Native americans And Business Leaders Pressure White House To Reject Keystone XL

Chief Tayac of the Piscataway tribe, from left, Naiche Tayac, and William of the Lakota Nation march near the White House in Washington during a rally calling on President Barack Obama to reject Keystone XL Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013.CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Chief Tayac of the Piscataway tribe, from left, Naiche Tayac, and William of the Lakota Nation march near the White House in Washington during a rally calling on President Barack Obama to reject Keystone XL Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013.
CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

By Katie Valentine, ThinkProgress

As President Obama’s decision on Keystone XL nears, opposition from Native American tribes — many of whom have long spoken out against the pipeline — is getting louder.

Last weekend, members of South Dakota’s Rosebud Sioux tribe set up a prayer camp near Mission, SD in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline. Tribe leaders say their plan is to send a message to the White House that Native Americans won’t back down on this pipeline, which they say would run through land guaranteed by an 1868 treaty for tribal use. The tribe members plan to keep the prayer camp up until President Obama denies the pipeline or until the pipeline is approved, in which case the camp will turn into a “blockade camp.”

 

“We’ve been talking about the XL Pipeline. Reading about it, discussing it, having meetings, and I think reality hit today,” Oglala Sioux President Bryan Brewer said at the camp’s opening ceremony Saturday. “This is the first day that we’re actually going to try to stop it.”

Tribe members have erected nine tipis, including one that will stay occupied 24 hours a day until the White House comes out with a decision on Keystone, and surrounded the camp with hay bales. The tribe is planning to enact three more prayer camps — also called spirit camps — near the proposed route of Keystone XL.

“You can feel the power here,” Brewer said. “This will be non-violent; we will take our coup stick and count coup. This Thursday the [Oglala Sioux] tribal council is going to declare war on the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Native Americans are ramping up their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline after vowing in February to take a last stand against the pipeline, which they’ve called the “black snake.” Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, vice-chair of the House Native American Caucus, said on MSNBC this week that Native Americans’ opposition to the pipeline — especially recently — brings a spiritual dimension to the pipeline’s opposition, and will force people to pay attention to the issue if they hadn’t been before. The Rosebud tribe is also one of several to be planning a trip to D.C. at the end of April to protest the pipeline.

But Native Americans aren’t the only ones adding their voices to the call against Keystone XL. In a letter made public Tuesday, more than 200 business owners, venture capitalists and professors — inlcuding executives at Apple, Facebook, Google and Oracle — called on Secretary of State John Kerry to reject the pipeline as not in the country’s national interest. The letter called Keystone XL the “critical linchpin” for the development of Canadian tar sands and said it “undermines our international commitments.”

“The Obama Administration has expended great time and resources toward establishing America’s leadership on global challenges including the development of clean, low-carbon energy,” the letter reads. “By approving Keystone XL, the country would instead be locking itself into the development of high cost, high carbon fuels for the foreseeable future.”

Lakota vow: ‘Dead or in prison before we allow the KXL pipeline’

Lakota members marched during the annual Liberation Day commemoration of the Wounded Knee massacre. People carried American Indian Movement flags and shot rifles into the air as part of the celebration. Photo: Deep Roots United Front/Victor Puertas

Lakota members marched during the annual Liberation Day commemoration of the Wounded Knee massacre. People carried American Indian Movement flags and shot rifles into the air as part of the celebration. Photo: Deep Roots United Front/Victor Puertas

 

By Camila Ibanez, March 13, 2014. Source: Waging Nonviolence

On February 27, Oglala Lakota and American Indian Movement activists joined in a four-directions walk to commemorate Liberation Day, an event to mark the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee. As they do each year, four groups gather to the north, south, east and west and then walk eight miles until converging on top of Wounded Knee, where they honor the fallen warriors and the tribe’s rich history of resistance.

“It is an acknowledgement of the resiliency of who we are as a people,” explains Andrew Iron Shell, an organizer and activist of the Sicangu Lakota Nation. “It gives permission and courage for our up-and-coming generations to face the challenges of their time.”

The history of the occupation began with a massacre more than 100 years ago. On a cold day in December 1890, the United States army killed 300 Lakota men, women and children in a massive shoot out after a member of the First Nations refused to give up his arms. It marked the first bloodshed on Wounded Knee – although there had been many massacres of First Nations people by the colonialists before it. The event was also considered the end of the Indian Wars.

Eighty-three years later, on Feb. 27, 1973, about 200 Lakota members took siege of the town of Wounded Knee. Reclaiming a location that was written in the history books as a place of defeat, the Lakota stood their ground. They were there in protest of a failed attempt at impeaching the tribal president at the time, Richard Wilson, who was known to be corrupt and abusive. Initially a protest against the tribal government, the occupation took a turn when U.S. police forces arrived. The protestors switched the occupation’s focus to the United States’ frequent violation of treaties.

The armed warriors maintained control over the town for 71 days while the FBI encircled them. At the final standoff, two warriors were killed, about 12 people were wounded and over 400 were arrested. The Oglala were able to harness national attention through their occupation, using the spotlight to question the United States’ treatment of First Nations people. 

As history passed, later generations rarely heard about the occupation of Wounded Knee — or about first nation people at all. This skewed national memory should be unsurprising: When you have a society and a nation built upon the subjugation of people of color, you can expect nothing more than the constant erasing of certain histories.

Ongoing genocide

I recently visited Prisoner of War Camp 344, also known as the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It wasn’t my first time in the sovereign Oglala Sioux Nation, but it was my first time joining in the ceremonies celebrating the 41st annual Liberation Day to remember the 1890 reoccupation of Wounded Knee.

The vibrant American Indian Movement flags waving in the harsh South Dakota winter wind reminded me of the old black and white photos I used to see in my history books. The Lakota would not disappear without a fight, regardless of what the United States’ intentions were. Children walked alongside elders who had taken part in the occupation, showing clearly the group’s intergenerational wisdom. These are children who are stripped of learning their people’s history in schools, but instead learn it through stories and dances. They are children who live in a sovereign nation that contains two of the poorest counties in the United States and who recognize the threats their families face every day.

