Environment | Opinion | Politics

Dustina Gill: Vote for Rick Weiland to protect our sacred waters

Rick Weiland meets with opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline at the Shield the People camp near Ideal, South Dakota. Photo from Indian Country for Rick Weiland / Facebook

Everyone in the Great Sioux Nation in South Dakota needs to say something on Tuesday, November 4, to stand up for our people – past, current, and future - by casting a vote for someone who will promote policies that will protect our lifeblood – our sacred waters.

Two issues weigh heavily on us right now affecting our water – the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline and the prospects of uranium mining (the Dewey-Burdock project) in the southern Black Hills. It is each Indian person's opportunity and responsibility to make a statement at the ballot box. And we have the numbers, as we did in the election of Senator Tim Johnson, to make a difference. Your children and grandchildren, not yet old enough to vote, need to see you take this action.

Tribes in South Dakota are clearly on record in opposition to the Keystone Pipeline and to uranium mining in the Black Hills. The Keystone Pipeline, which would carry dirty, chemical-laden tar sands from Canada, would traverse much of our ancestral homelands. It poses a clear danger to our long fought-for Mni Wiconi project which provides clean drinking water to several Indian reservations and other areas of the state. The federal government has already invested $450 million in this worthy project and to undermine it with this environmentally dangerous pipeline is foolhardy.

Meanwhile, the Dewey-Burdock project would pollute the water in our Treaty Area by extracting uranium via injecting gigantic amounts of oxygenated water mixed with carbon dioxide. In addition, both projects would impact untold numbers of tribal cultural sites and burial areas. We cannot let greedy foreign companies dedicated to producing non-renewable energy to do this to us.

When you look at your ballot you will not see a column that says "Keystone XL Pipeline" or "Uranium Mining", but who you vote for will make a difference in whether our sacred lands and waters will be subjected to the pipeline and uranium mining. Rick Weiland is the one candidate in the South Dakota U.S. Senate race who is upfront and consistently has supported Indian tribes in opposing these projects. Rick knows where he stands, and he stands with Indian country on economic, health, environment and all issues and has put it out in a proposed Marshall Plan for Indian Country.

Unlike Larry Pressler, Rick does not hold his finger to the wind to find his course. Larry Pressler, when he first ran for Congress changed his party registration from Democrat to Republican in order to increase his chances of victory. Now he has changed from Republican to Independent, thus avoiding a primary election, to in his mind further his chances. He has already had 22 years in Congress and his luck has run out.

Rick Weiland is now, and as a United States Senator will be, a hard-working friend for Indian Country. On Election Day I will be in the voting booth for someone who stands up and works for Indian Country, Rick Weiland.

Dustina Gill is a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in South Dakota. She is leading a bus tour of all reservaions in the state on behalf of Rick Weiland and is leading the campaign's Native vote effort. She lives in Sisseton with her husband and children.

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