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Native Sun News: Crow Creek Sioux man upsets Senate with song

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

Police escort Crow Creek Sioux tribal member Greg Grey Cloud out of Congress after his honoring song for Senators who voted against a bill to force permitting of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Aquino

Crow Creek singer upsets Congress
Thune vows to support Pipeline
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

WASHINGTON –– In the wake of a recent Native American coup in Congress over the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline proposal, South Dakota Sen. John Thune threatened a Republican Party backlash next year.

“While the recent Senate vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline failed by a single vote, passing legislation to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline is a priority for the Republican majority in the upcoming 114th Congress,” Thune announced.

Thune referred to a 59-41 Senate vote on Nov. 18 that narrowly averted a bill aimed to force President Barack Obama to permit building of the TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline through 1851 and 1868 Ft. LaramieTreaty territory.

The vote prompted Lakota activist Greg Grey Cloud to praise lawmakers with an honor song in chambers.

“Tunkasila wamayanka yo, le miye ca tehiya nawazin yelo. Unci maka nawacincina wowahwala wa yuha waun welo,” Crow Creek Sioux tribal member Grey Cloud sang immediately after the vote.

“Grandfather look at me, I am standing here struggling, I am defending grandmother earth and I am chasing peace,” is the translation of the lyrics given by Rosebud Sioux tribal member Pat Bad Hand Sr. , a hoka wicasa (keeper of songs).

Grey Cloud said he consulted Bad Hand, who advised him that the most appropriate refrain would be one named “Unci Maka Olowan” (“Grandmother Earth Song”), composed during the 1980s in opposition to coal mining.

Police immediately detained Grey Cloud for disrupting the legislature and escorted him out of the chambers, levying charges that he will face in court in the month of December.

In a written statement the following day, Grey Cloud clarified that “this was not a political stunt or a protest demonstration. As a singer, I know only one way to honor someone, and that’s to sing. I didn’t mean to disrupt the Senate, only to honor the conviction shown by the Senators. This is how we honor our heroes,” he said.

Grey Cloud is a co-founder of Wica Agli, a domestic and sexual assault awareness organization that works in and around the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation to encourage healthy masculinity.

He said he called Bad Hand before he stood up in the Capitol to offer the song.

“As I was sitting there, watching and listening to the votes being counted, I started to think of all the women and children that would be affected by this pipeline,” Grey Cloud said.” I thought of all the relatives back home. I thought about the land and the water.

“I looked to my left and I saw Rosebud Sioux Tribe President (Cyril) Scott sitting there waiting to hear the vote. I was filled with pride thinking about his strong words and the strong words from our tribal leaders on how the Oceti Sakowin and other indigenous relatives would stop the tar-sands at all cost.

“I looked to my right and saw (non-profit Bold Nebraska Executive Director) Jane Kleeb and I was filled with all the memories of this past few years of fighting this pipeline alongside our cowboy relatives.

“Then I heard it. I really heard it: ‘No’,” Grey Cloud said.

“I looked down and thought we need to honor these Senators for having the courage to make the right decision, for not only Indian Country but for America as a whole,” he said in explaining his action. This is how we honor our heroes.”

“The vote was no. We have time, time to keep fighting, time to make sure that Wica Wawookiye hears us, President Obama hears us, and says ‘no’ to this pipeline,” he added. Bold Nebraska had taken part in a Keystone XL Pipeline protest with members of the Oceti Sakowin on the Washington Mall earlier this year.

Tribal President Scott had issued a strongly worded statement just previous to the Senate vote, after the Nov. 14 House of Representatives vote in favor of the bill for pipeline permitting.

Speaking from Rosebud, Scott announced that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) would consider authorizing the Keystone XL Pipeline to be “an act of war against our people.”

He said the tribe has done its part to remain peaceful in its dealing with the United States in this matter, in spite of the fact that it has yet to be properly consulted on the project, which would cross through tribal land.

“The House has now signed our death warrants and the death warrants of our children and grandchildren,” Scott said. “The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will not allow this pipeline through our lands.”

