How one Native American tribe is resisting the Keystone XL pipeline

The Rosebud Sioux are drawing on their ancient and spiritual connections to the land to try and prevent the incursion by Big Oil.


One teepee still standing after the storm, at the Rosebud Sioux Tribe's Spirit Camp.
One teepee still standing after the storm, at the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Spirit Camp.



The Dakotan sky is starting to blacken: “Something bad is coming this way; that wind came out of nowhere; something’s wrong, something’s very wrong,” a voice behind me warns.  It’s almost midnight at the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s “Spirit Camp” and the winds in the middle of the Great Plains are gusting alarmingly fast. “Are we OK out here?,” I shout above the flapping tents and flying debris, suddenly concerned that five teepees won’t give much shelter against the oncoming storm. The reassurance I am looking for is not forthcoming: “A prayer wouldn’t go amiss.”

In the Sioux’s Lakota mythology, Taku Skanskan, master of the four winds, is the herald of change (and of chaos). And on the first anniversary of this camp, built in opposition to the planned Keystone XL oil pipeline, its future is up in the air. Quite literally: by morning four of the five tents will lie shredded on the ground, and one camp member will be in hospital.

The proposed pipeline, or “Black Snake” as the Sioux call it, creeps ever closer. To Transcanada, the corporation behind it, these 1,179 miles of pipeline offer the most efficient method of connecting Canadian tar sands with oil refineries on the Gulf Coast. In Washington, it has become a political football, with Barack Obama vetoing a bill authorising the project in January. But big oil interests haven’t given up. Neither have Republicans, who have made building the pipeline a priority since taking control of Congress in last Autumn’s midterm elections. The assumption is that at some point it will be built.



“We’re protecting the future; for the people who can’t speak for themselves” – Gary Dorr, from the Nez Perce Tribe, Idaho.

Some suggest that its construction will make little difference to either job-creation, or to the overall extent of tar sands exploitation.  For those who live in the pipeline’s path, however, it could change everything. None more so than the Native American tribes in South Dakota: perhaps America’s most downtrodden and overridden community.

To the Rosebud Sioux, the pipeline’s threat strikes deep. Its route, they argue, poses an untenable risk to their water supply.  The lack of consultation from Transcanada is an affront to their ancient rights. Its exploitation of tar sands is an environmental curse on us all. In the words of their spiritual leader, Leonard Crow Dog (“God-Worcs”), such a pipeline would not just pollute the earth but risk leaving an entire generation “sterilised in their minds and in the conscience of their souls”.

For the last year therefore, a dedicated group of tribes-people have taken part in a continuous stakeout. Nestled within the sweeping Dakotan plains, at one of the few points where the pipeline would run near Indian land, lies a small circle of five white teepees. Only in America would the nearest named location to somewhere so remote be a place called “Ideal”. But to many anti-pipeline activists across the region – and the world – this unlikely camp has become just that: the ideal emblem of their fight.



It’s a responsibility that that weighs heavily on one of the spirit camp’s founders, Russell Eagle Bear (pictured above). After 365 days of ensuring that the camp stayed occupied – through wind, and cold, and heat, and spiders (“Oh my God the spiders!”) – he seems tired out. With furrowed brow and slow words, he explains the personal cost of keeping up the battle:

“There were times when we only had one person sitting out here… and now we’re at a time when I would like to think that we need a breather because it’s been an ongoing struggle I tell you; I get criticised all the time, I get threatened all the time.”

Some say he should personally have spent more time at the camp. Others that the camp should be taking the fight more literally:

“There are many, many people that come here who want us to pick up guns; y’know the pipeline hasn’t even started and yet they want me to sit out here with guns and things!”

Sometimes he feels as if he’s dealing with “big babies”. Yet he is also the first to acknowledge the personal transformations the camp has brought about for many from the community. Leota Eastman-Ironcloud describes her experience as nothing short of a “re-birth”. “She was here from day one,” Eagle Bear says with a fatherly pride. “Of course she has to go home and wash clothes and take care of business but she was constantly out here. And for a Lakota woman to stand up and defend us on our tribal land, that’s awesome; that’s so awesome it’s beyond words.”

Leota’s life has not been an easy one. Like many on the reservation where she was born and raised her three children, she has been touched by the hardship which characterizes Rosebud life. Located in the nation’s second poorest county, unemployment here hovers near 80 per cent and life expectancy is around 30 years lower than the American average. It’s a situation in which drug abuse, diabetes and alcoholism are rife, and suicide is epidemic. At breakfast one teenager turns up fresh from a night in the reservation’s jail. He’d been caught driving before the term of his drink-driving ban had ended. But he’s surprisingly buoyant: today marks a year of staying sober – a resolution made the day the tents went up.

