A Texas oil man and music fan is finding himself under the microscope for his role in the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline that has been the subject of protests by Native Americans, artists and others since spring.
Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners and driving force behind the push to construct a pipeline across North and South Dakota tribal lands, is a multibillionaire who also happens to own a small record label and produces the annual Cherokee Creek Music Festival outside of Austin, Texas.
The festival has hosted a stellar roster of mostly folk, country and Americana artists since its 2011 inception, including Jackson Browne and Indigo Girls – artists who have traveled to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation that spans the Dakotas to support those protesting DAPL. Warren, reportedly a big fan of Browne, owns Music Roads Records.
The label issued a well-received Browne tribute album in 2013 titled Looking Into You: A Tribute To Jackson Browne that features songs performed by Indigo Girls, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Lucinda Williams, and longtime Browne collaborator David Lindley, among many others. “I did not know anything about Kelcy Warren’s other business as the production of this album went forward,” Browne wrote in a statement to Indian Country Today Media Network.
“Although as a music publisher there is no legal way to deny permission to a record company to cover a song that has been previously published, I could have dissuaded the artists from appearing on this record had I known. “I do not play for oil interests,” Browne continued. “I do not play for companies who defile nature, or companies who attack demonstrators with trained attack dogs and pepper spray. I certainly would not have allowed my songs to be recorded by a record company whose owner’s other business does what Energy Transfer Partners is allegedly doing – threatening the water supply and the sacred sites of indigenous people.”
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, who make up Indigo Girls, wrote a letter to Warren vowing to boycott both his label and Cherokee Creek Music Festival that was signed by about a dozen artists – all of whom either have recorded for Music Roads Records or performed at Cherokee Creek. Most did both. Among the signatories are Browne, Joan Osborne, Bruce Hornsby, Todd Snider, Keb’ Mo’, Shawn Colvin, and Glen Phillips and Dean Dinning of Toad the Wet Sprocket.
“Many of us who have played your festival have invested time and energy into the fight for human rights and environmental justice,” the letter reads. “For some of us, this mission is the moving force and spiritual foundation of our larger community of musicians, and one of the inspirations to play such rich gatherings as the Cherokee Music Festival. “But sadly, we realize that the bucolic setting of your festival and the image it projects is in direct conflict with the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline – a project your company, Energy Transfer Partners, is responsible for spearheading. This pipeline violates the Standing Rock Sioux Nation's treaty rights, endangers the vital Missouri River, and continues the trajectory of genocide against Native Peoples.”
he letter concludes: “In order to stay true to our music and respect the Native Nations that are united against the Dakota Access Pipeline, we will no longer play your festival or participate in Music Road Records recordings. We implore you to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and to reconsider your company’s pursuits with regards to the environment and the communities that depend on its well-being.”