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Native Sun News: Tribes keep up fight against Keystone XL plan

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

A protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline on May 1 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Photo from Oyate Wahacanka Woecun / Facebook

Oceti Sakowin riders to join march against pipeline
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

Note: The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has delayed the hearing until the week of July 27. Tribal activists welcomed the decision.

PIERRE –– An elder at Red Shirt Table had a vision one day of a prayer ride on horseback to honor the water in Lakota territory, and now Jake Yellow Horse’s dream looks like it’s about to come true with a May 3-5 convergence on the South Dakota State Capitol for hearings about the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline across the Great Plains water basin.

Organizers of the Four Directions River Ride are inviting people to bring horses to a water ceremony on the shoreline of the Missouri River between Pierre and Ft. Pierre, and then join rally goers and interveners to proceed with a march to the Capitol Building.

“Many communities get their water directly from the Missouri and refuse to risk pollution from benzene and other chemical byproducts of the KXL Pipeline,” said organizer, Yankton tribal member and Ihanktonwan Treaty Council Chair Faith Spotted Eagle. “Without water we cannot survive.”

TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline would cross the Missouri’s tributaries of the Cannonball River, Grand River, Moreau River and Cheyenne River, as well the Mni Waste’ Rural Water System and the eight-state Ogallala underground water table, which provides a third of the irrigation in the United States.

Supporters of the action are set to meet previously on May 2 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Lower Brule Community Center for a planning meeting and meal hosted by the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. Participants said they will stake tipis at Farm Island Recreation Area in Ft. Pierre on May 3. The march May 4 is expected to culminate at the Public Utilities

Commission (PUC) hearings scheduled to gather written and spoken comments from the general public on May 4 and testimony from tribal governments as well as dozens of other registered interveners May 5-8.

“We will march into Pierre, hold our ceremony, and head straight to the hearing to give our comments!” said pipeline fighter Joye Braun of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. “Please make sure you can join us so we can make our voices heard!”

The Canadian company promoting the pipeline is seeking PUC renewal of its expired certification, or permission, to build 313 miles of 36-inch pipeline and related infrastructure in South Dakota. The company is also awaiting permission in Nebraska and from the U.S. State Department.

TransCanada Corp. wants the pipeline to connect the tar-sands mines in Alberta, Canada, with the rest of the diluted bitumen (dilbit) line it has built from Steele City, Nebraska, to the refineries and export depots on the Gulf of Mexico.

The company told the PUC in 2010 that a spill would occur once in 7,400 years on any given mile of pipe. Since then, more than a dozen spills occurred on its Keystone I Pipeline through South Dakota and other Great Plains states.

The contradiction has attracted official intervention from the Yankton, Cheyenne River, Standing Rock, Oglala Lakota and Rosebud Sioux tribes.

The pipeline, dubbed the Black Snake by opponents, has given rise to spirit camps along its route, in which tipis are erected to support direct action and peaceful resistance, if permits are granted for construction across 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory.

“The power and place of the Oceti Sakowin treaty lands and unceded territory contains a moral relationship with the land, water, plants and animals that we must protect from the Black Snake of KXL,” Spotted Eagle told the Native Sun News.

“The ride represents our faith and belief in the spirit riders of all bands that carry strong prayers for our camps,” she said. ““We must protect our Mother Earth.”

The riders will approach Pierre from four directions and join up there for the water ceremony “to protect Mni Wiconi, or the water of life,” she said.

“Mr. Yellow Horse and his tiyospaye will represent the west direction coming from the Oglala Lakota lands. The riders from Bridger Community’s Pte Ospaye Spiritual Camp will ride from the north direction. The east direction will be represented by Peter Lengkeek and other Dakota 38 riders who will come from Crow Creek Hunkpati homelands. The south direction will be represented by the Ihanktonwan, the Sicangu and Kul Wicasa or Lower Brule,” she explained.

The riders have been asked to meet at the vacant Wakpa Sica Reconciliation Center in Ft. Pierre by 2 p.m., May 4, 2015. From there they are expected to proceed to join allies and marchers of the No KXL Dakota coalition in crossing the Missouri River Bridge leading into Pierre.

“Sacred water of the Missouri River and the Oglala Aquifer, where the Oceti Sakowin is located, possesses memory and wisdom, and is the first medicine of life as we all grow in our first environment, the womb,” Spotted Eagle noted.

The rally is slated to commence when the riders’ and marchers deposit prayers with the water. “The native world is always concerned about the products of what we do and its impact on coming generations, seven and beyond,” she said. Participants are scheduled to arrive at the public hearing at 7 pm.

The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, representing 16 tribes, have been working to halt the pipeline.

Forming part of the anti-pipeline alliance of all races in South Dakota is the non-profit Dakota Rural Action, which has committed to participating in the demonstration and submitting PUC comments.

Most riders will be on horseback for at least 15 to 20 miles leading into the Ft. Pierre gathering point, according to Dakota Rural Action board member Paul Seamans. He said riders will be able to quarter their horses at the reconciliation center, which is about three miles from the bridge between Pierre and Ft. Pierre.

“The water ceremony is an important part of this rally as the protection of our water is a large part of what this fight against the Keystone XL has been all about,” said Seamans, whose ranch would be crossed by the pipeline, if it is permitted.

The PUC session begins at 5:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time in Room 413 of the State Capitol and will adjourn no later than 8:30 p.m., according to officials.

Individuals offering oral comments should state their names, addresses and organizations, if any; speak for no longer than five minutes; avoid reading into the record any published documents, such as reports or newsletter articles; submit written items to the commission in printed or digital form; mention Docket No. HP14-001 or the project name, as well as the commenter’s email address and phone number, if available.

Written comments can be sent by email to puc@state.sd.us or by postal service to PUC, 500 E. Capitol Ave., Pierre, SD 57501 or delivered to the PUC at the public input session.

The complete docket is available on the PUC website at www.PUC.SD.gov, Commission Actions, Commission Dockets, Hydrocarbon Pipeline Dockets, and 2014 Hydrocarbon Pipeline Dockets. The docket is entitled, In the Matter of the Petition of TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP for Order Accepting Certification of Permit Issued in Docket HP09-001 to Construct the Keystone XL Pipeline.

(Contact Talli Nauman Health and Environment Editor for Native Sun News can be reached at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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