One of these threats come from the so-called town of White Clay, Neb., where visitors can witness the way violence against the First Nations people has changed — but not disappeared — over the generations. Consisting of only 12 people and four liquor stores, White Clay was once part of a 50-square-mile buffer that prevented alcohol from entering the reservation. In 1904, President Roosevelt signed an executive order that removed 49 of those square miles. Since then, the town’s economy has been driven by the $4 million in alcohol sales to the people of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. There is no legal place to drink in or around White Clay: Alcohol containers can’t be opened on the property of the distributor, it’s prohibited to drink in the street, and the reservation is dry territory. Yet, somehow, the town of 12 people manages to keep four liquor stores open. Barely two miles from the reservation’s epicenter, and less than 200 feet from the dry reservation line, the town perpetrates a type of violence that is, on the reservation, known as liquid genocide.

The reason for this name becomes apparent when one examines the teenage suicide rate on the reservation, which is 150 percent higher than the U.S. national average for this age group. Many attribute this death rate to the sale of alcohol to minors, which White Clay store owners are known to do. The liquor stores also break the law by selling to intoxicated people, and by trading alcohol for pornography, sexual favors — including from minors — and welfare checks. The effects of free-flowing alcohol are devastating: On the reservation, 90 percent of all court cases are related to alcohol use.

Kate, a Tokala warrior, believes that alcoholism is part of a larger problem of the disappearance of indigenous culture. For her, the only way to live in the geographical region of Pine Ridge is the indigenous way. “We are the ones on the back roads, still chopping wood. We are living the way we used to live,” she said. “It’s not hardship; it’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

Kate and many others know that alcohol was introduced to her people as a means to steal from them. Living deeply connected to the history of their nation, they believe that if they shake free of the colonized mindset, alcohol wouldn’t even be an issue.

Threats to the land

In addition to trying to close down White Clay, the Oglala Lakota Nation is actively fighting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This 1,700-mile pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil each day from western Canada through South Dakota en route to Texas. At two points it would even intersect with a pipeline that serves as a main water source for the Sioux Nation, affecting all of the Pine Ridge reservation as well as the nearby Rosebud reservation.

Advocates for the pipeline argue the pipeline is the safest way to transport crude oil. TransCanada, the company in charge of the pipeline, predicted that the first Keystone pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Illinois, would spill once every seven years. During its first year in operation, it spilled 12 times. The Lakota, along with other First Nations, have vowed to use direct action to stop construction of the pipeline.

For a nation whose land and sovereignty has been threatened for hundreds of years by U.S. politics, the Keystone XL pipeline is part of a long history of threats to the Lakota Nation – and to the earth itself. 

“They want to get rid of the Lakota, the protectors of the earth,” said Olowan Martinez, an organizer in the Lakota community. “But what they don’t know is when they get rid of the Lakota, the earth isn’t too far behind. Our people believe the Lakota is the earth.”

President Obama is scheduled to be make a final decision on the pipeline by the middle of 2014. While the Lakota are hoping he will not approve the project, they are also getting ready to stand up and fight. During the Liberation Day celebrations, the Lakota’s dances and stories relayed messages about sacred water and Mother Earth. The tribe has also united with other First Nations to organize a three-day direct action training called Moccasins on the Ground, which was designed to prepare people to act if the pipeline is approved.

“Dead or in prison before we allow the Keystone XL pipeline to pass,” the Lakota warriors, many mounted atop horses, repeated during the Liberation Day celebration. Their words carried the weight of 521 years, and counting, of lived resistance.

Native Americans vow a last stand to block Keystone XL pipeline

 

By Rob Hotakainen

McClatchy Washington Bureau February 17, 2014

Faith Spotted Eagle sits in her home in Lake Andes, South Dakota on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. Spotted Eagle is fighting against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. TRAVIS HEYING — MCT

Faith Spotted Eagle sits in her home in Lake Andes, South Dakota on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. Spotted Eagle is fighting against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. TRAVIS HEYING — MCT

WASHINGTON — Faith Spotted Eagle figures that building a crude oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast would bring little to Indian Country besides more crime and dirty water, but she doubts that Native Americans will ever get the U.S. government to block the $7 billion project.

“There is no way for Native people to say no – there never has been,” said Spotted Eagle, 65, a Yankton Sioux tribal elder from Lake Andes, S.D. “Our history has caused us not to be optimistic. . . . When you have capitalism, you have to have an underclass – and we’re the underclass.”

Opponents may be down after a State Department study found that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would not contribute to global warming. But they haven’t abandoned their goal of killing what some call “the black snake.”

In South Dakota, home to some of the nation’s poorest American Indians, tribes are busy preparing for nonviolent battle with “resistance training” aimed at TransCanada, the company that wants to develop the 1,700-mile pipeline.

While organizers said they want to keep their strategy a secret, they’re considering everything from vigils to civil disobedience to blockades to thwart the moving of construction equipment and the delivery of materials.

“We’re going to do everything we possibly can,” said Greg Grey Cloud of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, who attended a two-day conference and training session in Rapid City last week sponsored by the Oglala Sioux Tribe called “Help Save Mother Earth from the Keystone Pipeline.” He said tribes are considering setting up encampments to follow the construction, but he stressed that any actions would be peaceful. “We’re not going to damage anything or riot or anything like that,” he said.

Like much of the country, however, tribal members are divided over the pipeline. In South Dakota, the battle pits those who fear irreversible effects on the environment and public safety against those who trumpet the economic payoff and a chance to cash in on a kind of big development project that rarely comes along.

In Winner, S.D., where the population numbers fewer than 3,000, Mayor Jess Keesis is eager to welcome construction workers from a 600-member “man camp” that would open just 10 miles from town if President Barack Obama approves the pipeline.

