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Native Sun News: Tribes ask Obama to deny Keystone XL permit

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

Tribal and Indian leaders spoke out against the Keystone XL Pipeline and asked President Barack Obama to schedule a meeting with Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell to discuss concerns about the controversial project. Photo from Indigenous Environmental Network / Indigenous Rising

Great Plains Tribal Chairmen tell President Obama to stand against Keystone XL Pipeline
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

RAPID CITY –– The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association on Jan. 14 urged U.S. President Barack Obama to veto any legislation in favor of TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline and to reject the Canadian company’s application for a Presidential Permit to build the line across the binational border.

The company wants to add another 1,179 miles to its pipeline system in the United States, connecting the tar-sands mines of Alberta Province to refineries and export terminals on the Gulf of Mexico, by running through 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty Territory in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Association Chairman John Yellowbird Steele, President of Oglala Sioux Tribe, sent an official letter to Obama expressing tribal concerns about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline’s impact on ancestral homelands.

He warned of the impacts the pipeline could have on sacred sites, cultural resources, natural resources and water rights protected by treaty and other agreements.

“We are prepared to put forth our concerns for inclusion in the forthcoming Final Environmental Impact Statement,” he added.

Following a U.S. House of Representatives vote to force executive branch approval of the permit, the Senate was expected to vote on the same legislation within a week.

The U.S. State Department has called on other departments and agencies to submit their comments regarding the permit.

Steele’s letter informed the U.S. President about the current South Dakota Public Utility Commission process to update the construction permit for the state, which is the main administrative hurdle that the company has to cross, other than the federal permit.

The tribal leaders of the association, or GPTCA, asked for a meeting with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

“We request an emergency meeting with Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who as our trustee has a responsibility to hear directly from tribal leaders in a government-to-government meeting,” Steele stated.

The GPTCA is made up of the 16 tribal governments in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Adding their endorsements to the letter were the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), an international environmental justice non-profit, and the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) leaders of South Dakota, which have been working with GPTCA on the campaign against the Keystone XL Pipeline and tar sands infrastructure development.

“We stand in solidarity with our Oceti Sakowin relatives and encourage the Department of Interior to dissent from a KXL permit approval and give President Obama all the more reason to reject this dirty tar-sands pipeline,” stated Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

“We ask this for the benefit of the land, the water, our communities, our sacred sites, and the integrity of the sacredness of Mother Earth,” he said.

Ihanktonwan (Yankton) Sioux Tribal Chairman Robert Flying Hawk stated that the Yankton are “adamant about meeting with Secretary Jewell regarding the intrusion of our territory by Trans-Canada, as it is no small matter.

“Our water rights, protection of our cultural resources and safety of our Oceti Sakowin children and families override any Congressional lobby influences by Big Oil,” he said. “We stand strong with all the other leaders of the Oceti Sakowin and indigenous peoples affected by tar sands."

The GPTCA said allies who support its request for a meeting with Jewell should tell the Department of Interior at feedback@ios.doi.gov or send a message to her on Twitter @SecretaryJewell.

The association asked supporters to contact their Senators at www.senate.gov and ask them to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline when it comes up for a vote.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission can be contacted about the issue on Docket HP014-001 at www.puc.sd.gov.

The GPTCA is on record opposing the pipeline since 2011.

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com) Copyright permission Native Sun News

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