This kind of reaction was an ambition for the camp’s founders from the start. From the outset, the Rosebuds’ response to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline has been resolutely spiritual. “[Our elders] say that with prayer you can stop this thing,” Eagle Bear explains. It’s a decision that seems to have worked on a number of levels. One member even believes it has helped keep the anti-terrorism agencies at arm’s length, though says she can still “hear them click on and off when I call my grandmother”.


Paula Antoine, chair person of the Oyate Wahacanka Woecun – Shielding the People, a project of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. 


Yet the camp’s symbolic power is turning in a new direction. Pipeline opponents across the country are increasingly being drawn into lengthy legal challenges – the Rosebud included. ‘We’re here to pray and we’ll continue doing that,” Eagle Bear assures the audience at the anniversary celebrations, “but we have to take that next step and deal with it in a legal way; using their courts, their laws and their courtrooms… We have the ability to do that as tribal people because this is our aboriginal land; this is our treaty land; this is our reservation boundary land”.

At a hearing commencing on 27 July, alongside three neighbouring tribal nations as well as the Dakota Rural Action and Bold Nebraska activist groups, the Rosebud will challenge TransCanada’s attempt to renew its state permit for the pipeline’s construction. Their argument focuses on what they deem to be an unacceptable threat to the region’s water supply. In particular, they cite the risk a spill would pose to the tribes’ own Mni Wiconi water pipeline, as well as to the vast Ogallala Aquifer (an underground system that currently supplies around two million people with clean water).

If this challenge fails, however, the tribes are readying themselves for an even bigger fight. This could involve a lawsuit against Transcanada and, if needed, the federal government itself. Gary Dorr of the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho, explains that the threat to the water pipeline is “an infringement” of the tribes’ historic rights. Jen Baker, a Colorado-based lawyer who works with the Oglala Sioux Tribe, agrees: “It would be a violation of the federal trust responsibility to tribes for the federal government to allow that.”

Such a lawsuit would demand recognition of something called “treaty rights”. According to Dallas Goldtooth from the Indigenous Environmental Network, these rights “represent the acknowledgment that our tribal nations are more than just a ethnic minority; that we have inalienable rights to determine not only what happens to our people but also to mother earth”.

Under a peace treaty with the federal government in 1868, Sioux lands were defined in a vast swathe stretching from the Missouri River in Montana to Big Horn in Nebraska. Certain Native American rights to that land were enshrined in this treaty. Events of the twentieth century saw this territory increasingly divided into smaller, separate, reservations – with the land in between becoming the property of the state. Many argue, however, that native rights over this vacated land were not included in the transfer. Thus, although Transcanada has tried its best to route the pipeline around today’s reservations, it still passes directly over land said to be held “in trust”, on behalf of the Native American peoples.


Spiritual leader Leonard Crow Dog prepares for prayer.


There are many within the Rosebud community who know too well how far this trust has been abused over the years. Forty years ago, 76-year-old Leonard Crow Dog found himself sentenced for his political involvement with the American Indian Movement: “I fought for Indian rights and I went to penitentiary. I was sentenced for 23 years: scary,” he reminisces. The glee that the new understanding of Treaty Rights gives him, however, is tangible: “Lot of us didn’t know we owned all this land – we thought we owned Rosebud right there – now we have [rights across] millions of acres!”

Getting these rights recognized in court will be far from easy. Already the Rosebud are pressed to meet their legal defence needs and bring in expert witnesses. Just the other week it was ruled that testimony on tar-sand exploitation’s impact on climate change will not be allowed during the scheduled hearing next month, removing that element of their challenge.

There is some precedent for success though. In the early 1980s, the United States government acknowledged that the seizure of Black Hills territory violated the 1868 treaty. “They offered a money settlement to the tribal nations”, Goldtooth explains, but the tribes refused to take it: ‘“No we’re not going to take your blood money” they say, “We want the Black Hills back’’’.

Whether their challenge to Keystone XL stands or falls, arguments for a greater recognition of treaty rights look set to stay. From opposition to uranium mining and fracking to challenging the “unnecessary” placement of Native American children with white American foster families, many see the pipeline as “just the start” of a much wider battle.

It is one that could forge alliances not just across tribes, but countries. “We as native peoples have to get together now,” Eagle Bear exclaims. “Half a million native Mexicans up here with us – now wouldn’t that be something!”


Keith Fielder, Rosebud Sioux Tribe archeological monitor, surveys the wreckage after the storm.


Back at the camp, work is underway to rebuild after the storm. Despite the growing pressure the legal fight will put on people’s time and funds, the decision has been taken to keep the camp in operation, and to keep spirituality central to their cause.

