Keystone Pipeline Protesters: ‘Man Camps’ Could Lead to Sexual Assaults of Native Americans

Penny Starr | April 28, 2014 | 9:35am EDT
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Cowboy and Indian coalition protest against the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington, D.C.  (AP)

( – Native Americans opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline said its construction could lead to Native American women being sexually assaulted, according to news reports from a protest held this week on the National Mall. However, a workers’ union that supports the pipeline said such claims were “disgusting” and harmful to the “hard-working people who build America.”

“We are worried about man camps that are coming to our territory,” Faith Spotted Eagle, an elder with the Yankton Sioux of North Dakota, said at the protest, as reported by Politico.

Spotted Eagle said the mostly male encampments that would be put in place to house those working on the pipeline posed a threat to Native American women.

“We have seen our women suffer,” she said. “One out of three women in our nation have been sexually assaulted by non-native people.”

Members of tribes from states along the path where the pipeline would be built to transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast joined non-tribal protestors in a coalition called the “Cowboy and Indian Alliance.”

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

“We have stopped the pipeline in its tracks for the last five years,” protestor Jane Kleeb of the environmental group Bold Nebraska, said at the protest.

Rosebud Sioux President Cyrill Scott told BuzzFeed that some of the man camps would have as many as 600 men.

“I am very concerned these transient workers are going to come onto our land and violate our people,” Scott said.

“There will be violence and sexual assault from Keystone,” Aldo Seoane, another Rosebud Souix, said at the protest.

Some news reports cited Department of Justice statistics that state “American Indians are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes compared to all other races, and one in three Indian women reports having been raped during her lifetime.”

But the statistics do include information about the perpetrators.

Concerning the sexual assault claims by the coalition, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA), which has 500,000 members, said the assertions were besmirching hard-working Americans.

“It’s disgusting that some anti-worker operatives in Washington would feel so desperate to find another attack on a job-creating pipeline that they would resort to such baseless smears against the hard working people who build America," LiUNA Communications Director Richard Greer told

Terry O'Sullivan, president of the Laborers International Union of North America. (AP)

As for the Obama administration’s decision on April 18 to further delay approval of Keystone, LiUNA President Terry O’Sullivan in a press release said: “They waited until Good Friday, believing no one would be paying attention. The only surprise is they didn’t wait to do it in the dark of night.”

“It’s not the oil that’s dirty, it’s the politics,” said O’Sullivan.  “Once again, the administration is making a political calculation instead of doing what is right for the country. This certainly is no example of profiles in courage. It’s clear the administration needs to grow a set of antlers, or perhaps take a lesson from Popeye and eat some spinach.”

“This is another low blow to the working men and women of our country for whom the Keystone XL Pipeline is a lifeline to good jobs and energy security,” said the LiUNA president.

According to the Bold Nebraska website, the Cowboy and Indian Alliance – or CIA – will hold a “traditional water ceremony” outside of Secretary of State John Kerry’s home where they will be “praying that the Secretary listen to his conscience and the science and reject Keystone XL.”

On April 18, the State Department announced the pipeline decision was being delayed again after more than five years of review of the project. Keystone XL falls under the agency’s jurisdiction because it involves the crossing of an international border.

Keystone is a proposed 1,179-mile 36-inch diameter pipeline that would transport crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Neb., according to the website of TransCanada, the company in charge of the project.

“Along with transporting crude oil from Canada, the Keystone XL Pipeline will also support the significant growth of crude oil production in the United States from producers in the Bakken region of Montana and North Dakota,” the explanation on the company’s website stated.

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