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Native Sun News: Tribes take action to stop Keystone XL bid

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

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

Faith Spotted Eagle (Ihanktonwan Dakota) of Protect the Sacred, organizer and leader. COURTESY Fast for the Earth

Native Americas take action to squelch Keystone XL Pipeline proposal
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

RAPID CITY - A walkout by tribal leaders at a U.S. State Department meeting on May 16 was among several actions in South Dakota Indian country during the week to oppose TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline across the Great Plains.

Leaders from 11 tribes abandoned a scheduled government-to-government consultation mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act as part of the pipeline’s Presidential Permit process, on the grounds that no high-level federal officials attended.

“A historic event took place here in Rapid City right in the heart of the Black Hills,” Oglala Lakota spiritual leader Wilmer Mesteth said in response. “We as sovereign tribes came together and we refused to meet with middlemen,” he said at a news conference after the walkout.

“Our heads of state, the leaders of our nations, stated this morning that they would rather meet with President Barack Obama himself,” he reiterated.

Participating in the walkout and news conference were leaders of the Southern Ponca, Pawnee Nation, Nez Perce Nation, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Ihanktonwan Dakota (Yankton Sioux), Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Standing Rock Tribe, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.

In a written communique, they called on the State Department to “invite President Obama to engage in true nation-to-nation consultation with them at the nearest date, at a designated location to be communicated by each of the above sovereigns.”

The following day on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, representatives of the Sicangu Treaty Council and Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council President Cyril Scott signed the Declaration of the Great Sioux Nation to the United States of America President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, and Department of State Secretary John Kerry.

It states: “The Keystone XL tar-sands oil pipeline proposed now for the second time by the multinational corporation TransCanada is a direct and immediate threat to Unci Maka, to surface water, to ground water and to all that lives and grows in its pathway.

“Our Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation did not give free, prior, informed consent to this KXL pipeline passing through our treaty territory, to cross Unci Maka and sacred water. Tribal governments, treaty councils, warrior societies, women’s societies, and grassroots earth warriors have all stood against the desecration this KXL pipeline promises to unleash upon us, bringing destruction and desecration to sacred lands and ancient ways of life.

“The Great Sioux Nation declares our territories, our council fires, our coming generations to be loved and respected and worthy of protection and defense. The Great Sioux Nation declares our territories to be off limits to the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline and calls upon each member of our Great Sioux Nation to stand ready to defend our territory against the Keystone XL Pipeline in the event that the United States government approves the application for a permit by TransCanada.

“The Great Sioux Nation calls upon President Obama to deny the permit in a green revolutionary act that changes the course of the destruction of Unci Maka. Lakota belief teaches that a good leader stands in the way of something bad coming towards its people.”

The proposed 1,179-mile Keystone XL project would pass near the Rosebud and Cheyenne River Indian reservations, crossing treaty lands and drinking water lines that supply the Rosebud. The Canadian company seeking the Presidential Permit to build the crude-oil pipeline across the U.S. border would slurry the tar sand in solution to the Gulf of Mexico for refining and export.

On May 18, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Pipe, held a prayer ceremony and feast at Green Grass, asking “All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer to stop the desecration that is hurting Mother Earth and the communities.”

Looking Horse beseeched participation in the name of his grandmother, Anpao Wic’ah’pi Was’te Winyan of the Ihanktonwan Dakota. “She had a dream of bringing people together at the bundle to pray for a healing of the biggest cancer that is spreading upon Mother Earth, caused from the tar sand efforts with XL pipeline that is threatening to come through our territory and our sacred sites,” he said.

The Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council, various federally-recognized tribal governments and numerous Canadian First Nations have signed resolutions against the pipeline, warning of its danger to sacred sites, as well as land and water contamination, and global warming. The Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association also has signed a resolution against the proposal.

According to TransCanada Corp., the Keystone XL Pipeline will be the safest and most advanced pipeline operation in North America. “It will not only bring essential infrastructure to North American oil producers, but it will also provide jobs, long-term energy independence and an economic boost to Americans,” the corporation says.

The Santee Sioux Nation in Nebraska accepted the company’s arguments when it recently rescinded its support of a resolution to stop the pipeline.

However, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations (ACFN) of Canada have filed a constitutional complaint against Shell Canada’s proposed new Jackpine Mine in the tar sands of northern Alberta Province.

“We have to look 30 years down the road here at what’s going to happen to our people,” Oglala Sioux Tribal President Brian Brewer cautioned after taking part in the Rapid City walkout.

If the pipeline is permitted, “there’s no limit to the amount of damages they will inflict upon Mother Earth and our tribes,” Nez Perce Tribal Chairman Silas Whitman said at the news conference.

Southern Ponca Casey Camp characterized tar-sands mining and pipelines as protagonists of “environmental genocide.” “When my tribal business committee asked us to come up here, they wanted to convey to you that we say ‘no’ and we say ‘no’ again, and we stand with you, we stand together” against the pipeline, she said.

Outgoing Pawnee Tribal Vice President Charles Lone Chief likened the tars-sands destruction to that of the Amazon rainforest. “Just recently we met with some individuals from Brazil and they’re going through same thing: destroying rain forest, plowing up the ground to get minerals, not listening to the people,” he said.

He noted that tar-sands crude-oil poses hazards different from conventional oil, since it is not a liquid, but a tar, also known as bitumen, which is mixed with other toxic chemicals to facilitate piping.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Councilor Robin LeBeau put the State Department on notice that more direct action against the proposal can be expected. “I, for one, am not going to let anybody rape our mother, our grandmother,” she said. “I am going to ask everybody from Canada to Mexico to Venezuela to put your differences aside, come together, and let’s stop this pipeline.

Dakota Rural Action Board Director Paul Seamans joined the news conference to show the family farm organization’s support for the walkout, saying the grassroots members whose lands would be crossed by the pipeline “have a lot of common interests” with the Native American.

Fast for the Earth representative Phyllis Cole-Dai and South Dakota lawmaker Kevin Killer attended the conference.

On May 15, another kind of Keystone XL Pipeline consultation culminated in a recommendation to the State Department on endangered species by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The “Biological Opinion” concludes that the proposed construction, operation, and maintenance of the Keystone XL pipeline and associated facilities “may affect but is not likely to adversely affect” the wildlife species of concern.

The opinion addresses the federally endangered black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes), interior least tern (Sternula antillarum), whooping crane (Grus Americana), pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus), and American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) (ABB); as well as the threatened piping plover (Charadrius melodus) and western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara). Additionally, the document provides measures that would contribute to the conservation of the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) and Sprague’s pipit (Anthus spragueii), that would likely be impacted by the project.

Of paramount concern over wildlife in the conditions for the pipelines’ Presidential Permit is temporary and permanent habitat loss for the ABB. TransCanada Corp. will provide nearly $1.5 million to a trust fund for this work, if the project is permitted.

“The ABB Habitat Conservation Trust will be used to acquire lands and easements from willing sellers, and to develop conservation plans and agreements with landowners for protecting and enhancing ABB habitat in Nebraska and South Dakota,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

(Contact Talli Nauman, Native Sun News Health and Environment editor at

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