During the day’s speeches, I admit I’d found the emphasis on prayer a little heavy. Yet lying in the dark that night, winds screaming above me, that scepticism thinned out. By the time I was helping clear up the debris the next morning it had gone. For many in this region the spirits, like the camp and the great Ogallala reservoir, are a connection that binds. “Even today, when you get that little soft wind, that’s the spirits responding, showing themselves; they’re coming through here,” Eagle Bear tells me. “It is a powerful time.” Taking on the power of Big Oil in America is no mean feat. The answer, perhaps, really is blowing in the wind.

All photos by India Bourke.

Tribal Leaders Tell Obama to Reject Keystone XL Pipeline, Request U.S. Interior Meeting

Sue Ogrocki/Associated PressPipeline sections piled up in Cushing, Oklahoma, the hub of the proposed Keystone XL project.
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
Pipeline sections piled up in Cushing, Oklahoma, the hub of the proposed Keystone XL project.



Several indigenous leaders have officially asked President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline, citing concerns about consultation, treaty rights and impact on tribal homelands.

In his letter to Obama, Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association chairman and Oglala Sioux Tribe president John Steele also requested a meeting with U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. The association is among numerous indigenous leaders coming out against the pipeline, which would carry bituminous crude from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico for export.

“The Yankton are adamant about meeting with Secretary Jewell regarding the intrusion of our territory by Transcanada, as it is no small matter,” said Ihanktonwan/Yankton Sioux Tribal Chairman Robert Flying Hawk in a statement from the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Our water rights, protection of our cultural resources and safety of our Oceti Sakowin children and families over ride any Congressional lobby influences by Big Oil. We stand strong with all the other leaders of the Oceti Sakowin and Indigenous peoples affected by tar sands.”

The Yankton Sioux are currently spearheading a challenge to the permit of TransCanada before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, a process with hearings beginning in May.

RELATED: Yankton Sioux Lead Fight Against TransCanada and Keystone XL in South Dakota

South Dakota Keeps Keystone XL Permit Process Intact for May Hearings

The move is also backed by the Indigenous Environmental Network and other conservation groups.

“We stand in solidarity with our Oceti Sakowin relatives and encourage the Department of Interior to dissent from a KXL permit approval and give President Obama all the more reason to reject this dirty tar sands pipeline,” said Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, in a statement. “We ask this for the benefit of the land, the water, our communities, our sacred sites, and the territorial integrity of the sacredness of Mother Earth.”

Debate is heating up over the Keystone XL pipeline, which when complete would stretch 1,700 miles from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico coast of Texas. As Obama mulls a final decision amid Congressional pressure to step up the pace, the southern leg of the pipeline is already built and operational, bringing oil from refineries in the Midwest to the Gulf for export.




Brian Cladoosby Lays Out NCAI’s Priorities in Time for Lame Duck Session

Swinomish Tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby
Swinomish Tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby
Gale Courey Toensing, Indian Country Today


The National Congress of American Indians members passed more than five dozen new resolutions at its annual meeting recently, but one of the first things the organization will deal with during the lame duck session – the period of time between Election Day and when the new legislators enter Congress in the new year – is a three-year-old resolution opposing the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.

“As Congress opens the lame duck one of the first issues will be the Keystone XL Pipeline,” Brian Cladoosby, NCAIpresident and chair of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, told ICTMN following NCAI’s 71st Annual Convention & Market held this year in Atlanta. “NCAI has a resolution opposing Keystone as tribes in that region are concerned about the potential impact to their aquifer.”

NCAI members’ resolutions set the organization’s policies and guide its advocacy until the issue is resolved or the resolution is withdrawn. In the case of the pipeline, NCAI members passed its resolutionin June 2011 opposing the $8 billion pipeline that would transport oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico. The resolution cites the pipeline’s negative impacts on cultural and environmental resources and expresses solidarity with the First Nations in their struggle to protect their communities, aboriginal lands and treaty rights against the pipeline and other extraction industries’ devastation.

The Keystone issue flared up in 2012 but receded from the headlines until recently when House Republicans in their post-election victory mode suddenly brought it to the floor for a vote. On Friday, November 14, the House voted 252-161 to pass legislation that would force the $8 billion TransCanada pipeline project to move forward. The Senate rejected the bill  on Tuesday, November 18. Fifty-nine senators voted for the bill, one short of the 60 votes needed to clear a filibuster. Fourteen Democrats joined the Senate Republicans in voting for the bill. The vote was 59-41.

RELATED: Rosebud Sioux Tribe Calls House Keystone XL Passage an ‘Act of War,’ Vows Legal Action

So with its Keystone and other older policies in place and more than 60 new resolutions pointing the way, NCAI is ready to deal with the new post-election political landscape – even if it’s a little obscure at the moment.

