From the Oglala Lakota Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation to the Rosebud Sioux and others, American Indians are standing firm against the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run through or skirt their territory if approved.
The Lakota Sioux have been pushing back against TransCanada, the conglomerate that wants to run the 1,700-mile-long pipeline from the oil sands of Alberta to the Gulf Coast of Mexico, for years. Last week the Rosebud Sioux passed a unanimous resolution against the project. And a group of American Indian tribal leaders opposing the pipeline have vowed to take a “last stand” and are working together, training opponents to put up passive resistance if it comes to that.
“We see what the tar sand oil mining is causing in Canada, we see what the oil drilling in the Dakotas is doing—as they gouge her [Mother Nature] and rape her and hurt her, we know it’s all the same ecosystem that we all need to live in,” Lakota activist and Pine Ridge resident Debra White Plume told Inter Press Service News Agency last month. “For us it’s a spiritual stand—it’s our relative, it hurts us.”
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe approved a resolution on February 25 to reject outright a document that the federal government wants the tribe’s leaders to sign saying that they have been adequately consulted according to the law.
“This Programmatic Agreement for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project has not met the standards of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, because the Rosebud Sioux Tribe has not been consulted,” said Council Representative Russell Eagle Bear in a statement from the tribe. “Additionally, the Cultural Surveys that have been conducted already are inadequate and did not cover adequate on-the-ground coverage to verify known culturally sensitive sites and areas.”
Keystone XL would wend its way through the Great Sioux Nation, including the lands of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, making them the appropriate tribe to be consulted on land within Tripp, Gregory, Lyman, Todd, and Mellette Counties in South Dakota, the statement said.
“This is a flawed document and it will not be accepted,” Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council President Cyril Scott said of the federal agreement they are being asked to sign. “It is our job as the Tribal Council to take action to protect the health and welfare of our people, and this resolution puts the federal government on notice.”
It is not the first time the government has been accused of fabricating consultation. The first draft of the environmental assessment report, released a year ago, met with resistance from tribes over what they said were inaccuracies, shoddy research and incomplete consultation, among other objections.
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) also came out against the conclusions in the draft environmental assessment.
The U.S. Department of State is currently evaluating the final version of the environmental assessment report and accepting input from several federal agencies during a 90-day public comment period that began on January 31, when the report was issued, according to U.S. News & World Report. The State Department is also studying the consultants on the report as more and more revelations about their ties to TransCanada come to light.
Nearly 400 people, many of them students, were arrested last weekend when they chained themselves to the White House fence in protest of the pipeline, the Washington Post reported.
The Native group Moccasins on the Ground has been conducting training sessions and recently hosted a conference in Rapid City, Help Save Mother Earth from the Keystone Pipeline, to teach civil disobedience tactics.
“As the process of public comment, hearings, and other aspects of an international application continue, each door is closing to protecting sacred water and our Human Right to Water,” said Debra White Plume, a Lakota activist who lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation and has been very vocal in opposing the pipeline, in a statement from Moccasins on the Ground. “Soon the only door left open will be the door to direct action.”
Below, Moccasins on the Ground leaders explain what draws them to protect the sacred water and address the question, Can a tipi stop a pipeline?