January 28, 2013, Lincoln, NE - Native drummers played and sang as women in bright shawls “smudged” the crowd of hundreds with purifying sage at a protest against Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman’s approval of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. United Front Against Austerity (UFAA) activists and supporters held signs, passed out flyers, and rallied in support of organizing groups, Idle No More and Bold Nebraska, at the rally outside the Capitol Building in Lincoln.
The UFAA held its biggest Midwest intervention to date as it stood with Native American sovereignty group, Idle No More, and Nebraska ranchers from grassroots group Bold Nebraska, interjecting alternatives to the economic drivers pushing the state’s interests in the controversial pipeline.
UFAA demonstrated the large impact a small group can have on a major debate. Half a dozen signs calling for the group’s key traction demand of a 1% Wall Street Sales Tax were noted by speaker John Papan, of the Omaha-Pawnee nation, who spoke about the danger to sacred sites, including burial sites, posed by the pipeline. Papan called on “The Great Black Father in Washington” to stop the pipeline.
While thick smoke rose from burning bundles of sage used to traditionally purify the gathering, more UFAA organizers moved through the receptive crowd handing out fliers calling for Wall Street to pay for the depression that their derivative trading caused.
A 1% tax on Wall Street transactions – combined with targeted financial regulations like position limits on commodities futures contracts – would go a long way to end the oil speculation that makes risky endeavors like the Keystone XL pipeline economically viable.
UFAA organizers were able to meet with Idle No More leaders and discuss fighting to maintain Social Security, Medicare, and other hard-won rights of the New Deal.
Speaker Myron Long Soldier discussed with UFAA members the importance of defending the social safety net, emphasizing his concern for younger generations. Long Soldier is an Oglala Sioux leader from the Lakota Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.
The Native American activist and retired ranch worker gave a heartfelt address to the rally, reflecting on his love for the land and water of the region and calling on those assembled to recognize their shared humanity and their duty to steward the environment as well as care for fellow human beings.
UFAA members also met with Bold Nebraska leaders, letting them know of our support and interest in working together on common issues. UFAA has a comprehensive program for economic redevelopment and recovery.
In discussion after the rally, Ben Gotschall, a rancher in the Nebraska Sandhills and Bold Nebraska speaker, pointed out the multiple uses the pipeline has according to Nebraska state senators.
“It can be used to pump water, too,” he said. “That water in the aquifer is already more valuable than the oil.”
Local media concentrated its coverage on environmental impact and the Native American-rancher alliance. The Daily Nebraskan student newspaper of the University of Nebraska made erroneous mention of “Occupy supporters” in their coverage, apparently mistaking the many signs demanding a 1% Wall Street Sales Tax with Occupy Wall Street’s popular criticism on “the I percent.”
Ironically, the “DN” was the first newspaper in the state to cover the organizing efforts of the local UFAA chapter. In that report of December 6, 2012, it was noted that a 1 percent Wall Street transaction tax would generate $1.3 trillion each year, “roughly equal to each year’s federal deficit that contributes to the debt.” UFAA advocates that revenue be turned over to the national treasury, half to the states and half to the federal government, to pay for social programs and science drivers among other things.
Article and photos by Dan Buhrdorf