“NCAI is fully committed to strong and effective action to advance tribal priorities. First, we will be navigating the lame duck session of Congress, and then next year will be a new environment in Congress particularly with the new leadership in the Senate,” Cladoosby said. “It is too early to predict exactly how next year will go, but we are already identifying opportunities.”

In addition to the Keystone pipeline issue, appropriations and spending will loom large during the lame duck session. Congress has not yet finalized a spending plan, Cladoosby said. “We are strongly urging adoption of House Interior Appropriations, as it has higher spending levels for both Indian Health and education,” he said.

In July the House Committee on Appropriations voted 29-19 to approve the fiscal year 2015 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill. The legislation includes funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), the Forest Service, the Indian Health Service, and various independent and related agencies. In total, the bill includes $30.2 billion in base funding, an increase of copy62 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and a reduction of $409 million below the President’s request.

Indian country won a victory this year with the passage of the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act of 2014, but here’s more work to be done in the area of tax reform. Tax extenders are up for renewal during the lame duck, Cladoosby noted. There are nearly 55 tax provisions, known as extenders, which expire at the end of this year, including important charitable giving incentives. Congress needs to renew the provisions in order for people, businesses and tribes to use them in filing taxes in 2015. “Tribes have some very important tax incentives for job development in Indian country that are up for renewal. That includes accelerated depreciation and the Indian employment tax credit,” Cladoosby said. “We really need to make these tax incentives permanent, and these discussions will be a springboard for tax reform discussions in the next year.” Cladoosby said NCAI will advocate for reforms to the tax code that will “respect tribal sovereignty and create jobs in tribal communities.

Energy legislation, trust reform and transportation reauthorization are also NCAI priorities. NCAI has been “strongly supporting” Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-WY) tribal energy bill – the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Acts Amendments of 2014(S. 2132). The bill will give Indian tribes more tools to develop their energy resources and to remove unnecessary barriers to economic development. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, of which Barrasso is vice chairman, passed the bill unanimouslyin May.

NCAI will continue to prioritize legislation for the elusive “Carcieri fix” to restore the Interior Secretary’s authority to take land into trust, and will support voting rights initiatives, and the Department of the Interior Tribal Self Governance Act of 2014, Cladoosby said. It also backs reauthorization of The Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Actof 1996 (NAHASDA), which provides grants and financing guarantees to tribes for affordable housing. A couple key NCAI priorities, Cladoosby said – are a reportjust released from the Attorney General’s Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence “that will drive attention and I believe there will be a need for hearings,” proposed new regulations for the right of way on Indian lands, trust land in Alaska, and federal recognition.

And in the very near future, there is President Obama’s sixth White House Tribal Nations Conferenceto look forward to on December 3 at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C. The conference will provide leaders from the 566 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with the president and members of the White House Council on Native American Affairs.

“I think tribes will be working up even more ideas for administrative action as we head into the summit with the president in the first week of December,” Cladoosby said.



Keystone XL Pipeline bill rejected: Indigenous people arrested after chant of joy



By: Chrissa,

After it was announced Tuesday evening, that the Keystone XL Pipeline bill had been rejected by the US Senate – just one vote shy of the needed 60 yes votes – the poignant sound of Native American Indians’ joy/relief filled the Senate Chamber.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate), whose land would have been transversed by the pipeline, had strongly opposed the pipeline. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe vowed to prevent the pipeline project from crossing its land and declared Congress’s intent to do so, an act of war.

After the House passed the bill last week, Rosebud Sioux President Cyril Scott, expressed his outrage and was quoted in “Indian Country Today,” stating, “The House has now signed our death warrants and the death warrants of our children and grandchildren. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will not allow this pipeline to cut through our lands. We are outraged by the lack of intergovernmental cooperation. We are a sovereign nation, and we are not being treated as such. We will close our reservation to Keystone X. Authorizing Keystone XL is an act of war against our people.”

The 100-member House Chamber on Tuesday cast 59 aye votes on a version of the bill that was sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Landrieu had been urging fellow Democrats to support the bill. The TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL Pipeline has support in oil-producing Louisiana, an oil-producing state, where Landrieu is facing a run-off election in December.

Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine, had been thought a possible 60th “yes” but had said on Tuesday he would vote no. “Congress is not – nor should it be – in the business of legislating the approval or disapproval of a construction project,” King stated in a presss release.

Energy companies say the pipeline would create jobs as 800,000 barrels of oil would be transported 1,700 miles from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. But environmental groups point out that the oil is simply crossing the nation, not creating anymore than 50 or so jobs within the United States and they point out the irony of a nation advocating for clean energy while approving a pipeline through the heart of the nation.

