(CNN)The billionaire CEO building the Dakota Access Pipeline will continue to hold a music festival bearing the name Cherokee, a Native American tribe. But there’s a problem: Some artists are refusing to perform.
Kelcy Warren, the founder and CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the company trying to build the Dakota Access Pipeline, will continue to host the annual Cherokee Creek Music Festival at his Los Valles Ranch near Cherokee, Texas.
The money raised by the festival will benefit Warren’s nonprofit organization, Cherokee Crossroads, which raises money for children’s charities through the annual festivals. In the past, it has supported charities such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Ronald McDonald House of Texas.
Former festival performers condemn Warren
Artists who have played the festival in past years are now speaking out against Warren and have removed themselves from future lineups. The Indigo Girls, comprised of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, played at the festival in 2013 and 2014. They wrote an open letter to Warren on their Facebook page to protest the pipeline.
“We realize that the bucolic setting of your festival and the message it projects is in direct conflict with the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, a project your company Energy Transfer is responsible for spearheading,” wrote Ray and Saliers. “The American tradition of music that is so diverse and rich depends on the respect for human rights and that includes environmental justice for Native Peoples that contribute to the great tapestry of this land.”
A number of past performers co-signed the letter along with the Indigo Girls, including Jackson Browne, Joan Osbourne, Todd Snider, Glen Phillips and Dean Dinning of Toad the Wet Sproket, Keb’ Mo’, Shawn Mullins, Shawn Colvin, Jess Klein, and Parker Millsap.
“We will no longer play your festival or or participate in Music Road Records recordings,” The letter adds, “We implore you to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
Ray and Saliers are active supporters of Honor the Earth, a non-profit organization that raises awareness and financial support for Native environmental issues. They traveled to North Dakota in October to play a show and speak with members of the International Indigenous Youth Council. When they began posting their support online, a follower messaged them to bring their attention to Warren’s involvement.
“We didn’t know. We would never had played the festival,” Ray told CNN. “We immediately got together and wrote the letter and we asked other musicians involved to sign it and everyone agreed to not play the festival again.”
Ray was disappointed by Warren’s response, but hopes that their input can eventually change his mind. “Even though it didn’t change Kelsy’s mind, it adds up in the whole critical mass as far as trying to influence him to make better decision,” Ray added. “As it becomes more and more obvious how many people are on the side of the protestors, and more musicians don’t want to play the festival anymore, maybe the residual effect of the letter will influence his decision in a month or two to not continue with it.”
Warren fights back
Warren wrote a response letter to the musicians, in which he says the artists are spreading misinformation about the pipeline. “This misinformation intentionally omits the real facts about the DAPL, the approval and careful permitting processes over the last four years and the significant efforts undertaken by ETP to be good stewards of natural resources,” he wrote.
The letter goes on to counteract the protesters’ arguments that the pipeline will intersect with sacred lands. “The DAPL traverses a path through private property and does not cross, at any point, the tribe’s reservation,” he said. “Multiple archaeological studies conducted by the North Dakota state historic preservation office, including as recently as last month, found no archeological or cultural sites within the route for DAPL.”
In response to environmental concerns, Warren wrote that he is committed to protecting the environment throughout the pipeline’s construction.
Read the entire letter here.
Musicians stand with Standing Rock
On November 27, Jackson Browne, along with Bonnie Raitt, Jason Mraz, Joel Rafael, and John Tridell’s Bad Dog, held a benefit concert in Fort Yates, North Dakota, which was free for Water Protectors. Proceeds from the concert will go to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe members protesting the pipeline through the winter.
“Our hope is that this concert will help bring more awareness and media attention to the issues being raised at Standing Rock, and to put pressure on The Obama Administration to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline until protection of sacred sites is ensured,” Raitt told Indian Country Today Media Network.
Back in September, Browne said in a statement that he would be donating all of the money he has received from the album, “Looking Into You, A Tribute to Jackson Browne,” to the tribes protesting the pipeline. The album was produced by Music Road Records, a recording studio and record label founded by Warren.
“I do not play for companies who defile nature, or companies who attack demonstrators with trained attack dogs and pepper spray,” Browne said.
Scott Beasley, the festival manager, told the Dallas Observer that the festival will not be affected by recent events. “It’s a wonderful event at a fabulous venue and it benefits a tremendous amount of children here in the state,” Beasley said. “After last year’s event we will have donated right at two million dollars to children’s charities…They’re dependent upon it quite frankly. We’re almost their entire annual budget. We’re going to make sure that continues.”