Lower Brule Sioux Tribe cites treaty in bid to oust Keystone XL firm


A sign to the offices of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. Photo from USGS / Flickr

The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe of South Dakota is invoking a treaty provision in an attempt to oust the Canadian firm that's behind the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.

The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie includes a provision that requires the United States to protect the Sioux people from "bad men" who commit wrongdoing. The tribe believes TransCanada, which already operates an existing pipeline that has spilled oil in South Dakota, must be held accountable for its actions.

“As descendants of the people of this land we have witnessed destruction of many magnitudes," acting Chairman Kevin Wright said in a press release. "We are concerned for our land, water, and most importantly not only the physical wellbeing of our people but spiritual wellbeing as well. I am first a human being, not a politician, when it comes to these matters. I believe in protecting our people and look to more ecological ways of living.”


Michael Jandreau, 1943-2015. Photo from Lower Brule Sioux Tribe

The tribe was already on record in opposition to the XL Pipeline. But questions arose after the council drafted a resolution under the leadership of the late chairman Michael Jandreau that directed him to support the project as a contingency.

The statement from Wright, who assumed the chairman's position prior to Jandreau's death, comes after he asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to freeze the tribe's federal funds due to concerns about misspending. The Inspector General at the Interior Department is looking into the tribe's acquisition of a Wall Street firm that later shut down, the Associated Press reported. The tribe bought the firm with a $22.5 million loan that was backed by the BIA.

Wright also fired the three of the tribe's outside attorneys, including one who worked closely with Jandreau for years. That decision came up during a somewhat curious meeting with Brendan Johnson, the former U.S. Attorney for South Dakota, South Dakota Public Radio reported.

Johnson, who now works in private practice, said he was asked by tribal members for assistance during its time of transition. But Wright felt Johnson was advocating for the interests of the former attorneys.

Get the Story:
PUC sets evidentiary hearing in TransCanada pipeline case (The Black Hills Pioneer 5/1)
Lower Brule Sioux leader asks feds to freeze funds to tribe (AP 4/27)
Former SD US Attorney Visits Lower Brule Chairman (AP 4/27)

Human Rights Report:
Secret and Unaccountable: The Tribal Council at Brule and Its Impact on Human Rights (January 2015)

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