On its web site the League of Women Voters states: “The XL Pipeline will threaten the safety of our drinking water, promote a bad energy policy and increase the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that contribute to climate change. This pipeline is a risky adventure that is not in our national interest. “

Within the US Senate Chamber, upon the announcement that the bill had been rejected, that joyous sound of indigenous people’s reaction in the gallery was met with the sound of Sen Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) gavel and call for order. It was a victory for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe to have stood up for their nation against the bill that aimed to slice right through lands promised them by US Treaty and that ignored any affect on the Sioux and other indigenous people. It was also a victory for environmental groups and grassroots organizations and the American public. But one cannot help but feel the uncomfortableness of reaction to the Native American Indians chant. Three women and two men were arrested outside the US Senate Chamber after expressing their relief and joy. One would think the rejoicing of Native American Indians’ defeat over a land grab would be something all Americans would rejoice along with. There is something unsettling about American Indians’ cry of relief resulting in their arrest. At the time of this writing, however, there were no charges.

About Chris Sagona: Chris is the National Elections Director for She has covered religion, crime and foreign news as reporter, managing editor, associate producer and foreign news editor for Fox News Channel, News12/CNN affiliate and Community Life, and has been published in The Herald News and The Record. She’s won Press Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Press Association for Best Feature Writing, Best Deadline Reporting, Best Breaking News Reporting and Excellence in Journalism for Distinguished Public Service.

Senate Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline Bill, In A Close Vote

Pipes for Transcanada Corp.'s planned Keystone XL oil pipeline are stacked at a depot in Gascoyne, N.D. The House of Representatives approved the Keystone XL pipeline Friday; the Senate voted against it on Tuesday.
Pipes for Transcanada Corp.’s planned Keystone XL oil pipeline are stacked at a depot in Gascoyne, N.D. The House of Representatives approved the Keystone XL pipeline Friday; the Senate voted against it on Tuesday.


By Bill Chapell, NPR

The controversial Keystone XL pipeline project to expand an oil pipeline running from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico has failed the approval of Congress, after the Senate voted against the project Tuesday. The House passed its version of the bill Friday.

An early tally showed 35 for and 30 against the bill; subsequent calls for senators’ votes failed to net the 60 votes needed for passage. The decisive 41st “No” vote came with 55 votes in favor, and the final tally was 59-41.

The vote came after President Obama stopped short of saying he would veto the bill, but he encouraged Congress not to take action before a long-awaited State Department review of the project is fully complete.

The two chambers of Congress moved to vote on the measure shortly after this month’s midterm elections, which left a Senate seat in Louisiana up for grabs in a runoff election between Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, and Rep. Bill Cassidy, a Republican. That vote is slated for Dec. 6, as we reported last week.

Several Democrats spoke against the Keystone extension during a floor debate before this afternoon’s vote.

“We’re going to see higher gas prices because of this,” said Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, the chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, predicting that oil from the Keystone project would be exported instead of being used to supply American markets.

Republican Sen. John Hoeven disagreed, saying that his state of North Dakota would benefit from the pipeline, using it to help move its oil that currently relies heavily on a congested rail system.

Landrieu responded to Hoeven by thanking him for his leadership and work on the bill. She went on to tell her colleagues, “This is for Americans, for American jobs, to build a middle class.”

We’ll note that a researcher who has studied the bill told NPR’s S.V. Dáte that of the jobs the project might create, none will be in Louisiana.

“I don’t think it goes through that state,” said Cornell University’s Sean Sweeney, who co-authored a 2012 report scrutinizing the project. “This is less about jobs numbers than it is about advancing the fossil fuel industry’s agenda.”

As we’ve reported, the Keystone issue has been contentious:

“Energy company TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Canada to Texas; it has been a polarizing issue, pitting those who say it would create thousands of jobs against environmentalists who say tar sands oil is too expensive and toxic to refine. Where one side says the plan would bolster the energy industry, the other says it would increase greenhouse gases.”

Earlier today, NPR’s Scott Horsley and Jeff Brady laid out “What You Need To Know About The Keystone XL Oil Pipeline.”

As they explained, part of the pipeline is already in place:

“About 40 percent of the total project has been built so far, in two segments: a 298-mile stretchfrom Steele City, Neb., to Cushing, Okla., and a 485-mile segment between Cushing and Nederland, Texas. Oil is flowing through these pipelines from the increased production currently happening in the middle of the U.S.”

Senate Bill 2280 would authorize “TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. to construct, connect, operate, and maintain the pipeline and cross-border facilities specified in an application filed by TransCanada Corporation to the Department of State on May 4, 2012,” according to the bill’s summary on the congressional website.

