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Native Sun News: Bales taken at Rosebud Sioux Tribe spirit camp

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

The picture shows a view over the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Spirit Camp toward the south where hay bales were allegedly stolen. Photo courtesy Gary Dorr

Farmer hauls away alfalfa bales protecting Spirit Camp
Claims bales are his crop from last year
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

IDEAL –– Tribal and federal agencies are looking into an incident involving the removal of dozens of giant alfalfa bales from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Oyate Wahacanka Woecun (Shield the People) Spirit Camp here, Councilman Wayne Frederick advised the Native Sun News on Dec. 6.

The spirit camp is a tribally-supported grassroots encampment established in April in defiance of the path of TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline through 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory.

“I was on the scene. It was almost dark,” Frederick said of the alleged Dec. 2 theft reported to Rosebud Sioux Tribal Police, South Dakota Highway Patrol and the Tripp County Sherriff.

He said he saw area farmer Jeremy Schroeder and an unidentified trucker hauling away 29 bales, noting: “It was his white privilege to think he could come into the spirit camp and take what wasn’t his.”

Schroeder could not be reached for comment.

In a joint statement, Oyate Wahacanka Woecun and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe manifested: “The farmer alleges that the bales are his crop from last year.”

However, the statement claims, he had not leased the land on which the bales originated and they had been confiscated by the tribe, then moved to the tribal trust land where the spirit camp is.

Activists at the camp have set up tipis and an inipi (sweat lodge) to defend ancestral grounds, land, and water from excavation and dilbit spills that would be inherent in the project if state and federal government’s approve the Canadian company’s plan to build the line through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Camp attendants ringed the site with 1,500-pound bales to act as barriers to prairie winds.

Frederick said the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Land Office and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs are compiling a report for the tribe’s consideration of pressing charges on the bales’ recent removal.

Members of Oyate Wahacanka Woecun consider the action to be a federal offense pitting a non-Indian offender against an Indian tribe, they said, adding that it “bears investigative action by the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Police and the United States Attorney’s Office.”

A tribal police spokesperson did not respond to a Native Sun News request for information and a spokesperson for the Rapid City branch of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office said it can neither deny nor confirm an investigation is underway.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) scheduled a public hearing Dec. 9 over TransCanada Corp.’s motion to limit tribal and other interveners’ access to information in the pipeline company’s state permit process.

The Canadian company’s subsidiary TransCanada Keystone Pipeline LP has asked for the exclusion of all the information addressing “the effects of the project on the Ogallala Aquifer and other streams, river, and water bodies; whether the project is in the national interest; whether the Department of State conducted sufficient consultation with interested tribes under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act; whether Keystone is entitled to exercise the right of eminent domain; and whether development of the oil sands in Canada harms the environment and contributes to levels of C02 in the atmosphere.”

According to the company’s Sioux Falls lawyers, the PUC’s current certification process of the company’s 2010 permit is not grounds for reconsideration of the permit, because no one ever appealed the original approval.

What’s more, say TransCanada’s lawyers, “Keystone can and will comply with the 50 conditions attached to the (2010) Final Decision and Order during construction, operation, and maintenance of the project.”

The company continues to seek to disqualify the four Sioux tribes and 39 other interveners that the PUC has admitted to testify in the hearing process.

“Keystone previously met its burden of proof,” TransCanada pleaded in its motion to limit the scope of discovery in the process. “Every intervener in this docket could have applied for party status in (2010). This docket is not an opportunity for those who did not previously intervene -- or those that did -- to re-litigate the issues.”

The company must undergo the certification process because it failed to commence construction within four years of the permit approval, according to the PUC.

TransCanada Corp. is still waiting on the U.S. State Department to rule on whether the “national interest” would be served by building the pipeline to connect the tar-sands mines in Alberta, Canada, with the rest of the Keystone XL diluted bitumen (dilbit) line it has erected from Steele City, Nebraska, to the refineries and export depots on the Gulf of Mexico.

TransCanada Keystone LP was unsuccessful in its previous bid in October to exclude the interveners from the PUC process.

Intervener Chas Jewett, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the statewide non-profit Dakota Rural Action, dubbed the new attempt to disqualify interveners as “another blatant attack on public involvement and accurate information in the SD PUC permitting process.”

In a written statement released Dec. 5, Jewett said, “TransCanada has proven true to its own record of circumventing public input, landowners’ rights and the rights of tribal nations in its path with an attempt to limit discovery.

“We hope the South Dakota PUC Commissioners will let the voices of rural and tribal people be heard in this process instead of once again, being drowned out by a greedy, self-interested multinational and their endless cadre of lawyers and legal maneuvering,” she said, asking, “What do they have to hide?”

Jewett’s organization is part of a coalition called No KXL Dakota, which Indians and non-Indians recently formed to present a unified position on the “potentially devastating” effects of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The coalition said in the statement that it will be insisting the PUC fully vet the pipeline’s possible impacts on the people, lands and waters of South Dakota and Lakota Territory.

“An energy-independent country does not seek independence at all cost to those on the pipeline corridor,” said No KXL Dakota organizer Faith Spotted Eagle, chair of the Ihanktonwan Treaty Council. “There exists a human right to live safely in our aboriginal, treaty and unceded territories,” said noted.

The coalition said that concerns have grown since the 2010 PUC permit approval. Recent pipeline spills in Alberta, North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota augur the likelihood of contamination that KXL poses for the Ogallala Aquifer, it said. The aquifer is an important and sole source of drinking water for several tribal and non-Indian communities.

TransCanada also seeks to build the pipeline across permeable soils in the environmentally sensitive Sandhills – “an area that risks being irreparably damaged by a pipeline spill,” organizers complained.

“Tribal people have particular concerns about cultural resources and sacred sites that were not taken into account when the pipeline was originally permitted in 2010,” they continue.” The State of South Dakota was not aware of these tribal concerns during the initial permitting process because there was no tribal participation in the proceedings.”

In addition, they say, “In the four years since the original permit proceedings, the need to address climate change -- and the negative effects oil extracted from Canadian tar sands may have on that -- has become critical.”

The Indigenous Environmental Network, another intervener and organizer behind No KXL Dakota, lent its voice to the statement. "TransCanada wants to limit the discussion on what matters to the health and future of South Dakota,” said IEN’s Dallas Goldtooth. “They want to limit the right to due process.”

IEN also supports Oceti Rising, an organization dedicated to building awareness and capacity with the Oceti Sakowin or Seven Council Fires of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Nations and other tribes along the pipeline route.

Pipeline proponents “want to dismiss the rights of Mother Earth and our duty as human beings to ensure her protection,” Goldtooth said. “Therefore, we are united as Native people, as non-native people, as the No KXL Dakota coalition, to see those destructive wants become TransCanada's unaccomplished dreams.”

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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