'Death to KXL'
Pipeline fighter Jasilyn Charger, sentenced June 9, 2021, for the act of civil disobedience of locking herself to a Keystone XL pump station in treaty-protected Lakota homelands, heard the news that same day of the megaproject’s demise and declared, “Death to KXL.” Photo courtesy Jasilyn Charger and Mni Un Wiconi
The death of the ‘Zombie Pipeline’
Indian Country rejoices
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Native Sun News Today Health & Environment Editor

SPEARFISH – Asking tolerance for starting this news story in first-person, I just couldn’t resist when I received a letter June 10 saying, “Talli Nauman, the Keystone XL Pipeline has been officially terminated!”

I have been at the helm of the media coverage on the Native-led resistance to this megaproject, its predecessor Keystone I, and the proliferation of oil pipeline undertakings since then. So, I know that this particular one has garnered a reputation in Indian country as the “Zombie Pipeline”.

Could it really be dead this time, after so many reversals of permit status over the decade that the Canadian TC Energy Corp. has sought to complete it across 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty territory?

Sure enough: An announcement from corporate headquarters June 9 stated, “The company confirmed today that after a comprehensive review of its options, and in consultation with its partner, the Government of Alberta, it has terminated the Keystone XL Pipeline Project.”

All 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty tribes, as well as the National Congress of American Indians, are on record in opposition to KXL.

TC Energy Corp., previously TransCanada Corp., gave up the ghost one-half year after U.S. President Joe Biden’s inaugural day revocation of KXL’s presidential permit. During that sixth-month period, the company continued seeking local easements.

Native pipeline fighters remained on alert, monitoring activity at supply and construction facilities to prevent permit violations along the soon not-to-be-built pipeline section from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska.

The company will “continue to coordinate with regulators, stakeholders and Indigenous groups to meet its environmental and regulatory commitments and ensure a safe termination of and exit from the project,” TC Energy Corp. promised in its announcement.

That same day, a judge for Haakon County in Philip sentenced Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member Jasilyn Charger, 25, for locking herself to a KXL pump station in a November 21 act of civil disobedience to delay construction. Charger will serve six months’ probation and pay a fine for trespassing on her treaty land.

“It hurt a lot to be talked to like I had no right to this land and that what I did was wrong,” Charger said of the sentencing. “The courts will never be on our side as long as our treaty rights are not recognized.” She thanked her moral supporters and remarked to her followers, “Today we celebrate a death of a black snake, KXL.”

The judge postponed sentencing for Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member Oscar High Elk, 30, until July 7 on charges stemming from police activity December 23 at the Rootz Camp he co-founded on the KXL route. High Elk raised $10,000 cash bond for his release from Haakon County Jail on Jan. 6. He faces one first-offense felony charge, as well as 11 misdemeanor claims, which could result in a prison sentence of nearly two dozen years and fines up to $48,000.

At Cheyenne River Sioux tribal headquarters in nearby Eagle Butte, jubilation over the news of the pipeline’s demise was evident immediately during a No KXL Victory Gathering in the streets, where a convoy of vehicles — horns honking and flags flying — played traditional drum songs at high volume while occupants cheered.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chair Harold Frazier bolstered the akeesha shared across Oceti Sakowin homelands and beyond, saying, “I would like to thank all the people who sacrificed, stood up, took action, worked and prayed to protect our nation and Unci Maka.

“To the countless water protectors who have fought the constant battles in a thousand places to defeat this existential threat to us all, every action you took was an answer to a prayer,” Frazier said.

“I would like to thank United States President Joseph Biden for understanding the damage to this planet projects like this would cause and cancelling the permit needed to cross the medicine line with Canada,” he added. “An acknowledgement of the importance our actions have to this planet was provided when you took the bold step of action making you a champion for all of us.”

He called the resistance “a long fight,” saying, “Pipelines continue to threaten our treaty territory, water and relatives, and we must not forget those that are still standing on sacred ground in front of giant enemies. Let today be an example of what is possible when we take action to change the course of history for the better.”

His meaning about giant enemies was well received by thousands of Enbridge Energy Inc. Line 3 pipeline opponents, mobilized at the Mississippi Headwaters for a weeklong Treaty People Gathering in the Anishinaabe ancestral lands of Northern Minnesota. Their goal was to convince the Biden Administration to detain the Canadian company’s construction. (See story this issue by Darren Thompson.)

“While there is victory today in the KXL fight, people continue to risk their lives and freedoms at Enbridge Line 3,” said Nick Tilsen, NDN Collective president and CEO, who attended the Line 3 gathering.

Jade Begay, Climate Justice Campaign director for the NDN Collective, added: “The end of KXL is an affirmation that persistence works, that intersectional organizing works, and that when we center our efforts in our Indigenous values and in our respect for water, land, and our people, we win. I pray this victory will invigorate organizers and water protectors across the country — who are currently fighting DAPL, Line 3, Line 5, and other harmful pipelines that threaten communities of color, water, and land — to keep persevering.”

Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Rodney M. Bordeaux responded to the KXL announcement, “This is great news for the tribes who have been fighting to protect our people and our lands. The treaties and laws guarantee us protections, and we are committed to see that those laws are upheld.”

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe announced a June 15 Wopila and Celebration with lunch to feature speakers Russell Eagle Bear and Paula Antoine, founder of the Rosebud Sioux Tribes Oyate Wahacanka Woecun (Shield the People) Spirit Camp on the KXL Pipeline route. Established in 2014, it was the first of dozens more of its type to muster prayer and popular opposition in the anti-pipeline movement.

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Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.net

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