Leaders from 11 Native American tribes from South Dakota to Oklahoma walked out of a meeting with federal officials in Rapid City on Thursday to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
They then issued a direct challenge to President Obama: Talk to us directly or not at all.
The meeting was arranged amid mounting tension in Indian Country about the pipeline, which would pump oil from Canadian tar sands to Texas refineries. Although the pipeline would not go directly through any Native American reservation, tribes in proximity to its proposed path say it will encroach on their traditional lands and that the project is fraught with environmental risks.
To help ease those concerns, representatives from the Department of State, which is deciding whether to approve the pipeline, agreed to meet with tribal leaders on Thursday morning in the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.
But before the talks could begin, tribal leaders walked out, upset that the government had sent what they considered low-level officials. In a press conference held by the tribes after the walkout, leaders took turns issuing angry statements against the project and the Obama administration.
"I will only meet with President Obama," said Bryan Brewer, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, who added that was the only true way to conduct nation-to-nation talks.Yes, nation-to-nation talks. That's why they sent John Kerry to Israel.
I suppose they could the most culturally-sensitive person on Obama's staff to meet with the Native Americans: Joe Biden. After all, he could become president a lot sooner than 2017.