Youth of the Great Sioux Nation stood in support of petitioners challenging oil pipeline permits for private foreign company at hearings in the South Dakota state capital. Photo courtesy Oceti Sakowin Youth

Native Sun News Today: Keystone XL Pipeline wants water from Lakota territory

KXL Pipeline: Lakota warn state to protect water for public

PIERRE – At a May 8 hearing, Lakota speakers and other members of the public cited treaty law in warning the South Dakota Water Management Board to make sure its decisions benefit the public when considering staff recommendations to approve permits for TC Energy Corp.’s proposed man camps and Keystone XL hazardous materials pipeline.

The Canada-based proponent of the pipeline, formerly called TransCanada Corp., seeks nearly 167 million gallons of water over a two-year period from the Cheyenne, White, and Bad rivers for use in building and testing the tar-sands crude oil line.

In addition, separate individual well owners have applied for two permits to divert flow from Inyan Kara and Hell’s Creek underground water tables in order to assure supply for six man camps, which are squatter settlements for the transient workers from elsewhere who would be hired to finish installing the line through unceded Lakota treaty territory.

“My great, great, great grandfather is Crazy Horse, and he never would have allowed people to have our water,” said Mniconjou speaker Gathers People Woman of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. “Now we have to stand on our treaties and ask why you have to allow foreign countries to come in and do what they want.”

She referred to the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie treaties, which guaranteed the land and water of Lakota Territory would remain in the hands of the Oceti Sakowin, or Great Sioux Nation.

Noting that she is teaching her grandchildren the use of traditional medicinal and culinary plants native to the territory, in addition to carrying on 30 years of service in cooking for ceremonies, as well as having helped feed 30,000 people at the 2016-2017 Oceti Sakowin spirit camp to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline across unceded treaty territory, she said:

“We have to live off these lands. Our people still hunt. Our people still fish. We have our natural plants we gather every year after year after year. I come here with a sad heart today listening all day, cooking for my people. Come eat with us. Eat some of our buffalo. Eat some wild chokecherry wojapi. Eat some of our homemade bread,” she added.

“We have good food. Let’s make positive choices for the people so we can live life together in harmony,” she concluded. “Mni wiconi! Water is life! We can’t drink oil.”

Ricky Gray Grass, 5th Member of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council, spiritual leader and Sundance Chief, cited the treaties, noting, “Article 6 of the Constitution says treaty law is the supreme law of the land. We’re gonna make a stance on that.

“We were taught by the elders to carry on the fight ever since the discovery of America. Before the time of the discovery of America, we were here, and we didn’t put claims to the air, land and water. It is a blessing given to us by the creator.

“Today I sit here in anger to hear about water being distributed to man camps. I’m going to pray for your minds to make a right decision. Think about your children, their children, and the generations to come. Are we gonna be drinking bottled water from this time forward? Wopila,” he concluded.

Martin Bates of Sioux Falls addressed the board, saying, “Protecting treaties is protecting the Constitution. He noticed the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) slogan is “Protecting South Dakota’s tomorrow…today!” and reasoned that “even talking about” giving away water for an oil pipeline project would be at odds with said purpose.

A presenter who only identified himself as Jeremy, said, “I came here from Colorado to support my Lakota friends.” He told the board, “This is not your land. This is not your water to give away, especially to man camps, which we know are notorious for picking up native women and disappearing them. Giving them access to water is not what we’re about.

“We’re not afraid of you, and I trust that you’ll make the right decision,” he concluded.

Janie Stein, a Dakota Rural Action member from Sioux Falls, stressed, “Water is precious.” She objected to treaty rights being “trampled” in favor of fossil fuels that are “hastening climate change.” Water is a “very important source of all life on this planet. We are in the middle of a climate catastrophe with 1 million species being threatened with extinction right now,” she said.

“The diversion of water from agriculture to man camps,” as DENR Chief Engineer Jeanne Goodman has recommended for the two individual water permits, and the entire “KXL project should be immediately stopped,” Stein argued, saying, “I submit that the protections of our waters shall be held sacrosanct.”


Support Native media!

Read the rest of the story on Native Sun News Today: KXL Pipeline: Lakota warn state to protect water for public

Contact Talli Nauman at

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

Join the Conversation