“Out here on the prairie, you know, we’re a tough people,” said Keesis, who’s also a member of the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation in Kansas. “We deal with drought and eight-foot blizzards and all kinds of stuff all the time, so anytime we can get something like this to give us a shot, it’s a good thing.”

Opponents say the risks are too great.

Two weeks ago, an alliance of Native American groups approved a statement saying emphatically that no pipeline would be allowed in South Dakota and that tribes stand ready to protect their “sacred water” and other natural resources.

That includes Native women, who opponents of the pipeline say would become easy prey for thousands of temporary construction workers housed in work camps. According to the federal government, one of every three Indian women are either raped or sexually assaulted during their lifetimes, with the majority of attacks done by non-Native men.

O6vIM.La.91“If you like to drink water, if you like your children not being harmed, if you don’t want your women being harmed, then say no to the pipeline,” Grey Cloud said. “Because once it comes, it’s going to destruct everything.”

Opponents said they don’t want to have to follow through on their plans. They hope that they have the ultimate trump card with a president who just happens to be an adopted Indian. That would be Barack Black Eagle, who was formally adopted by Hartford and Mary Black Eagle of Montana’s Crow Indian Tribe in 2008, when he visited the tribal reservation during his first presidential run.

“They didn’t do that by accident – they saw something in him, and I hope he recognizes that within himself,” Spotted Eagle said.

Grey Cloud said Obama would be “going against his word” if he approves the pipeline: “His main promise was to not allow pollution in our area.”

Keesis said the project carries risks but ultimately would be a winner for the region. He said the city of Winner and surrounding Tripp County would get a windfall of roughly $900,000 a year from construction workers patronizing the town’s restaurants, bars and its recently upgraded digital theater. Even the city would make money, hauling liquid waste from the nearby construction camp to its municipal facilities.

After spending 20 years working in oilfields and boomtowns, he’s convinced that much has changed, with construction workers “under the gun to behave.”

“I’ve been in boomtowns all my life: Wyoming, Texas, California, Colorado, Alaska, everywhere,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be near as bad as what people have in their minds. The oilfield, as with any other occupation like this, has really mellowed over the last 20 years. It’s not the Wild West like it used to be. . . . But you’ve got to take a little bad with the good.”

Obama, who has not said when he’ll make a final decision, is under heavy pressure to approve the project. Just last week, all 45 Republican senators sent a letter to the president, saying thousands of jobs are at stake and reminding him that he had promised them to make a decision by the end of 2013.

Nationally, project backers appear to be riding the momentum, armed with a State Department report on Jan. 31 that minimized the climate change impact of building the pipeline. Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said the report shows Americans that there is “no reason, scientific or otherwise, to block this project any longer.”

While Obama has kept mum, his administration has been offering hope to tribal officials.

“If we’re developing an area that runs through Indian Country, it’s very important that we reach an agreement that makes sense to tribes,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told tribal officials during a visit to Oklahoma in November, according to a story published in the Native American Times. “If not, that might mean the pipeline or transmission line goes somewhere else.”

In South Dakota, the proposed line would not go through any of the state’s nine reservations, but opponents say its close proximity would still pose a hazard.

TransCanada officials say they’ve worked closely with the tribes, even halting work in northeast Texas last year as a team of archaeological contractors dug for Indian artifacts at a sacred site.

With the southern section of the pipeline already open, company spokesman Terry Cunha said TransCanada is now working with 17 tribes in South Dakota, Montana and Nebraska, where the company needs Obama’s approval to build. He said the company hopes to begin work in those states in 2015.

Cunha said the company expects the pipeline to have a “limited impact” on the environment and that its work camps will be provided with around-the-clock security.

“We see it as a positive benefit,” he said.

Besides the short-term construction work, Keesis said his city would gain another 30 to 40 permanent residents who would work on pipeline-related jobs. He said Winner needs a lift, noting that since the city shut down its strip clubs a few years back, fewer pheasant hunters are visiting, opting to stay in big hunting lodges nearby.

“When I moved here, during the first three weeks of pheasant season, you couldn’t find a parking space,” he said. “Now you can park anywhere.”

But the economic argument is a hard sell for many tribal members in South Dakota, where history is still raw. It’s the scene of the some of the bloodiest battles between Indians and the federal government, including the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee Creek by the U.S. 7th Cavalry that killed nearly 300 Sioux.

Spotted Eagle said she feels obligated to try to stop the pipeline, both to provide toxic-free land and water for her grandchildren and to protect women from attacks.

“This is a form of militarism, bringing in these man camps,” said Spotted Eagle. “For those of us who have the history, it smacks of repetitive economics, when they put us in forts and they wanted our land. . . . All we’re willing to do here is sell our soul, just for the economy. That’s the dark side.”

Email: rhotakainen@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @HotakainenRob

Keystone XL ‘black snake’ pipeline to face ‘epic’ opposition from Native American alliance

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Image: U.S. State Department

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Image: U.S. State Department

By Jorge Barrera, January 31, 2014. Source: APTN National News

A Native American alliance is forming to block construction of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline which still needs final approval from U.S. President Barack Obama after the State Department released an environmental report indicating the project wouldn’t have a significant impact Alberta tar sands production.

Members from the seven tribes of the Lakota Nation, along with tribal members and tribes in Idaho, Oklahoma, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon, have been preparing to stop construction of the 1,400 kilometre pipeline which is slated to run, on the U.S. side, from Morgan, Mon., to Steel City, Neb., and pump 830,000 barrels per day from Alberta’s tar sands. The pipeline would originate in Hardisty, Alta.

“It poses a threat to our sacred water and the product is coming from the tar sands and our tribes oppose the tar sands mining,” said Deborah White Plume, of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, which is part of the Lakota Nation in South Dakota. “All of our tribes have taken action to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.”

