Tribes must be more aggressive to stop tar sands pipeline

I am curious to know why our Tribal Governments are not doing more to stop TransCanada from building the proposed Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline through our treaty lands. There are many Tribes living on or near the corridor where the proposed pipeline will run. It seems to me the Canadian Tribes are more vocal than we are. Why is that?


Will our tribal politicians wait until the land is totally devastated before they decide to take real action? Maybe our Tribal Governments don’t realize how important it is to stop this project. There have been resolutions approved by some Tribal Governments which contain language opposing oil pipeline construction. Still, approving legislation at the Tribal Government level is not enough. Our elected leaders must take a more aggressive role in stopping this proposed pipeline.


Think about it. If President Obama signs the Presidential Permit approving TransCanada’s application to build their death project, there will most likely be a man camp established in the Colome, SD area with at least 600 roughnecks from all over the country staying there. They will be making good money to build the monster pipeline. We have tribal members living in this area. The Milks Camp, Bull Creek and Ideal Communities are near the small town of Colome, SD.


Furthermore, Colome, SD is a mere 66 miles from Rosebud, SD; 63 miles from Lower Brule, SD; 67 miles from Fort Thompson, SD and 76 miles from Lake Andes, SD. This is much too close to our Indian Reservations, in my opinion. Those of us who choose to live here already know our Indian Reservations are extreme poverty areas. We have vulnerable women and children. What do you think is going to happen when we have an influx of wealthy strangers who lack integrity?


If you research the areas where man camps are established you will find they have a whole lot of horrid side effects – prostitution, drug activity, disappearances and even unsolved murders of women. Would you want your mother, aunt, sister, daughter, granddaughter or other women relatives spending time with men who are staying in these camps? Our tribal leaders need to come together NOW and make a stand against KXL.


I want to see the North/South Dakota Tribes organize as one voice to take a real stand against this project to guarantee it doesn’t happen. The people we vote into our Tribal Governments are put there to speak for us. Still, many times I hear the grassroots activists speak with much stronger voices when it comes to controversial projects, such as KXL.


Will the elected leaders who comprise our Tribal Governments in North/South Dakota sit back and allow President Obama to approve the permit? Our Tribal Governments, many of which were organized under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, are the only entity legally recognized by the federal government in terms of consultation. Thus, it’s crucial for ALL the North/South Dakota Tribes to come together to demand genuine government-to-government consultation.


I also believe this consultation must happen on our land. I’m not satisfied with the elected officials in Washington, DC dictating what government-to-government consultation should look like. You cannot convince me that a letter, an email or a phone call is “consultation.” Yet, I believe many elected leaders become complacent and accept these impersonal forms of communication as legitimate government-to-government “consultation.”


There was a time when representatives of the federal government traveled to Indian Country to engage in genuine consultation with recognized tribal leaders. I always wonder what was going through everyone’s minds when I look at those pictures from the 19th century depicting our Itancan and the representatives of the federal government sitting in a tipi negotiating treaties.


“The Ihanktonwan Treaty delegates have expressed plans to meet with the Milks Camp and Bull Creek communities [on the Rosebud Reservation] to assist and encourage the communities to learn how the KXL pipeline affects them. Invitations are being made to have Rosebud tribal council and treaty council to attend this meeting in mid-May,” said Faith Spotted Eagle, who testified in State Department hearings on the pipeline. “Tribes on the corridor must unite on a common consultation position. Divided positions can weaken the Native cause. It is time for unprecedented unity TO PROTECT THE SACRED!”


Furthermore, there are many laws which can be referenced by Tribal Governments in making a stand to ensure KXL is never built. The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act are just a handful of the existing laws which could be interpreted by the highly paid tribal attorneys to help the Tribal Governments make a united stand against KXL. 


Consequently, some of the language in the NHPA makes obvious reference to consultation. For instance, language on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation website states: “The regulations also place major emphasis on consultation with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations, in keeping with the 1992 amendments to NHPA. Consultation with an Indian tribe must respect tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship between the Federal Government and Indian tribes. Even if an Indian tribe has not been certified by NPS to have a Tribal Historic Preservation Officer [THPO] who can act for the SHPO on its lands, it must be consulted about undertakings on or affecting its lands on the same basis and in addition to the SHPO.”


I do not believe government-to-government consultation should be limited to THPO. Rather, this consultation should include the entire Tribal Council; after all, they ARE the governing body. Did you see where the Yaqui have invited President Obama to engage in a government-to-government consultation? Why can’t the Lakota-Dakota-Nakota tribes do this?


Furthermore, our treaty lands are sacred. Our ancestors walked every inch of our homelands. Thus, in my mind, the land which encompasses the original boundaries of the 1851 and 1868 Treaties has religious and cultural significance attached to it. NHPA’s website also states: “Federal agencies must also consult with Indian tribes that attach religious and cultural significance to historic properties, regardless of their location.”


Our ancestors were visionaries. They had faith in us – their descendants. They saw a future event where the Seventh Generation would rise up to change the world and perhaps even save mankind. I believe this is the time for our elected leaders to come together and demand a real government-to-government consultation held here in our treaty lands. Our descendants are depending on our elected Tribal Governments of today to ensure the treaty lands will still be livable when they are born.




Published by Vi Waln


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