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Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe opposes Keystone talks

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman. All content © Native Sun News.

Debra White Plume, Tantoo Cardinal, Tom Poor Bear and Myron Pourier took part in the Nov. 6 rally at the White House to stop TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline. PHOTO COURTESY/Shadia Fayne Wood

PINE RIDGE, SOUTH DAKOTA -- The Oglala Sioux Tribe has ordered a halt to secret negotiations with TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL Pipeline representatives seeking access to tribal water supply and fee land easements, according to Tribal Council Executive Committee resolution filed Oct. 28 at the Pine Ridge Agency of the BIA.

“The executive committee has learned that, without Tribal Council approval, TransCanada is currently negotiating with the Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System, with the Bureau of Reclamation, and with the architectural firm Morrison and Maierle to use or cross the Mni Wiconi water pipeline easement for an oil pipeline,” states the unanimous resolution signed at a special session the day of the filing.

It calls on the parties to “immediately cease and desist any negotiations and plans … to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline across the Mni Wiconi Water Pipeline Easement.” The Mni Wiconi Rural Water line provides drinking water from the Missouri River to the Oglala, Rosebud, and Lower Brule Lakota Nations, as well as several other communities in western South Dakota.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is the second one that TransCanada Corp. wants to build to link the tar-sands crude oilfields of Canada’s Alberta Province to U.S. refineries and foreign markets via an underground conduit through Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

The company did not respond to questions from Native Sun News about the resolution’s impact.

Its 2,000-mile proposed route would cross aboriginal and original reservation boundaries established by the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie treaties.

The resolution goes further to declare: “The Oglala Sioux Tribe hereby clarifies that it has not and will not grant TransCanada an easement to build an oil pipeline through any of its lands, and … that it will vehemently enforce its prohibitions against trespass and against unauthorized transportation of oil and gas on tribal lands.”

The Oglala Sioux Tribe is one of four tribal governments that lost a federal lawsuit to stop the earlier Keystone I Pipeline, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton successfully claimed that their assertion of treaty rights to the land along the route did not provide sufficient jurisdiction.

However, traditional leaders of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council vow to fight the Keystone XL on the basis of treaty rights anyway, because of concerns over air, water and land pollution from oil spills and fossil fuel burning.

The Oglala Sioux Tribal Executive Committee received the request to stop negotiations from the tribal council’s Economic and Business Development Committee where discussions addressed the issue of TransCanada Corp.’s agents asking Bureau of Reclamation officials to approve easements without tribal authorities’ knowledge or consent.

The easement lease process, as well as the entire idea of tar-sands crude-oil extraction, shipping, refining and trade, has been fiercely contested across the country and abroad in one of U.S. President Obama’s biggest political challenges over environment, clean energy and climate change.

Last week, the President indicated that his administration’s pledge to decide in 2011 on TransCanada’s four-year-old application for a Presidential Permit might be prolonged “several months.”

He committed to making the decision himself, rather than leaving it to Clinton’s State Department, which has been questioned over transparency and disinterest in its role of guiding the Calgary-based company’s project through the U.S. regulatory process.

Oglala Sioux Tribal Vice Chairman Thomas Poor Bear, Tribal Council Fifth Member Myron Pourier, and activist Debra White Plume planned to join a national protest action against the pipeline scheduled Nov. 6 in Washington, D.C.

The event, organized by the Tar Sands Action campaign, was not to be the first Keystone XL protest for Poor Bear and White Plume, both of whom have been forcibly removed from previous rallies against it. This most recent national rally had more than 5,000 people signed up in advance to encircle the White House and ask that Obama reject the project.

An alternative pipeline route to the West Coast was blocked by Canada’s First Nations. However, just as the pipeline project is gaining opponents, so too is it attracting endorsements.

Supporters see the $7 billion construction as a source of jobs and more energy, since it would increase capacity to approximately 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day by 2013. Among those who believe that more energy is needed is the Partnership to Fuel America, initiated by the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which supports the pipeline project.

Its list of partners in South Dakota includes:
Alton Palmer Trucking LLC-Rapid City
American Inn-Murdo
Dakota Bar and Grill-Philip
Doolittle/Wagner Ranch-Buffalo
Firehouse Brewery Restaurant-Rapid City
GENPRO Power Services LLS-Rapid City
Hardware Hanks-Philip
Hedahls Auto Plus-Statewide locations
Hometown Computer Services-Philip
Juliet 1: Dianne Fees-Opal
Morrissons Pit Stop-Philip
Moyle Petroleum Company-Rapid City
Office Products Center-Winner
Pete Lien & Sons-Rapid City
Pizza Etc.-Philip
Prairie Sky Pub-Winner
Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce-Rapid City
Rapid City Economic Development Partnership-Rapid City
Schaeffer Oil Inc.-Winner
Sioux Equipment Company-Sioux Falls
Sioux Motel-Murdo
South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry
South Dakota Petroleum and Propane Makers Association-Pierre
The Star Family Restaurant-Murdo
The Steakhouse and Lounge-Philip
Warren Window Supply-Rapid City
Warrior Inn Motel-Winner

Prominent lawmakers who support the pipeline include: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Attorney Gen. Scott Pruitt, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, and dozens of members of Congress.

In its third-quarter financial report to investors Nov. 1, TransCanada noted that the company was named for the tenth consecutive year to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). In addition, it was named to the North American Index for the seventh year in a row. The DJSI tracks the stock performance of the world’s leading companies in terms of economic, environmental and social criteria.

“The indexes serve as benchmarks for investors who integrate sustainability considerations into their portfolios and provide an effective engagement platform for companies who want to adopt sustainable best practices,” TransCanada said.

(Talli Nauman is the Health and Environment Editor for Native Sun News. Contact her at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

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