Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

October 27, 2011

DENVER Oglala Vice President confronts Obama on Tarsands

By Tom Poor Bear, Oglala Lakota Vice President
Posted at Censored News
From Tar Sands Action

Today I was removed from Obama’s speech at the University of Colorado in Denver for sharing words that have been weighing on my heart. Because I was stopped before I could fully express myself this morning, I would like to share these words now.

I feel that the United States of America should fulfill their obligation to the Treaty Tribes of the territory of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties, and also their obligation to us as the true owners of this territory. President Obama must honor these treaties. We just want Obama to respect our Mother, the Earth. We just want Obama to respect our water, which is life – and to respect our future generations. We ask all indigenous people to join us in our plight to oppose the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. We feel that Obama, in his position as President of the United States, should look at this issue very seriously because he also purports to represent us as indigenous peoples. So we are asking all indigenous peoples and Treaty Nations, as well as all other peoples who also respect our Mother, the Earth, to join our opposition and stop the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. Through a unified effort, we will accomplish this task. As our great leader of our ancestral days, Crazy Horse, once said: “You cannot sell the land your people are buried on.” I believe today he would say: “You cannot desecrate the land your people are buried on.”
In respect of Mother Earth and our Future Generations,
Tom Poor Bear, Vice President, Oglala Lakota Nation

By Glenn Morris
Hello AIMsters, and fellow renegades,
DENVER -- Yesterday, we had our action at the Obama speech on the Auraria campus. It was pretty awesome, as was the action on Tuesday, despite the cold and rain and snow. I want to acknowledge the leadership that was shown by Scott, Tessa and Sky, in the lead-up to today's action, and for the courage that they showed, in the face of the Secret Service and other police agencies. They stood for hours in the rain and snow with our banners and messages and bullhorns, outside of the Pepsi Center where Obama had his $5000 per person fundraiser, outside of Obama's hotel, stood in line for hours to get the tickets to get inside the Auraria event, They smuggled banners into the event, past Secret Service security, and raised the banners, and the Oglala Sioux, flag at the critical time. Also essential to the action locally were Robert Chanate (who was central to the organizing, and who held up the banner, too),Carol Berry, Jolynne Locust-Woodcock whose pictures of the event can be found on her Facebook page, and Lance Tsosie, an Indian student from DU. Several others who could not get into the event braved the snow to rally outside, including Viki Eagle and other DU students, Lizzie Kerplanek from CU-Denver and Colorado AIM, and especially to Kia Fathi, a strong and solid ally, who worked tirelessly to support this action. There were other AIM people who helped, too: Brenda Jenkins, Dave and Joylynne Woodcock,  Frank who helped with security for us, Harrison Sadler, and Tessa's dad, mom and sister. Deb Freemont was in the event too, but got separated from us by the huge crowd. I also want to commend Steve Keith for creating a beautiful banner for us.

A special message of appreciation to Tom Poor Bear and his daughter, Evangeline, who drove down from Pine Ridge, and who were in there with us. Tom is a long-time AIM veteran of the Trail of Broken Treaties, Wounded Knee "73, Yellow Thunder Camp, Camp Justice, and many other AIM sponsored actions; he is now the Vice-President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Several other members of the OST Council said that they were going to join us, but Tom was the only one with the courage actually to show and confront Obama. He was also instrumental in shouting to Obama about honoring Indian treaties, stopping the Keystone XL pipeline, and respecting our mother the Earth. Also very important to the action was Jennifer Baker, an attorney from the Smith, Shelton and Ragona law firm, who is lead advisor to Tom on the Keystone pipeline impact on the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Jennifer hung in there with us through the actions on Tuesday night, and came into the Obama event, and help us hold up the Keystone banner.

The events above caused Obama to stammer, lose his place in his speech, pause, and then directly to respond to the messages that were shouted, and the message on the banners that were located right in front of him: "Honor Indian Treaties," and "Stop The Keystone Pipeline." Obama stopped and said that a decision had not yet been made, and he said, "I know your deep concern about it. We will address it." The Secret Service then surrounded our group and ordered us to stop shouting, and to take the banners down. When Sky told them that we weren't taking the banners down, they ordered us to leave the room, which we did, eventually.

In the news articles below, you can see that the fact Obama stopped his written speech, and responded to the Keystone issue, was a first. These stories were reported locally, nationally, and internationally -- including on Associated Press, Reuters, and in the New York Times, some links are below -- for more Google news search the terms "Obama, Denver, Keystone."

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