The U.S. State Department released its long awaited environmental report on TransCanada’s proposed pipeline Friday. The report found that the pipeline’s operation would not have a major impact on Alberta tar sands production which is also at the mercy of market forces.

“Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil prices, oil sand supply costs, transport costs and supply-demand scenarios,” said the report.

The project will now go into a final phase which focuses on whether Keystone XL “serves the national interest.” Pipeline’s environmental, cultural and economic impacts will be weighed in this phase and at least eight agencies will have input on the outcome, including the Department Defence, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency.

A 30-day public comment period will also be initiated on Feb. 5.

The State Department is also in the midst of probing conflict-of-interest allegations levelled against contractors who both worked on the report and for TransCanada.

The Lakota Nation is preparing for the eventuality the pipeline receives approval. The nation has led the formation of a project called “Shielding the People” to stop the pipeline. The Lakota also launched a “moccasins on the ground” program to train people in Indigenous communities to oppose the pipeline.

There are also plans to set up spiritual camps along the pipeline’s route. But when and where those camps will spring up remains a closely guarded secret.

“It will band all Lakota to live together and you can’t cross a living area if it’s occupied,” said Greg Grey Cloud, of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “If it does get approved we aim to stop it.”

Gary Dorr, from the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho, was in Rosebud Friday for a meeting to discuss opposition to Keystone.

The Nez Perce tribe has already used its treaty rights to block the transport of so-called megaloads of mining equipment headed to Alberta’s tar sands through its territory. The tribe launched blockades and won a court battle to stop the shipments from traversing its lands.

“It will be obvious, it will be concrete, and I think once it starts and they start building you will start to see the momentum and the force of the tribal people…it is an epic project, it will have an epic response from the tribal people,” said Dorr. “The tar sands is already affecting the people (for Fort Chipewyan in Alberta), climate change is already obvious. To facilitate that is not something the Native people of the U.S. are going to do. We are not going to sit idly by and let it happen.”

The pipeline has been called the ‘black snake’ in reference to prophecies that had previously been linked to construction of highways and railways. In recent ceremonies, however, discussions sifting through the prophecies noted that the black snake goes under ground.

“That would be a referral to the pipeline,” said Dorr.

Paula Antoine, who works for the Rosebud Tribe’s land office, said while the pipeline does not cross any Lakota reservation lands, it comes close, sometimes metres away. Antoine said the pipeline, however, cuts through their treaty territory, sacred sites and waterways.

“They aren’t recognizing our treaties, they are violating our treaty rights and our boundaries by going through there,” said Antoine. “Any ground disturbance around that proposed line will affect us.”

The battle lines have already been drawn in tribal council chambers. The Oglala Sioux Tribe passed a resolution Friday banning TransCanada and former AFN national chief Phil Fontaine, who has been hired by the energy firm to deal with First Nations opposition to its Energy East project in Canada, from entering its territory.

The resolution received unanimous consent,said White Plume.

The Lakota, Dakota and Nakota make up the Lakota Nation. The nation includes the tribes of Rosebud, Oglala and the Cheyenne Indian reservation, the Yankton Sioux Tribe, Standing Rock, Flandreau Sioux Tribe and the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.

Will Keystone XL Pipeline Pump Sexual Violence Into South Dakota?

The human devastation wrought by the economic energy boom in the Great Plains region may get worse for Native women. This nightmare, according to Keith Darling-Berkus has created a culture of misogyny in which sexual violence—including rape, sex trafficking and domestic assault—are normalized. It has been described as “a male-dominated dystopian nightmare.”

That description is especially ominous for Native women, who are 2.5 times more likely to be victims of sexual violence than women of other races. The perpetrators of this violence are overwhelmingly non-Native.

Native advocates are predicting a similar fallout for women in South Dakota if the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline is approved. TransCanada plans to house pipeline construction workers in three rural man-camps located close to reservations in South Dakota. Each camp will house approximately 1,000 workers.

Both law enforcement officials and native and women’s rights advocates cite the emergence of these ‘man-camps’—temporary housing for transient workers—as major contributors to a rise in violence against all women wherever they are established.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney for South Dakota, Kevin Koliner, Native women comprise 40 percent of sex trafficking victims in the state.

Although some research links the recent oil boom to the emergence of a culture of misogyny in North Dakota, Native-women advocates maintain that the Great Plains of North and South Dakota present fertile ground for such a culture to take hold. They note, for instance, that South Dakota is considered by some men to be a sex tourism destination.

“They come in the fall for pheasant hunting season and in summer for the Sturgis Bike Rally,” says Susan Omanson, executive director of BeFree58 Ministries, a non-profit in Sioux Falls serving survivors of sex trafficking.

Sexual violence, including prostitution and trafficking, are firmly imbedded in the culture and economy of South Dakota .

“Pheasant hunting and the bike rally are economic sacred cows in South Dakota and few residents will dare criticize the industries for fear of losing that influx of cash,” notes Chamberlin, South Dakota-based journalist Maria Burch who has covered the area’s economy for several years. “Most folks around here have to work two or three jobs in order to make ends meet. The income from hunting is very important.”

Revenue from pheasant hunting and the Sturgis Bike Rally represent a significant portion of income for many residents. In Tripp County alone, a popular destination for pheasant hunting, hunters spent copy1.3 million in 2011, according to South Dakota Game Fish and Wildlife Agency. Overall, the state agency reports that hunting pumps $66 million into the state. According to a survey conducted by the Sturgis Rally Department, the overall economic impact of the annual motorcycle rally was over $800 million in 2012.

Although most hunters and bikers in the area are well-behaved, there is a dark side to both those activities, according to U. S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, who says, “Wherever you have a large gathering of men, you have a strong opportunity for prostitution and sex trafficking.”

Advocates for victims of trafficking and prostitution note that there is a strange allure in South Dakota for those looking to purchase commercial sex. “There is a wild west, lawless atmosphere that attracts some visitors to our state,” says Burch. “Not much has really been done to discourage that perception.”

