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Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe vows to stop Keystone XL

Filed Under: Environment | National | Politics
More on: keystone xl pipeline, native sun news, oglala sioux, south dakota

The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Managing Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer joined about 300 people in a non-violent direct-action training called Moccasins on the Ground held recently at Manderson in preparation for stopping the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.

Oglala Sioux Tribe renews vow to stop XL Pipeline
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor

PINE RIDGE RESERVATION - The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council renewed its commitment to stop TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline at a meeting on March 26. The pipeline would slurry tar-sands crude oil from Alberta Province across the Great Plains to refineries and export facilities in Oklahoma and Texas.

OST President Brian Brewer supervised a council vote that reiterates formal resistance to the pipeline proposal, already enshrined in a 2012 resolution from former President John Yellow Bird Steele and current Vice President Tom Poor Bear. “I interject here that I am standing with the people in protecting our Mni Wiconi water pipeline and I expect the council members to be with me,” Brewer said.

Tribal Economic Development Committee Chairman James Cross of Pass Creek District introduced the new resolution, and all tribal council members present voted in favor except one who did not vote at all.

Passage of the new Resolution 13-60, “reaffirming the Yellow Bird Steele-Poor Bear Administration opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline” aims to keep the pipeline “from crossing the Mni Wiconi Water Line, any part of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and any and all 1851 and 1868 treaty lands,” it states.

The Mni Wiconi Rural Water Supply Project, enacted by the U.S. Congress, pipes Missouri River water to Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and Lower Brule Indian reservations, as well as to non-Indian communities in the South Dakota counties of Haakon, Jackson, Jones, Lyman, Mellette, Pennington, and Stanley.

The resolution by the Oglala Sioux Tribe, which is a 1934 Indian Reorganization Act government, explicitly supports the traditional Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council's resolution approved unanimously on Feb. 18, 2012. The earlier resolution states: “The Great Sioux Nation hereby directs President Barack Obama and the United States Congress to honor the promises of the United States made through the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie treaties by prohibiting the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline and any future projects from entering and destroying our land without our consent.”

The traditional leaders’ resolution, argues against the dilbit pipeline on the grounds of international law, citing the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Oglala Sioux tribal member Debra White Plume, founder of the non-profit Owe Aku (Take Back the Way), advocated for approval of the latest resolution on the council floor, cautioning that failure of authorities to respond to the will of the majority is destined to stir up protest.

Every door to opposing the KXL is closing one by one,” she said. “Soon the only door left open will be direct action. We intend to focus our limited resources on making non-violent direct-action training available to the grassroots people on the land in the KXL proposed route,” she added.

“We just completed Moccasins on the Ground Training here on the Pine Ridge homeland in collective action with Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and Tar Sands Blockade,” she reminded the tribal council.

At the training session, 94-year-old Marie Randall reminded participants, “This is the land of our ancestors. We protect it for our grandchildren,” said Randall.

George Jumping Eagle led a song to honor Randall, who stood with others in front of a heavy-haul caravan transporting equipment from Texas to Canadian tar-sands mines, when it attempted to pass through the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation village of Wanbli, in March of 2012. Five individuals, not including Randall, were arrested for blockading the trucks.

President Brewer declared his intention to back the pipeline resistance during the training session, held in Manderson March 8-10. “I will put my moccasins on the ground with my people,” he said during the event attended by about 300 people from different reservations and states.

White Plume said the tar-sands slurry, or diluted bitumen (dilbit), in the pipeline would cross “hundreds of rivers and streams and the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking water to 2 million people from South Dakota to Texas, and which irrigates the bread basket of America.

“It would cross the Oglala Sioux Tribal Rural Water pipeline, which brings drinking water 200 miles to our lands here, from Pierre, South Dakota,” she stressed.

The resolution cites traditional and contemporary responsibility of Lakota people. “Through ancient indigenous cultural and spiritual concepts, we have always respected and maintained good relations with the animals, air, land and water of our traditional homelands since time immemorial,” it says.

It prohibits any Oglala Sioux Tribe entity from consultation on the tribe’s behalf with any government entity attempting to negotiate passage of the pipeline.

