CUSHING, Okla. —
When it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline, observers say there is an element of tribal politics in the opposition. During the 2008 campaign, the Crow received attention for making Obama an honorary member, bestowing him with the name "One Who Helps People Throughout the Land."
Now, some believe that Sac and Fox leader Thurman feels slighted by Obama, who initially failed to invite him to the March speech the president delivered in Cushing. This was a special affront because Cushing is part of the Sac and Fox Nation. At that event, Obama announced his support for the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Thurman only heard about the visit from Kurak, who is a friend. Kurak had been invited because she caught Obama's attention at a meeting in Washington.
Kurak, the Iowa Nation chairman, sympathizes with Thurman. She said, "All we're asking for is respect, respect for us as a people."
Baker, the lawyer, who comes from Oklahoma, stresses that opposition is rooted in Native American belief.
"Above all the land is sacred," she said. "It's not just a mantra. People really do see this as sacred land. It really causes a lot of people a lot of pain, particularly the elders. They recognize the damage this has the potential for."