A Letter to President Obama

October 9, 2011


President Barack Obama

The White House

Washington, DC


Secretary Hilary Clinton

Department of State

Washington, DC


Dear President Obama and Secretary Clinton:


Please consider this letter as my written comments on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline expansion. As a human being dependent upon Mother Earth for my sustenance, I oppose the building of this pipeline; and as a fellow human you should too.


My name is Viola Waln. My drinking water comes from the Ogallala Aquifer. I have been drinking this water since I was born. I have buffalo, sheep and horses that also drink this water. My plants, trees, flowers and vegetables also depend on this water.


I am Sicangu Lakota and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. I am the grandmother of four grandchildren, all of whom are also tribal members. I reside on the Rosebud Reservation. I live by the Lakota way of life. I pray in Lakota ceremonies on a regular basis. My family members and I are all baptized members of the Native American Church. We are very devout in our prayers and way of life. We pray for Mother Earth to heal every day. We give thanks for good drinking water every day. You should too.


In my language we say Mni Wiconi, which translates to Water of Life. Without water there is no life. Within all the ceremonies I attend, water has an essential place. This is, we pray with water in every ceremony we have. And as inhabitants of Mother Earth we depend on water to live. We do not need oil to live. There are other ways to create energy.


I take it personal that you are considering the approval of a Presidential Permit which would allow the Keystone XL Pipeline expansion to cross my drinking water source. You are threatening the water source of millions, many of them children. The potential for contamination is not worth the risk. Please do not sign the Presidential Permit. Please do not jeopardize my grandchildren’s basic human right to have unlimited access to an uncontaminated drinking water source.


The proposed Keystone pipeline expansion will come through my homelands. I have read the project is going to cost $7 billion dollars. Oftentimes, dollar signs will overrule basic common sense. The corporations behind this death project are already buying and preparing land in South Dakota but, in my opinion, they don’t care about Mother Earth. They only care about money. And why are they getting the land ready now when the permit hasn’t even been approved yet?


I wonder what goes through the minds of people who make a living exploiting Mother Earth’s sources. I believe every decision we consider as individuals, elected officials or owners of corporations must first measure the lasting impact on our descendants. In the insatiable quest for money, many human beings have lost sight of what is essential to our survival. Mother Earth is all we have. When she dies there will be nothing left.


Not only does this project have the potential to contaminate our precious water and air supply, it will likely destroy certain areas. Even though TransCanada chose to build the initial pipeline by skirting around contemporary Indian Reservations, most of the Lakota-Dakota-Nakota view the original territory outlined in the 1851 and 1868 Treaties as sacred land forever ours to protect.


We depend on water for life. You and your family depend on water for life. Please do not allow another oil pipeline to be built. Our water is crucial to our survival. Please use your common sense and look seven generations into the future. We cannot risk our water sources for oil. It is not worth it.


The project will desecrate the land. I have ancestors buried all over the 1851 and 1868 Treaty Territory. As many people know, we didn’t always bury relatives in the cemeteries we know today. There are many unmarked graves all over this Turtle Island. The bones of our relatives rest everywhere. Some have fossilized into stone. Who gives anyone the right to trample all over these final resting places and physically disturb ancient graves just for a few more gallons of gas or oil?


When the tar sands area is fully harvested in Canada, the entire region will surely be devastated. The water supply our relatives in Canada depend upon for life is also at risk. Our First Nations relatives are fighting the expansion also. Every tree, every plant, every water source, and every animal will be sacrificed in the corporate march to move the crude through this proposed pipeline.


Like many of my Lakota-Dakota-Nakota relatives, I am deeply concerned about the world our grandchildren and unborn descendants will be left with when we are gone. You should be concerned about your descendants also.  Like the ancestors who have gone before us, many of us pray for the descendants who will soon stand in our place.


At the rate we are pillaging Mother Earth there will be nothing left. How will our great grandchildren feel when they learn they have inherited a dead planet? The inhabitants of North America cannot afford the Keystone pipeline expansion. It will surely destroy us. It will destroy everything we are building in terms of culture and spirituality for our children.


Also, this proposed expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline will have to cross our precious drinking water sources, including both the Ogallala Aquifer and the Mni Wiconi water line in South Dakota, along with several streams and rivers. The water which comes through these systems serves many residents currently living on our reservations.


Our water is our life. We will not survive without water. What will we do when the water supply is forever contaminated by oil? I believe it would be unethical to put the water source which millions of people depend upon for life at risk. Please do not grant a Presidential Permit for this project.


A map I saw recently shows the proposed pipeline expansion also crossing the Ogallala Aquifer. This vast, vital water source serves at least eight states. There is never an absolute guarantee of a safe oil pipeline. I don’t think there is really anything we can do to stop oil from getting into our underground water supply.  And when it does, as it surely will, who will clean it up? Where will we get our drinking water when the very source we are dependent upon is contaminated?


There have already been many spills from the existing Keystone pipeline. Again, I fail to see how we can we clean up oil spilled into water; especially oil already leaked into our underground water source. I really don’t think a cleanup of that magnitude can be accomplished by average human beings.


Proponents of the 1,912 mile pipeline assert there is no real threat of any serious problems impacting our fragile environment. This pipeline will run from Canada to Texas. You can’t expect all of us to believe there will be no serious environmental impact! It will be underground and I fail to see how something underground can be properly monitored.


Please do not put the drinking water source of my peoples’ unborn generations at risk.

As a child of Mother Earth, I am against the proposed Keystone pipeline expansion crossing our water sources. I ask you to pray for our water of life to remain pure for our descendants, both yours and mine. Please do not approve a Presidential Permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline expansion.


In closing, here on the Rosebud Indian Reservation we recently had a fire that was 22 miles long and fanned by winds up to 60 mph. This fire burnt 17,500 acres of land and trees. Clean water was essential to putting out this fire. As I write these comments, the fire is 85% contained and I am sure many firefighters will have to stay out in the field for several more days to make sure it is completely out.


Please do not approve the President Permit for TransCanada. Without water we will die.



/S/ Viola G. Waln



Published by Vi Waln


One thought on “A Letter to President Obama

  1. I applaud the letter to President Obama by Viola G. Waln. As a resident of Texas where we are also fighting the pipeline and have also fought the TransTexas Corridor I know what it is like to have your land, waterways and way of life jepordized. People of all races and colors need to fight together to stop the greed that is destroying our resources, our Earth.

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