Carmen O’Leary, executive director for the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains, adds that long-standing prejudice against Native people in the Dakotas contributes to a laissez-faire attitude by the public and law enforcement when it comes to pursuing perpetrators of sex crimes against Native women.

Not surprisingly, she says, the safety of Native women doesn’t figure very prominently in economic development projects in the region.

Although the proposed pipeline promises a huge economic boost for the state, South Dakota is totally unprepared for the hidden social and human costs, says Faith Spotted Eagle, Ihanktunwan (Yankton) and member of the Brave Heart Society. She and other pipeline opponents point to the impact of man camps and boomtown mentality on women in the Bakken oil region of North Dakota.

“The attitude [in the Dakotas] seems to be that the lives of a few Indian women are a small price to pay for economics,” says an advocate who asked not to be identified for fear of negative reaction from her board of directors.

In 2013, The Polaris Project, a non-profit organization combating sex trafficking, ranked South Dakota last in the U.S. in its efforts to enact a basic legal framework to combat trafficking.

Arrests for sex trafficking in South Dakota have overwhelmingly been prosecuted under the federal trafficking law. U.S. Attorney Johnson has made the prosecution of these crimes a priority. After an undercover operation during the 2013 Sturgis Bike Rally, his office prosecuted nine men for sex trafficking. Victims ranged from 12 to 15 years of age.

South Dakota passed a law specifically outlawing human trafficking in 2011. In Sioux Falls, one person has been charged under the state law so far, according to Sam Clemons, Public Information officer for the Sioux Falls Police Department. The dearth of law enforcement in much of rural South Dakota only adds to the problem, notes Burch. “Police are spread pretty thin out here,” she says. She thinks that encourages a sense of impunity in men looking to purchase sex. Burch says some of the patrons of the ultra-expensive hunting lodges come to the area with an outsized sense of entitlement.

Nancy Niles of the Oglala Lakota tribe and former resident of Sturgis agrees that tourism promoters often sell South Dakota with romanticized notions of the Wild West associated with the gold rush and pioneer days, where anything goes. “Prostitution at the rally has become normalized,” she says.

Niles lived in Sturgis for 25 years and raised her family there. During that time she says she watched her country town turn into a thick clot of leather and t-shirt shops, strip clubs and a main street that allows public drinking. Commercial sex workers are brought into the city for the rally, according to Niles.

“People got angry with me when I began to call attention to the prostitution that takes place during the rally,” she says. “People prefer to keep their heads in the sand in order to protect the economic injection that the rally brings.”

The hard-partying, anything-goes atmosphere creates a hostile environment for all women in the area.

Niles and her husband recently moved to Nebraska for their retirement. “I could no longer stand to let my taxes go to support this kind of activity,” she says.

Man camps versus tourism

The male tourists who can afford to stay at an upscale, all-inclusive hunting lodge or bring their bikes on extended visits to the bike rally represent a different demographic than those who will be drawn to work on the Keystone pipeline and live in man camps.

“A lot of these guys who come here to work and live in the man camps are on their last dime. They don’t have a whole lot to lose,” notes Sadie Young Bird, executive director of the Ft. Berthold Coalition Against Violence in North Dakota. Indeed, ABC News recently aired a story calling attention to the large increase of registered sex offenders who have relocated to the Bakken oil region.

Marla Bull Bear, executive director of the Native American Advocacy Program in Winner worries about the close proximity of the proposed man-camp in Colume, 10 miles from Winner. Winner is the town closest to the Rosebud Reservation and has a substantial Native population.

Bull Bear’s organization conducts activities designed to divert youth toward healthy traditional Native ways such as a horse camps and coming of age ceremonies.“ Due to poverty and family dysfunction, many of our youth are so vulnerable. They could present easy targets for sex traffickers,” she says.

“Youth in our groups tell us about girls who simply disappear and end up working in the commercial sex industry. Sex trafficking is already here,” she notes.

Jess Keesis, the mayor of Winner, knows first-hand about the rowdy tendencies of men who work in the oil fields, but he believes the camps that will house the pipeline workers will be different. “I’ve worked in the Alaska oil fields and seen oil booms–this won’t be anything like that,” he says.

According to Keesis, the pipeline construction will be far more short-lived than an oil boom and won’t have long-term negative effects on the community. He estimates that it will take about 14 months to complete the pipeline.

Faith Spotted Eagle, however, describes this attitude as terribly shortsighted. “If a woman is brutalized by a pipeline worker, you are talking about a lifetime of impact.”

She bemoans the sense of powerlessness expressed by communities that will be affected by the pipeline. “The average person thinks they can’t stand up to TransCanada. We have internalized this economic-predator thinking that resembles Stockholm syndrome. Since we feel powerless about corporations taking over our communities, we end up siding with these predators.”

For Spotted Eagle, women who suffer from the fallout of economies such as oil are more than unavoidable externalities. “These women have names; they are our sisters, our daughters, our mothers.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/01/27/will-keystone-xl-pipeline-pump-sexual-violence-south-dakota-153280

Noam Chomsky: Canada on high-speed race ‘to destroy the environment’

Noted linguist tells the Guardian “the most powerful among us are the ones who are trying to drive the society to destruction”

Noam Chomsky speaking in Trieste, Italy. (Photo: SISSA/cc/flickr)

Noam Chomsky speaking in Trieste, Italy. (Photo: SISSA/cc/flickr)

By Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams, November 1, 2013

Canada is on a race “to destroy the environment as fast as possible,” said noted linguist and intellectual Noam Chomsky in an interview with the Guardian published Friday.

Chomsky took aim at the conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which has pushed forincreased exploitation of the tar sands,muzzled federal scientists, championed the Keystone XL pipeline and gutted environmental protections.

