supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its efforts to secure an environmental assessment by the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The sun sets on Dec. 5 at the Oceti Sakowin campground near Cannon Ball, N.D. Demonstrators against the Dakota Access Pipeline have used the campground as their headquarters.

New Mexico's Democratic federal lawmakers also expressed concerns about Trump's actions.

Sen. Tom Udall, who serves as vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said in a statement that he is "extremely worried" about what the "abrupt reversal" means for the Trump administration’s approach to issues in Indian Country.

"I recognize the major role that oil and gas still plays in our nation's economy, including in New Mexico, but this decision is dangerously shortsighted," Udall said in prepared remarks. "President Trump is choosing short-term political gains and corporate profits when we should be seizing the opportunity to lead in the global clean energy economy."

Sen. Martin Heinrich said in a statement to The Daily Times that Trump showed "blatant" disregard for tribal sovereignty and responsible energy development.

"When making decisions about energy development and the siting of pipelines, the administration must establish better tribal consultation and take environmental risk analysis seriously," Heinrich said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.