November 26, 2014

Stopping the Keystone pipeline: The battle of our time

On January 25, 2013, the Ihanktonwan Dakota and the Pawnee Nation signed a formal Treaty by which both Nations and another 131 supporting Native Nations dedicated themselves to resisting the Keystone pipeline.

This Treaty honored the memory of another Peace Treaty signed between these two Nations (which had formerly been enemies) exactly 150 years ago, January 23, 1863. The remaining bands of the Oceti Sakowin, the Great Sioux Nation, in addition to other Canadian First Nations, and the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska plan on joining the fight to resist the Keystone XL pipeline as well.

The Ihanktonwan Representative Faith Spotted Eagle and the group Protect the Sacred has a video link explaining this historical event and treaty here: http://www.protectthesacred.org/.

On February 17 and 18, 2013 the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council passed a resolution to express the Intent of the Oceti Sakowin not to allow Keystone XL onto Oceti Sakowin lands. The Treaty Council stated to President Obama the negative environmental impact the Keystone pipeline will have on the water of our lands. This resolution, reaffirms the Treaty Council’s previous resolution from one year prior which stated, “The Great Sioux Nation hereby directs President Barack Obama and the United States Congress to honor the promises of the United States made through the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie treaties by prohibiting the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline and any future projects from entering and destroying our land without our consent.”

The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council under the Yellow Bird-Steele/Poor Bear Administration and under the current Brewer/Poor Bear OST Tribal Administration has also passed resolutions supporting the Treaty Council’s commitment to oppose the Keystone Pipeline. President Brewer and Vice President Poor Bear have participated in the grass roots movement Owe Aku (Take Back the Way) “Moccasins on the Ground” resistance training in order to prepare for the possibility of the Keystone pipeline attempt to encroach on Oceti Sakowin lands and/or to threaten the Ogallala aquifer.

“We know that without drinking water on the Pine Ridge, it is genocide for our people, our Nation. We are working as best we can to stop the tar sands oil pipeline from entering our territory,” said Debra White Plume, founder of Owe Aku. The pipeline would also cross Mni Wiconi, the water line that brings water from the middle of the state of South Dakota to the Pine Ridge Reservation.

On April 17, 2013 many people traveled to Grand Island, Nebraska to give their comments in person to representatives to the United States State Department regarding TransCanada’s proposed additional pipeline, Keystone XL. Representatives of several tribal Nations traveled to Grand Island to have their and our voices heard. Faith Spotted Eagle and Armando Iron Elk, Sr., traveled as representatives of the Ihanktonwan Delegation, to defend the Sacred Water and stop the pipeline from encroaching on our treaty lands as is our sovereign right.

They described in their statements the fact that consultation on our own Oceti Sakowin lands had not occurred, the consultation process is entirely flawed, encroachment of the pipeline onto Oceti Sakowin lands would be deemed as illegal and breaking the 1851 and 1868 treaties, and the Ihanktonwan expressed dismay at the treatment the Tribes have received in not receiving the same signatory status as states and being relegated to “concurring parties” when we are deemed sovereign nations.

Faith Spotted Eagle stated that there were over 8,000 acres of un-surveyed lands which contain sacred places and endangered plants and animals that had not been evaluated as of yet.

(If you would like to watch video of the event you can see it on the following link thanks to “net: Nebraska’s PBS and NPR stations”: http://www.netnebraska.org/interactive-multimedia/television/keystone-xl-pipeline-hearing-grand-island-ne-part-1 )

I listened to the Grand Island event live streaming on my phone, as I drove to work. As I pulled into the parking lot, in Bismarck, North Dakota, I got chills as I listened to Ihanktonwan Dakota delegate Faith Spotted Eagle describe the historic treaty that had been signed in January.

This treaty between sovereign nations of the Ihanktonwan Dakota and the Ponca Nation,(and 131 supporting tribes) reaffirming the Peace Treaty they had signed 150 years earlier, yet also setting a new path. This new path included the determination for all joined Tribal Nations to fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline, to protect our water, and prevent another attempt by the US government and Canada at land encroachment and resource destruction.

I got chills because in Armando Iron Elk Sr. and Faith Spotted Eagle’s words, I could feel the strength of who we are, who our grandparents are – we are standing up for what is right – for what should be – and that cannot be tainted by oil.

This is the struggle of our time. In our parents time there were other battles to fight, for civil rights, for fishing rights, the fight to survive - THIS IS OUR BATTLE OF OUR TIME - to protect the water for future generations. Where will you be when everything is happening? Will you stand by and watch it happen on Facebook? Will you let it pass you by? Or will you be a warrior and protect Grandmother Earth?

We must let our tribal leaders know, that they should not be bought for a few jobs in the short-term, when their role is to make decisions based on what is best for next seven generations. That is what we expect of them. We must continue to protect the land, the water, the air, the animals…..The Ogallala aquifer is worth more than any money. Our children and grandchildren cannot drink oil.




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