The Final Indian War in America is About to Begin

Lakota members during the annual Liberation Day commemoration of the Wounded Knee massacre. Photo: Deep Roots United Front/Victor Puertas
Lakota members during the annual Liberation Day commemoration of the Wounded Knee massacre. Photo: Deep Roots United Front/Victor Puertas


Notes from Indian Country, November 16, 2014
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© Native Sun News

Source: Huffington Post

(Note: This column will appear before the Senate votes on the Keystone XL Pipeline. The House has already approved the construction of the Pipeline)

South Dakota’s Republican leadership of John Thune and Kristi Noem always march lockstep with the other Republican robots. Neither of them care that South Dakota’s largest minority, the people of the Great Sioux Nation, diametrically oppose the Pipeline and they also fail to understand the determination of the Indian people to stop it.

The House vote was 252-161 favoring the bill. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) who is trying to take the senate seat from Democrat Mary Landrieu, They are headed for a senate runoff on December 6 and Landrieu has expressed a strong support of the bill in hopes of holding her senate seat.

Two hundred twenty-one Republicans supported the bill which made the Republican support unanimous while 31 Democrats joined the Republicans. One hundred sixty-one Democrats rejected the bill.

Progressive newsman and commentator for MSNBC, Ed Schultz, traveled to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota this year to meet with the Indian opponents of the Pipeline. Firsthand he witnessed the absolute determination of the Indian nations to stop construction of the Pipeline.

He witnessed their determination and reported on it. Except for Schultz the national media shows no interest and apparently has no knowledge of how the Indian people feel about the Pipeline nor do they comprehend that they will go to their deaths stopping it. What is wrong with the national media when it comes to Indians?

As an example of the national media’s apathy, the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota have turned their backs on the $1.5 billion dollars offered to them for settling the Black Hills Claim and although they are among the poorest of all Americans, the national media does not consider this news.

Why do they protest the XL Pipeline? Because the lands the Pipeline will cross are Sacred Treaty Lands and to violate these lands by digging ditches for the pipelines is blasphemes to the beliefs of the Native Americans. Violating the human and religious rights of a people in order to create jobs and low cost fuel is the worst form of capitalism. Will the Pipeline bring down the cost of fuel and create thousands of jobs?

President Barack Obama has blocked the construction of the Pipeline for six years and he said, “I have constantly pushed back against the idea the somehow the Keystone Pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States or is somehow lowering gas prices. Understand what this project is. It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. That doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

In the meantime Senator Landrieu conceded that it is unlikely that the Senate and the House will have the two-thirds majority needed to override an Obama veto.

Wizipan Little Elk of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and a coalition of tribal leaders from across the Northern Plains and the United States have pulled no punches on how they intend to fight the Pipeline to the death if that is the only way to stop it.

South Dakota’s elected leadership has totally ignored the protests of the largest minority residing in their state. They have also totally underestimated and misunderstood the inherent determination of the Indian people. This is a huge mistake that will have national implications and it is taking place right under their Republican noses.

What is even worse South Dakota’s media has also buried its collective heads in the sand even though Native Sun News has been reporting on the Keystone XL Pipeline since 2006. Award-winning Health and Environment Editor for Native Sun News, Talli Nauman, has been at the journalistic forefront of this environmental disaster about to happen from day one and she has been rewarded by the South Dakota Newspaper Association with many awards for her yearly series of articles on this most important topic. Until this issue became a political football, the rest of South Dakota’s media had been silent.

The Keystone XL Pipeline that is being pushed by TransCanada may well be the beginning of the final war between the United States government and the Indian Nations. A word of caution to TransCanada and the U.S. Government: please do not disregard the determination of the Indian people when they say they will fight this Pipeline to their deaths if need be. They mean it!

When asked if he truly thought that a handful of Indians could stop the construction of the Pipeline, Little Elk simply said, “Try us!”

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is the editor and publisher of Native Sun News. He can be reached at



Sioux reservation has mixed feelings about Obama’s visit

Obama visits to address education, economy; tribal leaders use opportunity to voice opposition to Keystone pipeline

By Al Jazeera America

President Barack Obama made his first presidential visit to Indian Country on Friday – and some residents of the Sioux reservation used the opportunity to voice their opposition to a proposed pipeline that would carry tar sands oil through their land.

The president and first lady arrived by helicopter at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles the border between North Dakota and South Dakota. Native Americans, some dressed in full feathered headdresses and multicolored, beaded outfits, greeted the couple.

“We can follow the lead of Standing Rock’s most famous resident, Chief Sitting Bull. He said, ‘Let’s put our minds together to see what we can build for our children,” Obama said. Sitting Bull was a Sioux chief who defeated Gen. George Custer at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn.

The Obamas also spoke privately with tribal youth about their challenges growing up on the 2.3 million-acre reservation, home to nearly 1,000 residents who struggle with a lack of housing, health care, education and economic opportunity.

