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Native Sun News: Keystone protesters greet President Obama

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

When President Obama arrived to make a commencement speech to Lake Area Technical Institute graduates in Watertown on May 8, tribal citizens of the Oceti Sakowin, aka the Great Sioux Nation, awaited him in nearby Belmont Park with the message to reject the proposed Canadian Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline across 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory. Photo courtesy Wica Agli

Pipeline protesters greet President Barack Obama in Watertown
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

WATERTOWN –– When President Barack Obama completed his agenda for visiting all 50 states of the union with a stop in South Dakota on May 8, Native Americans and allies made sure to focus his attention on the longstanding demand to prevent the proposed construction of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline from threatening land and water in 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory.

“We do not want Keystone XL here,” said Braveheart Society member Valeriah Big Eagle, a participant in the No KXL Dakota alliance who helped lay the groundwork for the Watertown action during a May 1 rally against the pipeline organized in Sioux Falls by the statewide Dakota Rural Action and the international Indigenous Environmental Network.

Big Eagle said she wanted Obama “to know how important this issue is to us South Dakotans, and we are asking him to presidentially reject the permit now,” she said.

Many federally recognized tribal governments and traditional councils have resolutions to guard against the pipeline expansion from Canada across the Northern Great Plains, thwart other pipelines across indigenous homelands, and halt the tar-sands mining impacting First Nations north of the U.S.-Canadian border.

For example, Resolution 12-003 of Dec. 21, 2012 states: The Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council will stand with Wet'suweten people to stop all pipelines that threaten to destroy the land, resources, language, and culture for future generations.” The Wet'suweten First Nation is just one of several bands in Canada facing tar-sands pipeline proposals.

A May 2 meeting of the Oceti Sakowin, hosted by the tribal government at Lower Brule Sioux Indian Reservation near the proposed route of the Keystone XL Pipeline through South Dakota, also helped organize the peaceful protest demonstration during Obama’s Watertown visit.

The meeting of the traditional Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation initially addressed preparations for the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) May 4 hearings on the TransCanada Corp.’s request for state reauthorization of its construction.

Meeting-goers initially planned to arrive at the hearings to voice opposition following a horseback ride to the state capital to raise awareness about the pipeline’s risk of toxic spills. TransCanada’s Keystone 1 Pipeline through treaty territory spilled more than a dozen times in its first year of operations.

When the PUC postponed the hearings until July 27-31 and August 3-4, Greg Grey Cloud of the non-profit Wica Agli, formed to reclaim men’s traditional role in Lakota Society, urged attendees to take part in the rally at Obama’s Watertown whistle-stop.

Grey Cloud’s admonition, at the Lower Brule meeting, followed his recent performance of a song in Congress to celebrate lawmakers’ defeat of a bill that would have forced Obama to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline permit to cross the border from Canada to the United States.

“Mr. President, we are seeking an opportunity to be heard. We are here seeking your help to stop Keystone XL and to protect the women and children of our communities,” he said in Watertown.

The Obama Administration is mandated by law to rule on TransCanada’s federal permit application based on the “national interest.” The President has stated that the decision depends on the pipeline’s impact on climate change and greenhouse gas’ contributions to global warming.

“The postponement of the Keystone XL hearing gives him the perfect time to outright reject the permit once and for all,” Big Eagle said.

Tribal nations and people of South Dakota “stand resolute in their objection to the construction of this dirty tar sands pipeline” said Dallas Goldtooth, Keystone XL Pipeline organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network.

“Grassroots leaders, native and non-native, are encouraging Obama to take a great step towards creating a lasting climate legacy and reject the Keystone XL pipeline,” he said.

The horseback ride on occasion of the state hearings will be reconvened at the new summertime dates, organizers said.

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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