photo: Matt Ryerson
by: Carolyn Cunningham
The setting may seem strange, but this past Saturday, Willie Nelson and Neil Young transformed the middle of a cornfield into Harvest the Hope benefit concert. The concert organized by Art and Helen Tanderup at their farm in Neligh, Nebraska hosted 8,000 people who flocked to hear Willie Nelson and Neil Young sing in protest of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed pipeline would travel 1,179 miles from Alberta to southern Nebraska, would go straight through the Tanderup farm, and the historic Ponca Tribe “Trail of Tears”.
Six years ago is when TransCanada first proposed the Keystone XL pipeline and since then farmers, ranchers, Native Americans, and environmentalists have held multiple meetings to oppose the pipeline. The biggest fear is that there would be a spill that would cause irreversible harm to the Ogallala Aquifer. “As caretakers of our land, family farmers know best what’s good for it,” said Willie Nelson, Farm Aid co-founder. “We stand with these family farmers fighting for their land, livelihood and community.”
Both Nelson and Young have fought for the rights of farmers through out their careers. Between the two men they have thirteen Grammys, nine Juno awards, an Oscar nomination, one induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and one induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame. Nelson and Young along with John Mellencamp started Farm Aid in 1985. Farm Aid is a non-profit organizations whose main goal is to help farmers stay on their land. With that in mind Nelson and Young’s opposition to the pipeline does not come as a surprise, because of how it would displace farmers like the Tanderups’.
Thank you, Jenny from OK, for the video!
Opening for Willie Nelson and Neil Young was Frank Waln a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The pipeline would also go through the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s land. Waln was there to show his opposition to the pipeline as well as perform. The twenty five year old Columbia College grad credits his roots as a major influence in his music. Waln, who was raised by a single mother, brought his mother on stage to perform a song that he wrote for her called “My Rock”. All of the songs Waln performed were inspired by some part of his life growing up as a part of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.
Performing in front of 8,000 excited fans Willie Nelson and Neil Young performed songs from their earlier albums as well as newer material. Neil Young wrote a new song specifically for the occasion rightfully titled “Who’s Gonna Stand Up?”. Young’s new song was the finale of the concert where he asked the crowd to join together and sing with him. As the final notes closed out the song a sense of hope filled the corn field as 8,000 people stood together to fight against the pipeline.