When asked to sell his lands to the U.S. government: Chief Seattle responded, "How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? This idea is strange to us. We do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every shady shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people."
What Chief Seattle believed, I believe that too.
I grew up in Beaver City, the county seat of Furnas County, Nebraska. In my childhood, the water and air were clean and the land was good for plants, animals and people. When my brothers and I went fishing, the rivers and lakes were full of fish.
Over the decades, I have seen the quality of life diminish for all of us, but especially for children. My grandchildren, all of whom live in Nebraska, do not have the natural riches that I had outside my front door. Three of my grandchildren live within ten miles of the proposed pipeline. I regret that I did not work harder to keep our state healthy. Now I want to do what I can so that future generations can enjoy high quality lives.
At Spirit Rock Retreat Center near San Francisco, I heard the story of an old turtle that swims alone across all the seven seas. He lifts his head out of the water only once every thousand years. Meanwhile, a branch with a small hole in it floats forever in the oceans. The odds of that old turtle managing to randomly come up under the branch and poke his head through the hole are the odds of any one of us being alive. In short, we are miracles, and in spite of everything, we are lucky.
We are here today because, since the beginning of human time, adults have taken care of us and taught us how to love the world. Now we are the adults and protecting our state is our job. Who will take care of Nebraska if we don't?
The issues around the XL Pipeline are not Republican or Democratic issues; they are geographical issues. At legislative hearings in the fall, not one Nebraska citizen spoke in favor of this pipeline. On this issue, country people and city dwellers, business owners and ranchers are all in the same family. We are a family of citizens who want to protect our state's land and water.
Ordinary Nebraskans are up against a powerful international corporation that only wants to use our home to make money for its stockholders and executives. They do not care if the pipeline endangers the aquifer or pollutes our ranches and farmlands.
They do not care about our heritage or our ability to earn a living and maintain our way of life.
They do not care because they are not Nebraskans.
They do not live here and will not suffer serious consequences if things go wrong.
We Nebraskans, including our legislators and our governor, have a right to control and protect our own lands. In fact, that could be one definition of democracy; the right to exert control over decisions that affect our lives. Those who want to control us try to make us feel as though everything has already been decided, that we are powerless and that the situation is hopeless. But that is not the case.
It is not too late. We have time to change the course of events. The situation is not hopeless. We are not without power and we are not alone.
To quote Abraham Lincoln, "The struggle of today is not altogether for today, but for a vast future also."
Saving our state from TransCanada's XL Pipeline is just such a struggle. Let's get to work. I designate everyone in this room a community educator. Your work begins when you walk out the door. Together we can do this.
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