Harper’s pro-oil, anti-science policies have been the target vocal, widespread opposition, including recent sweeping mobilizations by Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation fighting fracking exploration in New Brunswick.

“It means taking every drop of hydrocarbon out of the ground, whether it’s shale gas in New Brunswick or tar sands in Alberta and trying to destroy the environment as fast as possible, with barely a question raised about what the world will look like as a result,” Chomsky told the British paper, referring to Harper’s energy policies.

Yet there is resistance, he said, and “it is pretty ironic that the so-called ‘least advanced’ people are the ones taking the lead in trying to protect all of us, while the richest and most powerful among us are the ones who are trying to drive the society to destruction.”

His comments echo those he wrote this spring in a piece for TomDispatch entitled “Humanity Imperiled: The Path to Disaster.” He wrote: “[A]t one extreme you have indigenous, tribal societies trying to stem the race to disaster. At the other extreme, the richest, most powerful societies in world history, like the United States and Canada, are racing full-speed ahead to destroy the environment as quickly as possible.”

To organize around climate change, Chomsky told the Guardian that progressives should not frame it as a “prophecy of doom,” but rather “a call to action” that can be “energizing.”

As the country continues what David Suzuki called a “systematic attack on science and democracy” and “we are facing an irreversible climate catastrophe like the tar sands,” Canada’s race to disaster shows no signs of abating.

Fight Over Energy Finds a New Front in a Corner of Idaho

 

Rich Addicks for The New York TimesU.S. Highway 12, which snakes along the Clearwater River in North Central Idaho, was the scene of a protest by the Nez Perce tribe in August. More Photos »

Rich Addicks for The New York Times
U.S. Highway 12, which snakes along the Clearwater River in North Central Idaho, was the scene of a protest by the Nez Perce tribe in August. Click image for more Photos 

By KIRK JOHNSON TheNewYorkTimes

September 25, 2013

 

LAPWAI, Idaho — In this remote corner of the Northwest, most people think of gas as something coming from a pump, not a well. But when it comes to energy, remote isn’t what it used to be.

The Nez Perce Indians, who have called these empty spaces and rushing rivers home for thousands of years, were drawn into the national brawl over the future of energy last month when they tried to stop a giant load of oil-processing equipment from coming through their lands.

The setting was U.S. Highway 12, a winding, mostly two-lane ribbon of blacktop that bisects the tribal homeland here in North Central Idaho.

That road, a hauling company said in getting a permit for transit last month from the state, is essential for transporting enormous loads of oil-processing equipment bound for the Canadian tar sands oil fields in Alberta.

When the hauler’s giant load arrived one night in early August, more than 200 feet long and escorted by the police under glaring lights, the tribe tried to halt the vehicle, with leaders and tribe members barricading the road, willingly facing arrest. Tribal lawyers argued that the river corridor, much of it beyond the reservation, was protected by federal law, and by old, rarely tested treaty rights.

And so the Nez Perce, who famously befriended Lewis and Clark in 1805, and were later chased across the West by the Army (“I will fight no more forever,” Chief Joseph said in surrender, in 1877), were once again drawn into questions with no neat answers: Where will energy come from, and who will be harmed or helped by the industry that supplies it?

Tribal leaders, in defending their actions, linked their protest of the shipments, known as megaload transports, to the fate of indigenous people everywhere, to climate change and — in terms that echo an Occupy Wall Street manifesto — to questions of economic power and powerlessness.

“The development of American corporate society has always been — and it’s true throughout the world — on the backs of those who are oppressed, repressed or depressed,” said Silas Whitman, the chairman of the tribal executive committee, in an interview.

Mr. Whitman called a special meeting of the committee as the transport convoy approached, and announced that he would obstruct it and face arrest. Every other board member present, he and other tribe members said, immediately followed his lead.

“We couldn’t turn the cheek anymore,” said Mr. Whitman, 72.

The dispute spilled into Federal District Court in Boise, where the Nez Perce, working alongside an environmental group, Idaho Rivers United, carried the day. Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill, in a decision this month, halted further transports until the tribe, working in consultation with the United States Forest Service, could study their potential effect on the environment and the tribe’s culture.

The pattern, energy and lands experts said, is clear even if the final outcome here is not: What happens in oil country no longer stays in oil country.

“For the longest time in North America, you had very defined, specific areas where you had oil and gas production,” said Bobby McEnaney, a senior lands analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. A band stretching up from the Gulf of Mexico into the Rocky Mountains was about all there was.

But now, Mr. McEnaney said, the infrastructure of transport and industrial-scale production, not to mention the development of hydraulic fracturing energy recovery techniques, and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, are affecting more and more places.

The Nez Perce’s stand, in a way, makes Mr. McEnaney’s point. The tribe’s fight, and the galvanizing decision by its leaders to step in front of the transport, drew in people who had not been involved before.

“Our history is conservative. You don’t go to court, you don’t fight,” said Julian Matthews, another tribe member. The fighting stance by tribal leadership, he said, was partly driven by pressure from members like him, already pledged to opposition.

Others described the board’s decision as a thunderbolt. After the special meeting where leaders agreed they would face arrest together, the news blazed through social media on and off the reservation.

“Everybody knew it in an hour,” said Angela Picard, who came during the four nights of protest when the load was still on tribal lands, and was one of 28 tribe members arrested.

Pat Rathmann, a soft-spoken Unitarian Universalist church member in Moscow, Idaho, heard the new tone coming from the reservation. A debate over conservation and local environmental impact, she said, had suddenly become a discussion about the future of the planet.

“The least I could do was drive 30 miles to stand at their side,” said Ms. Rathmann, whose church has declared climate change to be a moral issue, and recently sponsored a benefit concert in Moscow to raise money for the tribal defense fund.

The equipment manufacturer, a unit of General Electric, asked the judge last week to reconsider his injunction, partly because of environmental impacts of not delivering the loads. Millions of gallons of fresh water risk being wasted if the large cargo — water purification equipment that is used in oil processing — cannot be installed before winter, the company said.