It echoes the Mother Earth Accord submitted to Obama in 2011 by U.S. and Canadian indigenous leaders opposing tar-sands mining and dilbit pipelines.

Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. received the necessary Presidential Permit to cross the Canada-U.S. border and build its Keystone I Pipeline through the treaty lands beginning in 2008, after a federal judge dismissed four tribes’ attempt to block the proposal in court.

The company has twice failed to obtain a similar permit from the U.S. State Department for its Keystone XL Pipeline. However, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and much of the U.S. Congress are putting pressure on President Barack Obama’s Administration to approve it.

TransCanada already is building the southern leg of the pipeline through Oklahoma and Texas with a $2.3-billion investment creating 4,000 construction jobs that the company expects will last until the end of the year when the so-called Gulf Coast section is slated to be done.

The company projects 5,000 would be hired temporarily as welders, mechanics, electricians, pipefitters, laborers, safety coordinators, and heavy equipment operators if construction of the pipeline’s 1,179-mile northern leg is allowed to proceed.

The private foreign investment of an estimated $5.3 billion in the remaining stretch through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska is the largest infrastructure project currently proposed in the United States and entails $99 million in local government revenues as well as $486 million in state government revenues during construction, the company notes.

The State Department scheduled a public meeting about the proposal for April 18 in Grand Island, Nebraska, to provide an opportunity for individuals to express their views and comment on the pipeline’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS), it announced March 27.

The DSEIS includes a tentative finding of “no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed project route.”

However, dozens of organizations in the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and the Tar Sands Blockade have been taking direct action to stall out the Gulf Coast section of the pipeline construction, chaining themselves to heavy equipment, perching in trees along the right-of-way, and going to jail for civil disobedience in protest of the pipeline’s threat to water and tar-sands oil’s contribution to air pollution.

The Oglala Sioux tribal resolution came in the wake of mounting reports of tar-sands pipeline oil spills.

TransCanada’s Keystone I Pipeline spilled 14 times in the first year of operations on the route from Canada through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois.

The Enbridge Line 6B Pipeline in Michigan created the biggest inland oil spill in the United States, when it ruptured in 2010, causing closure of 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River and a cleanup that has continued for three years at a cost of more than $809 million.

No sooner had the tribal council signed the resolution than a rupture at ExxonMobil Pipeline Co.’s Pegasus Pipeline spilled some 80,000 gallons of Canadian tar-sands crude in toxic slurry into a northern suburb of Little Rock, Arkansas, March 29. The dilbit was being shipped to the Texas Gulf Coast.

The next Moccasins on the Ground Tour of Resistance training was set for April 5-7 in Yankton Dakota territory, according to Owe Aku organizer Vic Camp.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council member Robin LeBeau, who took part in the Manderson training said Eagle Butte is welcoming a training session in mid-April. “We must protect our communities, children, water, for the future.”

White Plume said trained community members are “better prepared to protect their lands and waters, in the event that President Obama chooses to ignore the concerns of thousands of Americans who have commented, written letters, rallied by the tens of thousands in Washington, D.C., and the thousands of people arrested in civil disobedience at the White House to give him the message that the pipeline is not in the best interests of the big land (America).

“We will join our counterparts of ranchers and farmers who will face TransCanada’s earthmovers when they come to dig, using the human right to engage in nonviolent direct action,” she said in a written statement. “We hope the President will realize the large and diverse national support to deny the permit.

Meanwhile, the State Department’s Grand Island hearing was set for the Heartland Events Center at 700 East Stolley Park Rd., from noon to 3:30 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on April 18, with registration beginning at 11 a.m.

“This meeting will be a listening session. All comments will be transcribed by a court reporter and will become part of the administrative record and considered in preparing the final version of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement,” the State Department said in announcing the hearing.

To accommodate those who cannot attend or who are unable to deliver their full comments in the allotted time, the department said it would accept written comments through April 22.

“All written comments will have equal standing with spoken comments from the public meeting and will become part of the administrative record,” it said. A summary of all comments will be incorporated in an appendix to the final version of the SEIS, it added.

Details about how to submit written comments regarding the DSEIS were posted on the State Department Keystone XL website:

(Contact Talli Nauman, @

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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