While the divisions in our country are real and seem to widen every day, the threats we have in common are greater than what divides us.

By Pamela Haines, Waging Nonviolence

The new multi-billion-dollar Midwest Carbon Express pipeline — proposed last fall to carry ethanol refinery waste from Iowa to underground injection sites in North Dakota — has generated a wave of resistance over the threat of eminent domain, or the seizure of land for “public good.” The unlikely alliance of farmers, ranchers, Indigenous tribes, scientists and environmentalists that has arisen has hung banners off of freeway overpasses, rallied in front of the Iowa State Capitol and held meetings in communities all along the proposed route.

Standing Rock Solidarity Rally, in protest to the Access Oil Pipe line in North Dakota at Pioneer Square in downtown Portland, Oregon.

This campaign offers yet another example of the potential of working across lines of deep-seated traditional enmity to accomplish shared goals. They hearken back to the Cowboy and Indian alliance campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline in 2013. Native people and ranchers from the deeply red states of Nebraska and South Dakota riding their horses together into Washington, D.C. in full regalia, to set up camp near the White House and send a message as one to President Obama was a striking image of unity. They had come together, somewhat uneasily, to act in the face of a common external threat, but through that process they began to appreciate each other in different ways.

As this group of ranchers, farmers and tribal communities from along the tar sands pipeline route worked together against its construction, the tribes influenced some white neighbors to protect sacred burial sites on property they now owned. “We come from two cultures that clashed over land,” Alliance spokeswoman Faith Spotted Eagle observed. “This is a healing for the generations.”

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