“Although this case involves business interests, underlying this litigation are also public interests surrounding the transportation of equipment produced in the U.S. for utilization in wastewater recycling that benefits the environment,” the company said.

The risks to the Nez Perce are also significant in the months ahead. Staking a legal case on treaty rights, though victorious so far in Judge Winmill’s court, means taking the chance, tribal leaders said, that a higher court, perhaps in appeal of the judge’s decision, will find those rights even more limited than before.

But for tribe members like Paulette Smith, the summer nights of protest are already being transformed by the power of tribe members feeling united around a cause.

“It was magic,” said Ms. Smith, 44, who was among those arrested. Her 3-year-old grandson was there with her — too young to remember, she said, but the many videos made that night to document the event will one day help him understand.

A version of this article appears in print on September 26, 2013, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: Fight Over Energy Finds A New Front in a Corner of Idaho.

‘Fort McMurray is a wasteland’: Neil Young slams oil patch, Keystone plans

 

Video: Neil Young says Fort McMurray looks like ‘Hiroshima’

 

Paul Koring and Kelly Cryderman

WASHINGTON/CALGARY — The Globe and Mail

Sep. 10 2013

 

Canadian rocker Neil Young has waded into the bitter debate over Alberta’s vast oil sands and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline planned to funnel one million barrels a day of Canadian crude to huge refineries in Texas and Louisiana.

Mr. Young said in a news conference on Monday that oil sands extraction was killing native peoples, igniting a new firestorm in the ongoing battle between proponents who want the massive reserves extracted and an array of opponents who argue that burning the carbon-heavy crude will seriously exacerbate global warming that threatens the planet.

Neil Young arrives for the film "Neil Young Journeys" at the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto on Sept. 12, 2011.(Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Neil Young arrives for the film “Neil Young Journeys” at the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto on Sept. 12, 2011.
(Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima,” Mr. Young said in Washington. “Fort McMurray is a wasteland. The Indians up there and the native peoples are dying.”

Keystone opponents were quick to cheer Mr. Young’s blunt intervention.

Sierra Club spokesman Eddie Scher said: “Neil Young has been expressing and exposing hard truths his whole career,” adding: “Looks like he’s at it again.”

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver – who was in Washington himself on the same day for a meeting with U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, took a different view.

“I am a big fan of Neil Young’s music,” Mr. Oliver told the Globe. “But on this matter we disagree because Keystone XL will displace heavy oil from Venezuela which has the same or higher greenhouse gas emissions, with a stable and secure source of Canadian oil.”

The singer is among a growing number of well-known activists speaking out against Keystone XL “Neil Young is speaking for all of us fighting to stop the Keystone XL,” said Jane Kleeb, Executive Director of Bold Nebraska, a coalition of landowners and others opposed to the $5.3-billion Keystone XL pipeline. “When you see the pollution already caused by the reckless expansion of tar sands, you only have one choice and that is to act.”

Mr. Young, one of Canada’s best-known singer-songwriters since the 1960s, told a conference in Washington Monday that he recently travelled to Alberta, where “much of the oil comes from, much of the oil that we’re using here, which they call ethical oil because it’s not from Saudi Arabia or some country that may be at war with us.”

As for Keystone, Mr. Young lampooned claims that it would create lots of jobs.

“Yeah it’s going to put a lot of people to work, I’ve heard that, and I’ve seen a lot of people that would dig a hole that’s so deep that they couldn’t get out of it, and that’s a job too, and I think that’s the jobs that we are talking about there with the Keystone pipeline,” he said.

He spoke at the U.S. National Farmers Union conference in Washington, intended to support alternative fuels, such as ethanol, which he did at length, slamming Big Oil and talking about his own LincVolt, an old Continental that runs on ethanol and electricity.

Young said he drove the 1959 Lincoln, which runs on ethanol and electricity, to Fort McMurray while traversing the continent from his California home to Washington over the last two and half weeks.

At the same time, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was making the latest in a long series of lobbying visits by ministers and premiers intended to sway President Barack Obama to approve the long-delayed pipeline.

Ms. Kleeb wasn’t impressed. “Prime Minister Harper can write all the memos he wants, Joe Oliver can say anything but the reality is people are dying and the alliance between cowboys and Indians is stronger than any K Street lobbyists Canada hires.”

All Risk, No Rewards, another group opposed to Keystone XL also echoed Mr. Young’s comments.

“Canada’s First Nations know all too well the risks of Keystone XL and the risks of expanding the tar sands,” said Rachel Wolf, a spokeswoman for the group. Ranchers in Nebraska and First Nations peoples in Canada have more in common than one might think: they’re ‘Ordinary People’ who share a common goal to protect their land and protect their water, and they both know that these tar sands expansion projects are all risk and no reward.”

Mr. Young described his recent visit graphically. “The fuel’s all over – the fumes everywhere – you can smell it when you get to town. The closest place to Fort McMurray that is doing the tar sands work is 25 or 30 miles out of town and you can taste it when you get to Fort McMurray. People are sick. People are dying of cancer because of this. All the First Nations people up there are threatened by this.”

Mr. Young’s comments don’t sit well with Fort McMurray’s mayor, who called them “blatantly false.”

Melissa Blake, mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray, said she has no problem with people having environmental interests at heart.

But she said Fort McMurray is totally different from Mr. Young’s characterization. With his power in the music industry, she’s disappointed “there wasn’t more rationality to it.”

“When people say it’s a wasteland, it really and truly isn’t,” Ms. Blake said. “When it comes to the community of Fort McMurray, you’re overwhelmed frankly by the beauty of it. You’ve got an incredible boreal environment that’s all around you. You proceed further north into the oil sands and inevitably, there’s mining operations that will draw your attention because they take up large chunks of land.”

The mayor said she always invites outsiders to the region to see the landscape, and to see oil sands companies’ reclamation efforts.

