Bold Nebraska Activists Share Tactics Which Helped Defeat Keystone XL Pipeline

Posted June 15, 2016

MP3 Interview with Art Tanderup, farmer and activist with the group Bold Nebraska, conducted by Melinda Tuhus


One of the most effective groups that worked to stop the northern leg of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada into the U.S. was Bold Nebraska. Founded by Nebraskan Jane Kleeb, it brought together farmers, ranchers and members of indigenous nations to carry out many audacious and creative actions. These protests included building a barn powered by renewable energy directly in the path of the planned pipeline, and organizing the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, which set up a weeklong encampment on the Mall in Washington, D.C., taking their fight to President Obama, who finally killed the Keystone XL project in November 2015.

Bold Nebraska is now broadening its reach, both in terms of geography and the fossil fuels it's targeting. The group initiated a project called Bold Alliance, a network of citizen-action groups in rural states whose mission is to assist activists across the U.S. fight interstate fracked gas pipelines and other gas infrastructure projects. In early June, Native and non-native members traveled east to symbolically plant sacred native corn seeds on the proposed paths of two pipelines in Virginia and West Virginia.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Art Tanderup, a retired teacher and anti-pipeline activist, who now farms 160 acres in northeast Nebraska on a farm that's been in his wife's family for generations. He participated in the recent planting of the sacred corn in Virginia. Here Tanderup describes his involvement in protesting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and the move to expand Bold Nebraska's outreach to fossil fuel pipeline opponents around the country.

ART TANDERUP: In November of 2013, we held an activity here on our farm. It was the first of the Spirit Camps that were held with the Cowboy-Indian Alliance. Ours was the Ponca Trail of Tears Spirit Camp, because part of our farm is on the Ponca Trail of Tears, where the Ponca were driven from north of us, up here at Niobrara, to Oklahoma with Chief Standing Bear and his people.

BETWEEN THE LINES: A group of you has taken some sacred Ponca corn to plant along the paths of other proposed pipelines far from Nebraska. Why did you decide to do that?

ART TANDERUP: This week has been really exciting with that, and I can’t remember all the various places. We had three days and we did two sites a day; four sites in Virginia and two sites in West Virginia. We went to those places. You know, they’re fighting the same thing – the corporate greed, the total disrespect for property rights, and they’re obviously not thinking much about the future of this earth and you know, the damage they’re doing with climate change and so forth. We had gatherings at six farms, we kind of explained the history of this corn and what we’re doing with it. Mekasi (Horinek, a Ponca activist) did some of the Ponca ceremony at each site and then we planted corn and always closed with a prayer of thanksgiving. A very spiritual thing as well as an exciting action.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Right. So this is taking the fight against the KXL, the tar sands pipeline, and using the same tactics against fracked gas pipelines. That seems like a really important development.

ART TANDERUP: Yes, it is, exactly, and everybody told us it couldn’t be done with KXL, and a lot of groups worked together. One of the things Jane was so good at was creating unlikely alliances with all the different groups and individuals out here. That was so important, and we all focused on one thing, that was stopping this. Part of what we did was to give these people some hope, the spirit that they could actually do this. It isn’t totally overwhelming. They are Americans. They have rights and they can stop these things. The corporations don’t need to run this country. It’s just like Keystone; there are so many issues with it. The eminent domain and property rights; the climate change issue. You know, you just go on and on and on with the different issues around these pipelines. They can be stopped.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And these pipelines were the Mountain Valley and the Atlantic Coast pipelines?

ART TANDERUP: Yes, those were the two that we were at. We did talk a lot about the 17 or 18 pipeline projects. They’re growing like weeds. They’re all over the place, and they’re all intended for export. So, you know, they’ve all got to be stopped.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Many proposed pipelines are headed to Dominion’s Cove Point LNG export facility, which is under construction right now in Lusby, Maryland. And local people, supported by some outside groups, are trying to stop it, since it will affect everyone on the planet if these enormous methane emissions from bringing the gas in and liquefying it are allowed to happen. So, Art Tanderup, you’ve described Bold Nebraska as the mother ship, but this Bold concept is expanding. Can you talk about that?

ART TANDERUP: Bold Nebraska still exists, and what was decided was that there are issues in other states, so now in a few states we started, like, Bold Iowa to fight the Bakken pipeline; Bold Oklahoma to deal with the fracking and the earthquake issue and that sort of thing down there; there’s Bold Louisiana. The states have been selected that really need the help right now, and they all come under the umbrella of Bold Alliance.

To learn more about Bold Nebraska's Bold Alliance project, visit Bold Nebraska at and on Facebook at

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