Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

March 13, 2012

Vi Waln: Homeland Security and the Lakota Megaload Blockade

Sicangu Scribe Scribblings

Vi Waln
Sicangu Lakota
Censored News

Lakotas halting the tarsands megaloads on Pine Ridge.
Photo by Andrew Iron Shell, published with
permission at Censored News.
What does homeland security mean to you as a tribal member? How would you react if someone invaded your home and threatened your family? I would not be very kind to anyone who made the personal choice to invade my home. If you are going to come into my home uninvited you better be ready to face the consequences.

 The federal government created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after the 9/11 attacks to make the United States of America a safer place to live. The Homeland Security Act was signed into law on November 25, 2002. The mission of DHS is basically “to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.” When you browse their webpage you will see several areas DHS focuses on, including counterterrorism, border security, preparedness, response, recovery, immigration and cybersecurity.

I have attended many tribal council meetings and the only areas I have ever heard them discuss are preparedness and response. What about counterterrorism, border security, recovery, immigration and cybersecurity? Our tribal governments could create our own DHS “to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.”  

Last week a group of Lakota people stopped a caravan in the Eagle Nest District on the east side of the Pine Ridge Reservation. The caravan, including two semi-trucks overloaded with oil treater vessels, were detained for several hours in the town of Wanblee, SD. The blockade ended when the Oglala Sioux Tribal police turned out in full force and arrested five individuals who bravely stood their ground against these oversized trucks that were trespassing through Lakota Territory to avoid South Dakota weigh stations.

The incident made national headlines in a matter of hours. There are many people all over the world curious to learn what the disposition of the criminal case against the tribal members will be. The Lakota people who turned out to support one another on highway 44 were only looking out for their land, air and water. They were warriors working “to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.”

The Oglala Lakota Nation and the Black Hills Treaty Council have gone on record opposing tar sands mining operations in Canada and the building of the proposed Keystone oil pipeline. Both the tribe and treaty council are also in support of the Mother Earth Accord ( which was adopted by numerous tribes and presented to President Barack Obama.

OST President John Yellow Bird Steele and RST President Rodney Bordeaux have both publicly stated their opposition to the tar sands mining operations in Canada. In fact, both tribal presidents have also expressed their opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to federal officials, including President Barack Obama, in Washington, DC.

When we make a statement opposing tar sands mining and oil pipeline construction it means we do not support anything associated with these operations. The equipment which was being transported on the rigs through the Pine Ridge Rez last week is built specifically to treat oil in preparation for transport through pipelines. I believe the people in Wanblee were only carrying out the language contained in the approved resolutions of their official tribal government and treaty council when they stopped the trucks and asked them to turn around.

Five people were accused of disorderly conduct, arrested by tribal police and were held for a few hours in a tribal jail before being released. There is now word on the moccasin telegraph about how the individuals who were arrested might have more charges brought against them in tribal or even federal court. I would be interested in attending any trial these tribal members might be subject to so I could write about it and keep my readers informed.

The people who were involved in the blockade had many witnesses who are residents of the Eagle Nest District. I hope everyone who was there last week attends the trial to see if the tribal members who were taken to jail by the tribal police are treated fairly by the tribal court.

Furthermore, I believe our tribal governments need to fast track some laws about overweight vehicles traveling the roads running through our lands. I received reports stating these rigs were carrying loads weighing 229,155 pounds. The crew transporting the equipment said it would take a very long time to turn them around. In the end they were escorted to the reservation border by tribal police. How much revenue could the tribe have taken in if there was a weigh station at every reservation entrance point? 

There are so many trucks on the road now and who knows what they are carrying. The covered loads appear highly suspicious. Look at highway 83 which runs through the Rosebud Rez. Overloaded semi-trucks traveling 70-80 mph are extremely hazardous. They are a threat to our homeland security. Many tribal members have died on highway 83 after crashing with a semi-truck.

Our homeland will never be secure as long as these trucks are allowed free passage through our lands. Who will clean up the mess if there is ever a hazard waste spill from a semi-truck next to Sicangu Village or in downtown Mission? How many Lakota children will be affected if this ever happens?

If our tribal governments and elected officials are really serious about their written, approved statements against tar sands oil mining and the construction of new oil pipelines, they have to be ready to use their authority as a sovereign nation to back up the people and the homelands they represent. Tribal governments can only make their own legislation stronger by giving the state of South Dakota notice that the transport of oil mining or pipeline construction equipment is banned on any roads running through our reservations.

Our tribal governments must work “to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.” It is their job.

Vi Waln is editor of Lakota Country Times. Thanks for sharing with Censored News.

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