Some Sioux leaders used the visit to tell Obama that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline — which would run through their land — would be a treaty violation.

Bryan Brewer, president of the Ogalala Sioux Tribe, said in a statement that the Keystone pipeline was “a death warrant for our people,” and that it would violate treaty rights. Critics of the pipeline warn of possible oil spills, environmental impact from the line’s construction, and Keystone’s overall effect on raising carbo

TransCanada looks to ship oil to U.S. by rail amid Keystone XL delays


Train cars carrying crude oil burn after derailing in Lac Megantic, Quebec, July 2013.
Train cars carrying crude oil burn after derailing in Lac Megantic, Quebec, July 2013.

Calgary-based company has waited more than 5 years for the Obama administration to make a decision

CBC News, May 22, 2014

TransCanada is in talks with customers about shipping Canadian crude to the United States by rail as an alternative to its Keystone XL pipeline project that has been mired in political delays, according to company president and CEO Russ Girling.

“We are absolutely considering a rail option,” Girling told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in New York Wednesday. “Our customers have needed to wait for several years, so we’re in discussions now with them over the rail option.”

The comments are the first to confirm growing speculation that TransCanada might use more costly and controversial railway shipments as a stopgap alternative to the Keystone XL pipeline, whose approval has been delayed by the U.S. government.

Girling said the firm was exploring shipping crude by rail from Hardisty in Canada, the main storage and pipeline hub, to Steele City, Neb., where it would flow into an existing pipeline to the Gulf refining hub.

5-year wait

TransCanada has waited more than five years for the Obama administration to make a decision on the $5.4-billion project, which would carry up to 830,000 barrels per day of crude from the oilsands of northern Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

While the project has received a mostly favourable environmental report, the State Department last month delayed a decision beyond the mid-term elections in November while a legal dispute over the line’s route in Nebraska is settled.

The pipeline has drawn sharp criticism from environmental groups who say it will fuel more production of Canada’s energy-intensive oilsands.

But the oil-by-rail movement has also come under scrutiny after a series of explosive derailments, including the one in Lac-Megantic, Que., last summer that killed 47.

Opposition fuelling opportunity

“It’s an irony that the adamant opposition of environmental organizations and others against oilsands-derived crude have actually created a phenomenal opportunity for rail to pick up the slack,” said David McColl, an analyst at Morningstar, Inc.

The line has the backing of the Canadian government and conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the project “a no-brainer.” Canada is counting on new export lines to boost discounted oil prices in the country and accommodate rising production from the oilsands.

Demand to ship crude by rail has gathered pace in Canada as producers scramble for alternatives to congested export pipelines.

Canadian crude-by-rail exports jumped to 146,047 bpd in the last quarter of 2013, an 83-per cent year-on-year surge, according to the National Energy Board.

Crude-by-rail boom

With Keystone XL and a number of other new pipelines projects mired in regulatory delay and environmental opposition, the crude-by-rail boom shows little sign of slowing.

Jarrett Zielinski, chief executive officer of TORQ Transloading — which is building Canada’s largest unit train terminal in Kerrobert, Sask., said TransCanada would need to load at least roughly nine unit trains per day to rival the takeaway capacity of Keystone XL, if they were to load raw bitumen.

Zielinski said that much extra crude travelling on Canada’s rails, in addition to the new rail loading projects already underway, could strain the system.

“The rail network would need more infrastructure and people,” he said. “It’s my fear that the current rail infrastructure would be insufficient, although it could be scaled up quickly.”

CAPP reaction

The president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) says using rail is a good stopgap measure until the Keystone XL pipeline is approved.

“We expect to see pipeline growth, but rail is important in the near term,” said Dave Collyer.

He says CAPP will release its production and transportation outlook for the year next month.

“What it will show is rail is an important interim transportation solution to accommodate the growth and production we foresee,” Collyer said.

He says pipelines are still the best in the long term, but until that happens he says rail is a choice that must be considered.

Cowboys and Indians Ride on DC, Protesting Keystone XL for Earth Day

Manuel Balce Ceneta/APThousands gathered at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Sunday February 17, 2013 to hold President Barack Obama to his promise to combat climate change.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Thousands gathered at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Sunday February 17, 2013 to hold President Barack Obama to his promise to combat climate change.


Next week, April 22, former Green Party Vice-Presidential candidate Winona LaDuke and the Cowboy and Indian Alliance made up of Native people, farmers and ranchers will ride on horseback into Washington, D.C. to show their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.

The protest on Tuesday will be one of many activities kicking off Earth day 2014 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. LaDuke’s organization, Honor the Earth will be joining forces with the Cowboy and Indian Alliance a group of about 30 Oglala Lakota Indians as well as a group of non-Native ranchers and farmers from North Dakota and Nebraska that have all joined forces in protest.