Tribal concerns brought to the Department of Interior and to the Department of State have yet to be addressed, he added.

“We are outraged at the lack of intergovernmental cooperation. We are a sovereign nation and we are not being treated as such. We will close our reservation borders to Keystone XL. For years, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and other tribal governments of the Great Sioux Nation have adopted resolutions opposing the Keystone XL project, which would run through their treaty territory in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

“The Lakota people have always been stewards of this land,” Scott said. “We feel it is imperative that we provide safe and responsible alternative energy resources not only to tribal members but to non-tribal members as well.

“We need to stop focusing and investing in risky fossil fuel projects like TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. We need to start remembering that the earth is our mother and stop polluting her and start taking steps to preserve the land, water, and our grandchildren’s future.”

In response to the failed bill, non-profit Honor the Earth Executive Director Winona LaDuke noted that the Canadian fossil fuel pumping plan subjects Indian Country and associated agricultural land in the Northern Great Plains to the risks of pipeline spills and water source contamination, while offering none of the benefits of the energy from the fuel, which is slated for shipment overseas via Gulf of Mexico ports.

Keystone XL and other proposed Canadian tar-sands shipping routes “don’t serve our towns, cities, or homes,” she pointed out in an opinion piece, noting that about 14 percent of reservation households are without electricity and “energy distribution systems on rural reservations are extremely vulnerable.”

Renewable energy infrastructure development would provide more jobs than pipeline projects, she said.

Dakota Rural Action, a membership-based non-profit allied with the Oceti Sakowin position against the pipelines and in favor of renewable energy alternatives, criticized Thune and South Dakota U.S. Sen. Kristi Noem for voting in favor of pressuring the executive branch to permit the pipeline.

“Republicans are trying to pull what they’ve been slamming President Obama for: forcing policy through without going through the proper channels,” said John Harter, a DRA member facing legal battles to protect his land from TransCanada, called Thune out for his statements, saying, They've been slamming him and now they're doing it.” Harter and other South Dakota landowners have met with Thune about the pipeline, and he says, “Thune knows the farmers and ranchers aren’t for this. It will hurt our water resources and our agriculture.”

On Nov. 10, South Dakotans launched petition campaign asking Public Utilities Commission Chairman Gary Hanson “to lead his fellow commissioners in voting against the certification of TransCanada’s permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline through South Dakota.”

Petitioners quoted Hanson’s own statements, asking him to “stand by your public pledge to be a ‘good steward of the planet’ and to help expedite ‘a responsible transition to renewable energies’, ‘because we want our great grandchildren to be able to have the quality of life that we do’.”

The Public Utilities Commission process to decide whether to renew the pipeline permit in South Dakota “is your opportunity to protect South Dakota's land, water, and people - and protect our Mother Earth from dirty tar sands mines and pipelines,” petitioners said.

Meanwhile, the criteria for approval of TransCanada Corp.’s application for a federal permit to cross the Canadian border into the United States is whether the scheme is in the U.S. “national interest,” according to the State Department.

Obama recently reiterated his stance that the permit’s impact on climate change is the chief concern he has for the national interest.

“I won’t hide my opinion about this,” Obama said Nov. 16 in Brisbane at a G-20 meeting of the world’s most developed nations, adding that the “one major determinant of whether we should approve a pipeline shipping Canadian oil to world markets, not to the United States, is: Does it contribute to the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change?”

Market conditions are expected to dictate the refined tar-sands oil’s ultimate foreign or domestic destination and economic impact on consumers.

According to the business news specialist Bloomberg, completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline will raise gas prices by as much as 20 cents a gallon in the Midwest, Great Plains, and Rocky Mountains.

Thune called Keystone XL approval “a no-brainer,” adding that the Canadian project, which is backed by investors from other countries, “would invest billions of dollars in the U.S. economy and would put thousands of Americans back to work, all at zero expense to the American taxpayer.”

(Contact Talli Nauman, Health and Environment Editor of Native Sun News at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

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