In what could be a major blow to the construction of Keystone XL, a Nebraska farm couple has returned a portion of ancestral land to the Ponca Tribe.
Art and Helen Tanderup signed over the 1.6 acre plot of land, which falls on the Ponca “Trail of Tears” to the Ponca at a deed-signing ceremony last week.
The couple stated, “The Ponca and people of this community continue to build strong relationships as they work in collaborative efforts. It is only fitting that out of the tragedy of the Ponca Trail of Tears that a small piece of this historic trail be transferred to them.”
The plot of land also happens to be where TransCanada, the corporation behind the Keystone XL, plans to build a portion of the controversial pipeline. This means that “TransCanada will have to negotiate with a new landowner, one that has special legal status as a tribe.”
The transfer is being celebrated by the Tanderups, the Ponca, and environmentalists across the nation.
As Larry Wright Jr., chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, told the Omaha World-Herald, “We want to protect this land. We don’t want to see a pipeline go through.”
“While TransCanada is trampling on Indigenous rights to fatten their bottom line, Native leaders are resisting by building renewable energy solutions like solar panels in the path of the pipeline,” said 350.org executive director May Boeve.
She continued, “Repatriating this land to the Ponca Tribe raises new challenges for the Keystone XL pipeline and respects the leadership of Native nations in the fight against the fossil fuel industry. Tribal sovereignty is central to the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground and build a more just society for all.”
The Tanderups have worked with the Ponca tribe for years to grow the tribe’s sacred corn on the portion of land that was returned. During the ceremony, in which the deed was signed between the Tanderups and Larry Wright, Jr., both the farmers and the tribe celebrated a fifth planting of corn with Ponca singers and grass dancers.