Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe addresses supporters the 74th annual National Congress of American Indians convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 19, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Harold Frazier: Don't believe them when they tell you their pipelines won't spill

South Dakota Keystone Oil Spill

By Harold Frazier
Chairman, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe

On November 16, the existing Keystone pipeline spilled more than 210,000 gallons of Alberta tar sands crude oil within miles of the Lake Traverse Sioux, our sister tribe.

This was the third pipeline spill in the state of South Dakota this year alone. It was also the largest Keystone spill to date in South Dakota. I condemn this oil spill, the company that built this pipeline and anybody associated with it. The evidence speaks for itself.

On Monday, the state of Nebraska will decide whether to approve the new Keystone XL Pipeline, which is planned to cross within three short miles of my reservation and through countless miles of Lakota treaty lands. Like the Dakota Access Pipeline, which my tribe is still fighting, the KXL poses a critical threat to our resources and our very way of life.

Over and over, the states, the United States, the courts, and, of course, the oil companies have mocked our fear that these pipelines might fail and befoul our sacred lands and resources. They tell us, don’t worry -- our pipelines are safe. This pipeline is supposed to be safe and the chance of an oil spill was quoted as astronomical. All 1,100 miles will be perfectly constructed. Our spill detections systems are failsafe. Our clean-up methods are above reproach. But we know the truth.

It is time that the citizens of the United States realize what the government of the United States has failed. The realization that these pipelines do not benefit the United States. Ironically, this week most Americans will be sitting down and give thanks when last year at this time my people were being shot, gassed and beaten for trying to keep this very thing from happening.

My people learned long ago not to trust such promises, especially promises made by rich men who get even richer from exploiting our natural resources and the politicians whose careers and campaign chests rely on that crude, immoral oil money.

This Keystone spill is proof positive that those nice words are lies. When the Trump administration says, this pipeline is safe, it is lying. When TransCanada says the safety of the public and the environment is its top priority, it is lying. They are lying to the Indian people, which is no surprise.

But they are lying to the rest of America too. This is your water, your land, and your planet too. And your government is lying to your face, endangering your future, and doing it to make a few wealthy people wealthier still.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe condemns this spill, this pipeline, the KXL, the DAPL, and all pipelines that threaten our Grandmother Earth.

Harold Frazier is serving his second term as chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, based in South Dakota. He also serves as president of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association. He previously served as vice chair of the tribe and as an area vice president for the National Congress of American Indians.

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