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Campaign Update – Keystone: Construction begins on Southern Leg, Protests Continue

TransCanada, the company that wants to build an oil pipeline from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries, said Wednesday it has revised its proposed route through Nebraska to avoid environmentally sensitive areas, reported Huffington Post. 

In January, President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada's original application for a federal permit to build the pipeline after congressional Republicans imposed a deadline for approval that didn't allow enough time to address questions about the route through Nebraska.  Since then, TransCanada has split the project into two pieces. The company began construction last month on the southern section of the pipeline between Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast.  Protests surge in Texas, where activists have chained themselves to machinery to stop the progress of construction. 

This is the company's second attempt at proposing a route through Nebraska.  But environmentalists and native communities, insist that this new route is still problematic, urging the project be scrapped entirely due to real concerns over contaminating ground water, harming wildlife, increasing air pollution, and desecrating native burial grounds. On Monday the Washington Post published a chronicle of the Pipeline's effect on Native communities. 

On October 2nd, the night before the first presidential debate, Indigenous Peoples and organizations from Colorado joined together to call on Mitt Romney and President Obama to withdraw support for the Keystone XL pipeline.  Tom Poor Bear, Oglala Nation Vice-President, called the pipeline "an 1,800 mile snake that's going to bore itself into Mother Earth and start spitting black venom at our water, which our future generations are going to drink someday," reported the Huffington Post Blog.

Legal Obligations

 It is clear that the project has not obtained the free, prior, and informed consent of native communities that it will impact, as is required under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Obama endorsed in 2010.  However, TransCanada's top liaison with Native Americans, Lou Thompson, has claimed that they have "no legal obligation" to work with tribes. Scholars of historical treaties disagree.  Poor Bear raised concerns: “First of all, these are treaty lands and the treaties were signed with the promise of undisturbed lands. This was an agreement between the great Sioux Nation and the United States. It is a treaty violation," Poor Bear stated to Indian Country Today.  “We also have the Mni Wiconi project,” Poor Bear said. “This project is bringing water from the Missouri River not just to the reservation but people outside of the reservation will benefit from the water. The KXL is going to cross over this water three times. If that pipeline leaks, there will be a lot of drinking water for a lot of people contaminated.”

The Oglala Lakota have responded to the recent pipeline plans by organizing teach-ins about how to protect the water considered sacred by their people.  Read the following call-to-action by Debra White Plume of the Oglala Lakota, (originally published on Censored News).

Debra White Plume: Sacred Water Protection Teach-Ins

The precious drinking water supply of the Oglala Lakota people will be overlapped more than a few times if TransCanada gets its way and the US State Department approves its second attempt to get a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline will enter this big land in Montana, come south and skirt the Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, Lower Brule, and Rosebud Reservations before it enters Nebraska.  Recently, TransCanada revealed its “new” route through the sandhills of Nebraska, keeping their budget in mind, they diverted a total of 20 miles. There is sandhills land on the Pine Ridge in the LaCreek District. The KXL pipeline will be buried into the Ogllala Aquifer, in numerous places when one digs a few feet down, water rises.  

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"full","fid":"61311","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"600","style":"width: 500px; height: 375px; ","width":"800"}}]]Debra White Plume (right) at Eagle Butte, SD protesting Keystone XL.

Our Lakota people, and people all over South Dakota, depend on the Rural Water Pipeline, or Lyman Jones as it is called off-reservation. It crosses the Lyman Jones in 43 places. It crosses our water pipeline to the Pine Ridge at least twice. 

The KXL will carry dirty crude tarsands oil from the mines near the Ft McMurray area of Alberta, Canada. Much of the pristine Boreal Forest has been totally decimated, strip mined to bare dirt, to get at the tarsands oil deep in Mother Earth. The oil miners use 3 to 4 barrels of drinking water to produce one barrel of oil, and stores billions of gallons of waste water in huge waste water ponds. It is a secret what chemicals they use to dilute the heavy crude! However, a VietNam Veteran knew that some of the chemicals are the same as what was used in Agent Orange, revealed in a meeting with the US State Dept I attended last spring in Washington, DC. That VietNam Veteran is from here on the Pine Ridge. Maybe he will come and speak out!

Owe Aku is hosting a series of “Sacred Water Protection Teach Ins” across Lakota Territory, the first will be held at our own famous Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge Village on September 26, 2012 and at Kyle on September 27, 2012 at the Church Hall, both begin at 1pm. On both dates, there will be guest speakers and a lot of handouts to share FACTS on the tarsands oil mine, the KXL oil pipeline, and the historical and cultural Lakota land sites that TransCanada plans to cross. Tribal officials will be speak on these significant landsites, allied organizations who also work to protect drinking water and Mother Earth will be speaking, and we will have slideshows to share images from the tarsands oil mine and other water destruction mining and mining-related activities. 

 We will have handouts that describe how each Tribal Government plans to protect their Homelands, and we want to generate a discussion on how we can all work together to protect our sacred water, Mother Earth, and coming generations. We will share images of how people in Texas are protecting their ranches, farms and neighborhoods from TransCanada’s KXL oil pipeline, and from heavy haul trucks carrying equipment across our Homelands, as well the river hauls in BC Canada.

Info will be available regarding the impacts of oil mining using the hydrofracturing (fracking) method, a technique that is being banned around the world, yet is being practiced all over this big land. There is recent discussion on the Pine Ridge regarding fracking near our northern border and on the Reservation as well. Several tribal candidates are already discussing how the Oglala Sioux Tribe must prepare for oil ‘fracking’. We want to give folks an opportunity to voice their opinion on this crucial topic.

There will be time for Traditional Headsmen to speak regarding these mining issues and to lead the discussion on a statement from all those in attendance regarding the protection of our sacred water, Mother Earth and coming generations, after all, we protect this sacred water for them, it is their water. Mni wicozani, through water there is life.
Oglala musicians Scatter Their Own will share their awesome indigenous music, and a drum group will share their songs. A feed will follow, and there will be beverages and snacks all afternoon. The “Sacred Water Protection Teach In” is open to all people, everyone is encouraged to attend, learn what you can, share what you know, be part of the statement made on these dates! Bring your friends, relatives and neighbors.

For more info call Vic Camp at 605-407-7808 and Alex White Plume at 605-455-2155, or look up the “Sacred Water Protection Teach In” event page on Facebook.