By Crystal Cavalier-Keck
I was born and raised in the rolling hills of the Piedmont area of North Carolina, roughly Northern Alamance County. My family is from this area spanning back 400 years, and before that we migrated from the Ohio valley region. Most of my family is Siouan, however due to many tribes in the area living close together and being put on a reservation before the formation of the United States, I have Iroquian and Alqonquian ancestors as well. I am an enrolled citizen of the Occnaeechi Band of Saponi Nation. I am a mother, wife, community organizer and indigenous seed keeper.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is a 303-mile pipeline being constructed to carry fracked gas from West Virginia into Virginia. MVP is working to get approval for an extension of that pipeline that will take it an additional 70 miles from southern Virginia into central North Carolina. The addition, the MVP Southgate project, will cut through Rockingham and Alamance counties, ending at a point just south and east of Graham, below 1-85-40. This pipeline violates Indigenous rights and the bulldozers have arrived to plow through sacred burial mounds and Sacred Sites. The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate extension and construction through the northern part of Alamance County would destroy any remaining Native artifacts, burial mounds and ancestors left there. The Sissipihaw, Saponi, Shakori, Occaneechi and many more used to live here. Since colonization, 27 species of mammals, including buffalo, elk, wolf and panther, have died out in this area (since the 1400s).
This path that the pipeline takes is the same path known as the Great Trading 21 Path, and it ran from Fort Henry in Virginia to cross Haw River near the present town of Swepsonvile. As we have seen all colonizers do time and time again, the proposed MVP would largely follow the Native American trading path down the Haw River. On Sunday, May 2, 2021, an Indigenous-led coalition of grassroots organizations conducted a Water Walk in Va to NC. We had over 90 walking/running teams, 1 cyclist team, and 1 group of paddlers to participate in the multi-state event to bring awareness. We also had each partnering team canvassing the route and handing out information postcards. What an amazing and beautiful day, with all the actions and gatherings, despite attempted police intimidation and delays. We had several law enforcement hassling us in Red Slide Park, Haw River, NC, as well as the Pittsyvlvania County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginina State Highway Patrol in Chatham VA. We did notice that the MVP Southgate did call the law enforcement and told them we were protesting. We had several pipeline supporters following us and using intimidating tactics, including revving their engines and spinning tires on rocks to throw at us. However, we reaffirmed that we were prayerful, peaceful, respectful and mindful movements. Our walking team ended up with 40 indigenous people to kick off . We reached the 3pm rally to celebrate the waters that we have, and to renew their commitment to keeping our water resources clean and protecting scared spaces, while bringing awareness of the devastating impact a pipeline could have on our water resources. The band – Sun Sing Collective was excellent, as were those that played and sang on the native Drum group.
We wrapped up the water walk in the Haw River at 6pm with a gathering of 100+ people, and poured out our prayers and water we have gathered from the beginning. Steven Pulliam, the Dan River Riverkeeper, did an excellent job with the rally at Draper Landing, and Emily Sutton Haw River Keeper did a fantastic job at the Haw River.
The struggle to stop Mountain Valley Pipeline and Mountain Valley Southgate continues and is evolving in form. We are calling on our friends and allies to protect land and water. We are witnessing millions of dollars wasted in this dangerous death drilling of the earth, and the viability of these projects are serious questions at a time when investors can still back out. Stand with us against #NoMVP #NoMVPSouthgate.
Crystal Cavalier-Keck is a citizen of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation from NC. She is an expert in her field of Strategic Intelligence, Political Campaigns, and Public Administration. She has conducted training around the East Coast on Coordinated Tribal/Community Response for emergency management through disasters (natural or man-made). She currently volunteers teaching youth through healing in the Native American community. Currently, Crystal is working on her Doctorate at the University of Dayton and dissertation on Social Justice of Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Gas/Oil Pipelines in front line communities.
Please show your support of the #STOPMVP and #STOPMVP Southgate Extension pipeline campaign by signing this petition.