Additionally on the final day of protest, thousands have been invited to protest in unison against the pipeline and the Canadian Tar Sands. On Saturday April 26 at 11 a.m. at the National Mall between 7th and 9th streets, the Cowboy and Indian Alliance will make closing arguments against the pipeline.

Instructions on the Reject and Protect website state:

4 days after the Cowboy Indian Alliance tipis first go up on the Mall, we’ll gather at 11 AM on Saturday the 26th at the encampment to make our closing argument against the pipeline. As we gather, everyone there will be asked to make their thumbprint mark on a tipi. Then we’ll hear from the farmers, ranchers, tribal leaders and refinery community members who will be directly impacted by Keystone XL and the tar sands — and who have pledged to lead the resistance should it be approved.

Then, those leaders will carry our painted tipi to present to President Obama, with thousands of people standing behind them. This tipi will represent our hope that he will reject the pipeline, and our promise that we will protect our land, water and climate if he chooses to let the pipeline move forward.

Once the tipi is delivered, we’ll return to the encampment in song and make our pledge to continue resistance to the pipeline should it be approved.

In an e-mail campaign sent from the Honor the Earth Foundation LaDuke writes that many opposers to the pipeline will be in D.C. and will set up at the tipi camp at the National Mall and will ride to the White House “to show Obama and the world that Native Nations will stand firm in asserting our human and constitutionally protected treaty rights in saying NO to the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

In an interview with ICTMN, LaDuke said, “Our communities are continuing our spiritual work in opposing these pipelines – these pipelines threaten our water and our way of life.”

“My sister and my son will be riding horses, I might ride. They have asked me. There will be 30 Cowboys and Indians on horseback going all the way up to the White House on horseback to fight the Keystone pipeline. This is a continuation of that spiritual ride,” LaDuke said.

“To not have the pipeline is what we want, every time you look there is someone else at the White House. President Obama should do the right thing. I have enjoyed the fossil fuels era as have you, but I would like to gracefully exit it not crash my way out. We need to gracefully exit into renewable energies fuel efficiencies and bio diesels with a lot less impact. I have enjoyed it now I’m ready to go.”

LaDuke also said how people can support the cause. “They can support all of this by joining us in D.C. and sending us money, we are in the middle of fighting three pipelines and we are thinly staffed.”



Open Crop Art Calls for Rejection of Keystone XL Pipeline

Lou Dematteis/Spectral Q, via Bold NebraskaThe crop art image with HEARTLAND #NoKXL protests the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on a corn field outside of Neligh, Nebraska
Lou Dematteis/Spectral Q, via Bold Nebraska
The crop art image with HEARTLAND #NoKXL protests the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on a corn field outside of Neligh, Nebraska


Simon Moya-Smith, ICTMN

It’s a message not from an alien species, but from opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Last week a crop-art image the size of 80 football fields was installed along the controversial pipeline’s proposed path in Neligh, Nebraska. The image includes the bust of a man in a cowboy hat and an American Indian in a porcupine roach with two feathers. Under the pair of heads is an illustration of water waves and the text, “HEARTLAND #NoKXL.”

The massive art installation, which was executed by artist John Quigley in partnership with the anti-Keystone XL Pipeline Cowboy and Indian Alliance, is meant to tell President Barack Obama to protect the heartland and reject the pipeline, according to Bold Nebraska, a coalition of groups and individuals opposing the project.

Opponents argue that it will contaminate drinking water and pollute the soil. Conversely, proponents state it will bring jobs to the U.S. The project has been controversial from the start, and now that the decision is down to the wire, the opposition is digging in even further.

“Jobs are not worth the risk of the future of our land,” Tessa McLean, Anishinaabe, a member of the Colorado American Indian Movement and an Idle No More activist, told Indian Country Today Media Network. “Even if the pipeline is safe, even if it never ever spills, it still takes the rights away from land owners. It goes through Indian country, and we don’t want anything going through our country without [our] consent. And Indians will never consent.”

RELATED: Can a Tipi Stop a Pipeline? South Dakota Tribes Stand Firm Against Keystone XL

The section of pipeline that still needs approval would cross the border from Canada, where the viscous bitumen originates in the Alberta oil sands, and cut through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

Ranchers, farmers and Native Americans who live on the pipeline route plan to descend on Washington, D.C. and camp near the White House beginning on April 22, which is Earth Day, to encourage the president’s support, according to the Cowboy and Indian Alliance website. On April 26, thousands of opponents are expected to join the campers and protest the pipeline.

Several camps are already installed along the pipeline route in Indian country. Descendants of the Ponca Tribe erected a camp in Nebraska in November. A second was established on the Rosebud Sioux reservation on March 29, and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe opened one on Saturday April 12.