Pennsylvania Pipeline Threatens Native American Village
As national Republican Party leaders celebrated their sweet take over of Congress at Hershey Lodge in Pennsylvania last month, about 50 or so protestors turned up to sour their festivities. They protested the Republican stance in favor of the Keystone XL Pipeline and their head-in-the-sand climate policies.
But one protestor was there to draw attention to an issue that doesn’t get so much press: the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Outside the Hershey Lodge, Carlos Whitewolf, chief of the Northern Arawak Tribal Nation of Pennsylvania, beat a small hand drum and sang a Native American prayer for Mother Earth. His “protest” seemed remarkably peaceful given his adamant opposition to the pipeline project.
Just weeks before, Whitewolf and seven other people were arrested and fined for blocking Williams Partners, the builders of the pipeline, from conducting test drilling near a Native American site. But potential jail time and penalties won’t deter Whitewolf has his fellow protestors. He has since vowed that he and other members of the American Indian Movement will block bulldozers and occupy land if the project is approved.
(Image source and note: 8 arrested; Twitter @CharlieintheUSA)
The pipeline is currently proposed in a highly sensitive cultural area for Native Americans. Although there are no registered tribes in Pennsylvania, southwestern Lancaster County had the largest Native American historic settlements in the state making artifacts easy to find and burial grounds highly likely.
Conestoga Indian Town, an historic archaeologic site memorializing a village that stood on the site from the late 17th century to the mid-18th century, is located along the pipeline route. It is the earliest established known surviving settlement of the Susquehannock nation or Conestoga Indian nation and William Penn, the namesake of Pennsylvania, visited the town himself to negotiate with the tribal leaders.
“This is our Machu Picchu,” said Tim Trussell, a professor of archaeology at Millersville University. “There is literally nowhere else in the entire state that contains a greater concentration of archaeological sites, features, artifacts or human burials.”
Fortunately, the cultural sites that are important to Native Americans like Whitewolf are also important to the federal government. Federal laws require Williams Partners to survey its proposed pipeline route for items and sites that hold cultural or historical significance. If it finds anything, the federal government may require the company to reroute the pipeline.
(Image source: Lancaster Against Pipelines Facebook page)
According to Christopher Stockton, a spokesman for Williams Partners, the company is aware of the cultural sensitivity and is working with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to identify the areas and avoiding them or mitigating disturbance.
“We don’t just put a pipeline somewhere without doing our homework,” Stockton said. He also assured that the company would avoid burial sites.
But to Whitewolf and other opponents, company assurances are not enough. Lancaster Against Pipelines is working to draw attention to illegal surveying by Williams Partners and mobilizing efforts to stop approval of the pipeline. So far opponents have managed to find enough material to register eight new historical sites with the Historical and Museum Commission, which may protect more land along the route.
As Congress pushes for approval of the Keystone XL, Whitewolf’s localized fight to stop the Atlantic Sunrise shows how personal pipeline politics can become. Real people are affected by these proposals — their history, culture, land, and livelihoods are at stake. Just like Whitewolf, many other Native Americans have drawn attention to the impacts Keystone XL will have on their historic lands.
Perhaps that’s something for politicians to remember before they approve a huge gas pipeline through Middle America’s backyard.
News Source: The Morning Call
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