Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

October 4, 2011

Lakotas, Dakotas, testify against Keystone pipeline in South Dakota

Photo by Vi Waln
US Department of State hosts Public comment meeting in South DakotaCopyright 2011
Vi Waln
Lakota County Times Editor
Photos copyright Vi Waln

Published with permission at Censored News

PIERRE, SD – "Lakota people are given the power to take care of Mother Earth,” Sandra Little said. “You people were given the power of fire and you misuse it. You have to think about what you're doing."
She spoke against the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) expansion at a public meeting held here last week.
Photo by Vi Waln
Officials heard from over 150 people. The meeting was held to gather public and written comments on whether granting a permit for the KXL project is in the US national interest. The meeting, which was facilitated by Jim Steel of the US Department of State (DOS), was conducted under an extremely heavy law enforcement presence.
“We understand there are strong views on this issue,” Steel said, “and we will consider all written and oral comments.” Written comments will be accepted until October 9, 2011. Anyone wishing to comment can submit their views by mail, online, fax or email.
TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP filed an application in 2008 for a Presidential Permit with the DOS to build and operate the KXL Project. The proposed KXL Project consists of a 1,912-mile pipeline that would transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Oklahoma and Texas. The proposed project could transport up to 830,000 barrels per day and is estimated to cost $7 billion dollars. 
“It’s pretty clear that none of the federal agencies understand trust responsibility nor do they care,” stated Lana Gravatt who serves as the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Yankton Sioux Tribe. “We can't pray to the Great Spirit if the environment is destroyed.” If the permit is granted the DOS “would be in breach of trust. If you are going to destroy the environment, I take it personal.”
Photo by Vi Waln
"We understand the environment, we understand the sensitivities," stated Rob Riess of the Sheehan Pipeline Construction Company based in Oklahoma. “We will leave Mother Earth, as it's been called today, just the way we found it."
“The government is breaking the law because they have failed to consult with our tribal nations," stated Andrew Iron Shell.
Representatives from SD Governor Dennis Daugaard’s office, the SD Trucking Association, Harding County Commission, SD Building Trades, SD AFL-CIO, SD Union representatives, Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce, Fall River County Commission and the Harding County School Board all spoke in favor of the KXL project. They stated the KXL would bring jobs and tax revenue.
A very large group of Laborers’ International Union of America (LIUNA) representatives also took turns testifying in favor of the project. Most of them, along with several pipefitters, welders, electrical workers and other laborers, were brought in by charter bus from out of state. Many who offered comments stated they were from Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Texas and Wyoming.
"Hiya means no to this project,” stated Maryann Bear Heels McCowan. “It holds no future for our children."
Photo by Vi Waln
The KXL project would have to cross Mni Wiconi water lines located in South Dakota. According to the Mni Wiconi Act, the Oglala Sioux Tribe must concur with a Bureau of Reclamation easement for the lines to be crossed. The oil pipeline will also cross over much of the Ogallala Aquifer, a vast underground water source serving people in eight states.
“We need jobs but not jobs dependent on tar sands oil,” stated Trista Olsen, who operates a ranch in Mellette County. “A spill from this pipeline would affect the drinking water supply of 2 million people.”
South Dakota Indian “tribes are not supporting this due to the lack of consultation,” stated Martin Skye of the United Sioux Tribes Development Corporation. “Our water quality is more important than this oil.”
The “oil spills in Canada are very intense,” said Pat Spears of the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy. “All people along the proposed pipeline route are at risk. We are very concerned about our water.”
“We cannot drink oil,” stated Kandi Mossett, a Mandan-Arikira-Hidatsa tribal member and Indigenous Environmental Network activist. “We were born in water and we have to have water to survive.”
The Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association has “recommended that the application for a Presidential permit be denied,” stated Rodney Bordeaux, Chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The “Keystone pipeline has and will go through Treaty territory; we were not consulted on any part of it. The route initially went around tribal lands so [TransCanada] wouldn’t have to consult with us.”
Photo Vi Waln
A Treaty Council resolution opposing the approval of a permit was presented by Faith Spotted Eagle of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. "The DOS must clean their ears and hear us." The KXL expansion has “the potential to injure our grandchildren,” she said.
“These issues are real,” stated Michael Jandreau, Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Chairman. “The reality of what can occur [in terms of an oil spill] has been proven. Please take into consideration the wishes of our tribal leaders.”
Law enforcement officers appeared flustered when a small group of Lakota protestors, dressed in camouflage clothing and balaclava style head gear, filed silently into the meeting. They carried sage and wore eagle feathers. Some stood peacefully while others paced the aisle.
The anonymous Lakota activists did not speak out publicly. However, they left without incident when police officers stated they were “interfering with security measures.” 
Interested parties can view pertinent documents, including the Final EIS, along with other updates and further information by visiting:
A final public meeting is scheduled for Friday, October 7, 2011 in Washington, DC. However, interested persons can still comment on this proposed project until Sunday, October 9, 2011.
Written comments are being accepted by email, fax or online. Fax your written comments to 206-269-0098.
To comment online please visit:
You may email written comments to:
You can also mail them to the following address: Alexander Yuan, Keystone XL Project NID, PO Box 96503-98500, Washington DC 20090-6503. Again, the deadline for submitting written comments is Sunday, October 9, 2011 at midnight.

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