Above photo by Vi Waln. IDEAL, SD – The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has set up a Spirit Camp as a peaceful, non-violent way to protest construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (KXL).
NOTE: This is an open letter to the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council in response to conflicting accounts of whether they oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline.
As part of pressuring the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council into rescinding their support of TransCanada and the Lower Brule to Witten Power Project, please feel free to use, modify, and/or create your own letter. Here is the letter template: LBSTC KXL LETTER TEMPLATE. Mail physical copies to each individual councilman at the address below. Please send letters and share this information, even if you are not an enrolled member of the Kul Wicasa Oyate. We need your help! Our land, water, and future are at stake. Pilamayelo!
For more information on how to help and support the Kul Wicasa Oyate, contact Lakota George Estes (605 730 0852), Shaylene High Elk (605 730 0651), or Nick Estes (email@example.com).
To the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council:
Chairman Michael Jandreau
Vice-Chairman Boyd Gourneau
Councilman Red Langdeau
Councilman Darrel Middletent
Councilman John McCauley
Councilman Shawn LaRoche
Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
P.O. Box 187
Lower Brule, SD 57548-0187
SAY NO TO THE KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE AND CEASE NEGOTIATIONS WITH TRANSCANADA IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE OYATE AND THE OCETI SAKOWIN
It has come to the attention of the public that the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council passed Resolution No. 14-0007 on November 12, 2013. This resolution authorized Chairman Michael Jandreau to sign a letter to President Obama and Vice Secretary Kerry “stating Lower Brule Sioux Tribe’s prospective benefits and working relationships with Transcanada [sic].” In spite of having passed this resolution to express support for TransCanada, the construction company contracted to build the Keystone XL pipeline, Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council members have again and again claimed they oppose the pipeline. Most recently Vice Chairman Boyd Gourneau recently told KSFY News, “We—the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe—are opposed to Keystone XL pipeline.” And Chairman Jandreau reiterated Gourneau’s statement and expressed the following: “It is time that Tribal people come together positively to those activities that are so destructive to our continuation as Lakota’s [sic]!”
Where does the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council stand on the Keystone XL Pipeline and TransCanada’s ancillary power projects? What has been negotiated and agreed upon?
To begin with, Basin Electric Power Cooperative is proposing to construct and manage a 76-mile 230kV power transmission line from the Big Bend Dam to the Witten Substation to provide power to a proposed Keystone XL pipeline pump station. Along with the power transmission line, Basin Electric is planning to construct the Lower Brule Substation near the Big Bend Dam. Both proposed project would be on Lower Brule Tribal Reservation trust lands. The transmission line would also cross individually allotted land, some of which remains fractionated and owned by multiple interests from members of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and enrolled members of other tribes. In total, the project requires only 16 acres of land within the Lower Brule Reservation boundaries. In a December 2011 “Routing Report,” TransCanada states:
The need for the [Lower Brule-Witten] Project is driven by two key factors: 1) serve proposed short-term load growth on the 115-kV system between Basin Electric’s Mission and Fort Randall Substations, including electric service demands from pump stations for the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline; and 2) provide an additional source of power at the Witten Substation to improve regional system reliability and voltage stability.
The document reveals that the Basin Electric and TransCanada would benefit from the proposed power project, but does not indicate that there will be any benefit the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. Nonetheless, the project would solicit negotiations with the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, since it proposes to enter the jurisdictional boundaries of the reservation; and it would require that the Bureau of Indian Affairs approve any right-of-ways for the proposed project that would cross Indian trust lands.
A 2013 December document, listed as “unclassified,” also names Chairman Jandreau and Tribal Cultural Resource Officer Claire Green under “Consulting Tribes’ Points of Contact” for “the implementation of the Programmatic Agreement for the Keystone XL Pipeline Project.” The Programmatic Agreement (first drafted in 2010 and then amended in 2013) provides that if culturally sensitive areas affected or discovered during the construction process tribes will be consulted. But signing the Programmatic Agreement also gives evidence that TransCanada has consulted with tribes. Yet this is a violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ Article 32, which states:
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources. [Emphasis added]
As it stands the current Programmatic Agreement does not allow for free and informed consent prior to the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Lower Brule to Witten Power Project. Nothing in the agreement’s current language allows for the tribes to reject either project, and suggests that through negotiation and consultation implicit agreement has been reached to the projects’ terms and inevitability.
However, in September 2011 the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association adopted the “Mother Earth Accord” that calls for “full consultation” under the Declaration’s “free and informed consent prior” to these projects’ approval. The Association further called for a moratorium on oils sands production and urged President Obama to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline’s Presidential Permit. Likewise, the Oglala Lakota Nation, the Sicangu Oyate, traditional treaty councils, and many community organizations have adopted resolutions in opposition to any negotiations with TransCanada and the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. In sum, the Oceti Sakowin and the Oyate opposes the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Where does this leave the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council if they have adopted a resolution to the show support to TransCanada? First, public statements issued in opposition to the pipeline appear moot if the Council continues to negotiate for the Lower Brule to Witten Power Project. Second, the Lower Brule Tribal Council has turned its back on the Oceti Sakowin and enrolled members of its tribe if it allows this power structure to be built within its reservation boundaries, since it will provide an essential source of electricity to one of the pipeline’s pump stations.
Not taking a firm stand in opposition to the pipeline places the Lower Brule community at risk as well as the all communities that will be affected by the pipeline’s construction. Access to clean drinking water will also be placed at risk. The proposed route of the Keystone XL Pipeline currently crosses 357 streams and river, namely the Cheyenne River and White River, which are also tributaries to the Missouri River. The pipeline would also cross the Mni Wiconi Rural Water Supply Project, which currently provides fresh drinking water to the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Lakota Nation, and the Sicangu Oyate. More importantly, the pipeline crosses the Ogllala Aquifer, the one of the world’s largest freshwater aquifers. Contamination of this aquifer would result in catastrophic effects that would impact countless people, animals, and plants that depend on this vital source of water.
Given TransCanada’s poor record with spills resulting in faulty construction and poorly maintained pipelines, it would not be a matter of if the pipeline spills but when the pipeline spills. The inevitability of spills, then, would result in the inevitable contamination of fresh water. Successful cleanups of oil sands spills have proven ineffective and these spills often result in near-permanent water contamination. By negotiating with TransCanada and supporting the construction of the Lower to Witten Power Project, the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council will not only put the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe’s water at risk for contamination, but also everyone else’s water.
As several Oceti Sakowin tribal councils are in the process of drafting a Declaration of War against TransCanada and the Keystone XL Pipeline, it is imperative that the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council rescind its support for the TransCanada and the Lower to Witten Power Project and publicly denounce these projects. It is imperative that the Lower Brule Tribal Council refuses further consultation and negotiation with TransCanada. It is imperative that the Lower Brule Tribal Council stands with the Kul Wicasa Oyate’s collective opposition to these projects. It is imperative that the Lower Brule Tribal Council supports the efforts of its enrolled members to put a halt to these projects. It is imperative that the Lower Brule Tribal Council stands with the Oceti Sakowin, other Indigenous Nations, and non-Indigenous communities in the fight against TransCanada and the Keystone XL Pipeline. This is a struggle for life, the future, and the continued survival of the Kul Wicasa Oyate.
It is my hope that you take these insights seriously, as a relative and fellow citizen of the Kul Wicasa Oyate.
Enrolled member of the Kul Wicasa Oyate
PhD Student, Univervisty of New Mexico