Danielle Droitsch, director of the National Resources Defense Council, said “Seeing tar sands development up close is shocking” adding “these are massive operations and industry hopes to triple its production over the next 20 years.”

Blocking Keystone XL will thwart expansion of oil sands production, according to the NRDC, but Mr. Oliver says Canada will just export its reserves elsewhere.

With files from Steven Chase and The Canadian Press

Keystone XL decision likely delayed until 2014

CUSHING, OK - MARCH 22: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma. Obama is pressing federal agencies to expedite the section of the Keystone XL pipeline between Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

CUSHING, OK – MARCH 22: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma. Obama is pressing federal agencies to expedite the section of the Keystone XL pipeline between Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Kate Sheppard, Huffington Post

A decision on the fate of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline will likely be delayed until after the release of an inspector general investigation into conflict of interest complaints, a process that will take at least until early 2014, The Hill reported Friday., env

The Office of Inspector General is looking into complaints that Environmental Resources Management (ERM), the contractor that prepared the most recent environmental impact statement on Keystone XL, failed to disclose potential conflicts of interest. ERM had previously done work for TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, and other oil companies that could stand to benefit from it. The connections prompted environmental groups to call for an IG investigation.

A State Department official did not directly respond to The Huffington Post’s request for comment about whether and for how long the IG report may delay a final decision on Keystone XL. The official, who would only comment on background, said that the IG’s review “will provide independent and impartial assessment” of the Keystone XL review process. The department is cooperating fully, the official said, and is “committed to a rigorous, transparent, and efficient federal review of the Keystone XL application.”

But given the attention that the Keystone pipeline has attracted, it is unlikely that the State Department will make a decision on the pipeline before the IG report is finalized. Because the proposed pipeline would cross an international border, the State Department is the agency with the authority to approve or reject Keystone XL.

Before this latest news, the State Department had been expected to issue a final environmental impact analysis on the pipeline sometime this fall. The environmental assessment will inform the State Department’s decision on whether to approve permits for the construction of the pipeline.

Environmental groups cheered the delay, but said they want the Obama administration to reject the pipeline right away. “President Obama doesn’t need to wait for the results of the investigation into Environmental Resources Management,” said Ross Hammond, a senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “He has all the evidence he needs to deny the permit right now.”

The IG’s office previously evaluated the department’s handling of Keystone XL in 2011, after environmental groups and some members of Congress raised conflict-of-interest concerns about another contractor working on the project. That evaluationdid not find any significant problems with the State Department’s process.

7 adorable animals imperiled by the Keystone XL pipeline

Tim McDonnell, Grist

In its deliberations over the Keystone XL pipeline, the State Department is taking flak not just from picket-sign-wielding environmentalists, but also from within the ranks of the Obama administration. This spring the EPA slammed an environmental review as “insufficient” and called for major revisions. And Monday, ThinkProgress uncovered a letter [PDF] from the Interior Department, dated from April, that outlines the many and varied ways in which the pipeline could wreak havoc on plants and animals (not to mention dinosaurs) along its proposed route.

The letter calls particular attention to a line in the State Department’s most recent environmental impact assessment [PDF] that claims “the majority of the potential effects to wildlife resources are indirect, short term or negligible, limited in geographic extent, and associated with the construction phase of the proposed Project only.”

“This statement is inaccurate and should be revised,” states the letter, which is signed by Interior’s Director of Environmental Policy and Compliance, Willie Taylor. “Given that the project includes not only constructing a pipeline but also related infrastructure … impacts to wildlife are not just related to project construction. Impacts to wildlife from this infrastructure will occur throughout the life of the project.”

Which wildlife? The letter raises concerns that potential oil spills, drained water supplies, and bustling construction workers could cause a general disturbance, but identifies the critters below, some of which are endangered, for special attention:

Ross' Geese.
Wikimedia Commons
Ross’ geese.

The Ross’ goose depends on Nebraska’s Rainwater Basin, which the pipeline would pass through, as a key migratory stopover. A spill in the basin could “severely impact critical habitat,” the letter says.

Black-footed ferret.
Wikimedia Commons
Black-footed ferret.

Although the letter praises State Department plans to protect these endangered ferrets, it nonetheless raises concerns about the potential for infectious diseases from domestic pets at construction camps and worksites in Montana and South Dakota to spread to this population of 1,000 or less left in the wild.

Sandhill cranes.
Steve Garvie
Sandhill cranes.

Like the Ross’ goose, the Sandhill crane depends on Nebraska’s Rainwater Basin, which, according to the letter, could be severely impacted by an oil spill.

Least tern and chick.
Wikimedia Commons
Least tern and chick.

Already endangered, least terns depend for nesting on a plot of protected federal land just 40 miles downstream from where the pipeline will cross Nebraska’s Niobrara River. Nests could fail, the letter warns, if construction activities cause fluctuations in the river’s water level.

Piping plover.
Jerry Goldner
Piping plover.

Also endangered, the piping plover depends on the same nesting site as the least tern and faces the same threats.

 

Sprague's pipit.
Jerry Oldenettel
Sprague’s pipit.

In 2010 the Fish & Wildlife Service found the tiny Sprague’s pipit qualified for endangered status, but hasn’t yet been able to officially list it because of higher-priority species. But the pipit breeds in Montana’s North Valley Grassland, which the pipeline would pass through, raising concerns about impact from a spill.

Pallid sturgeons.
Wikimedia Commons
Pallid sturgeons.

 

While not exactly the cutest on this list, pallid sturgeons are also endangered; the letter raises concern that as water is withdrawn from the Platte River during the construction process, the fish and their eggs could suffocate. An assertion by the State Department that no plan is needed to mitigate damage to sturgeons, the letter says, “seems unsupported and requires further documentation.”

This story was produced as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Tim McDonnell is a Climate Desk associate producer. Read more of his stories here or follow him on Twitter.