Tim Giago: Lakota views missing from Keystone XL debate

Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© 2012 Unity South Dakota

What is it that the South Dakota Congressional Delegation cannot understand about the Trans Canada XL Pipeline? The fact is that they and the national media are completely blind and deaf to the concerns of the citizens of the Indian reservations within the boundaries of this state.

Of course, that is nothing new. But Senator John Thune (R-SD) and Kristi Noem (R-SD) have voted and pushed for the XL Pipeline expounding upon the energy and jobs it will bring to South Dakota. Of course, the jobs are temporary, but the damage to the environment is permanent.

In 2009, three years ago, a Native American owned newspaper called Native Sun News, through its Health and Environment Editor, Talli Nauman, started to publish articles on the pipeline usually about one per month. This was before the XL Pipeline was even a blip on the screens of the local, national or international media.

Nauman dug into the secrets of the corporation pushing the pipeline and for the first time exposed their soft underbelly. She knew, after looking at maps provided by the Trans Canada that the pipeline would cut through the heart of the treaty lands of the tribes of the Great Sioux Nation. Lands, incidentally, that were stolen and never paid for and are still claimed by the Sioux tribes.

Historically Indian reservations downstream from mining operations in South Dakota have been carelessly placed in the path of higher than normal counts of radiation. The uranium extracted from the sacred Black Hills of the Lakota has caused untold damage to the residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Leo Vocu, Mike Giago, G. Wayne Tapio, Gerald Clifford and many more residents of Pine Ridge, died of throat cancer. The drinking water entering the reservation from the Black Hills has much higher counts of radiation than can be found anywhere else in South Dakota.

Activists like Charmaine White Face and Debra White Plume have spoken out about this ongoing disaster for many years and, for the most part, have been totally ignored. The United States government spent billions extracting uranium from the Black Hills without once considering the after effects on the Lakota people. Good old Uncle Sam did the same thing in Arizona and New Mexico causing many deaths among the Navajo people, deaths that are still happening.

What Thune, Noem and the rest of the Republicans do not understand is that the pipeline will not be allowed to cross the treaty lands of the Great Sioux Nation. White Face, White Plume, Alex White Plume and Tom Poor Bear, the vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, will not let it happen.

They intend to stop the pipeline even if it means giving up their lives and if this happens their blood will be on the hands of Thune, Noem and the rest of the Republican Party.

Thune and Noem should stop to realize that they have constituents that are Native American and not everything that is good for the rest of South Dakota is good for their Indian voters.

Uranium contamination has been polluting the drinking water of the Pine Ridge Reservation ever since the glory days of the uranium mining scourge. No one, and I mean no one, has taken the time to prove this irrefutable fact and residents of the reservation now have one of the highest cancer rates in America.

The Lakota know that when the pipelines break, and they always do, the impact and the ensuing contamination upon their drinking water will only add to an already horrific situation. To the Lakota, Maka Ina (Mother Earth) is very fragile and a pipeline that would cut through the flesh of their Mother is unthinkable.

The people of the Great Sioux Nation have drawn the line. If Sen. Thune and Rep. Noem cannot comprehend this they are badly out of touch with the minority population of this state. The Republican Party that is pushing this project without listening to the fears of the Sioux people is forcing a showdown that will definitely lead to the worst form of confrontation.

When the Lakota people lay down their bodies and their lives to stop this incursion upon their treaty lands the cries of injustice will go out across the world. America will be castigated.

What price a few temporary jobs and the dreams of cheap gas should America pay for trampling upon the rights of a people?

For the first time in their lives, Sen. Thune and Rep. Noem should make an effort to get the input from the people of the Great Sioux Nation. If they do not believe they are about to cross a line from which there is no return, they need to find it out face to face with the people that will never allow this to happen.

In protecting their own, the Lakota people have no fear of death and they will put up whatever obstacle that is possible, including their own lives, to stop this attack upon their sovereignty.

So wake up national and international media because so far the only newspaper in America covering this unfolding tragedy from the Indian point of view is the Native Sun News, a small weekly newspaper based in Rapid City, SD.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is President of Unity South Dakota. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1990. His weekly column won the H. L. Mencken Award in 1985. He was the founder of The Lakota Times, Indian Country Today, Lakota Journal and Native Sun News. He can be reached at UnitySoDak1@knology.net

More from Tim Giago:
Tim Giago: Religion caused near destruction of Lakota families (3/5)
Tim Giago: Inspiring a new generation of Native Americans (2/27)
Tim Giago: South Dakota law aimed at Indian abuse victims (2/20)
Tim Giago: Indians as mascots for America's fun and games (2/13)
Tim Giago: Cobell settlement just another government rip-off (2/6)
Tim Giago: Rosebud constitution should be 'law of the land' (1/30)
Tim Giago: Reservation among poorest counties in America (1/23)
Tim Giago: Alcohol is a red flag that has been waving too long (1/16)
Tim Giago: The new year brings time for a couple of apologies (1/9)

Join the Conversation