Lakota Country Times: Activists ready to keep fighting Keystone

Tribal citizens take part in a protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington, D.C., in March 2014. Photo by Stephen Melkisethian via Flickr

Public Utilities Commission approves recertification of KXL
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

PINE RIDGE— On Tuesday, January 5, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission determined that a certification request filed by the oil giant Transcanada to construct the Keystone XL pipeline is valid.

Although President Obama has already denied a request from the Transcanada for a cross border permit that would have allowed for the construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline through the heart of the Lakota Country, without presidential approval, the pipeline cannot be constructed. Representatives of Transcanada have stated that their attempts to acquire approval from individual states is in anticipation of a pipeline friendly president being elected in the near future.

“State law narrowly defines the certification question we voted on today,” said PUC Chairman Nelson. “This was not a question of whether the permit should have been issued in 2010; rather, it was whether TransCanada filed a valid certification stating that the company can meet the conditions attached to the original permit. Opponents failed to prove that the certification was not valid. We all understand, however, that the pipeline cannot be constructed without a presidential permit,” Nelson continued.

According to a press release from the South Dakota PUC the “commission granted intervenor status to all 30 individuals and 12 organizations that requested it, allowing them full participation in the certification docket including the ability to file legal motions, request discovery (facts or documents), present testimony and evidence, and participate in the evidentiary hearing. Three intervenors withdrew from the docket in the spring of 2015. The remaining intervenors included landowners along the pipeline route, Native American tribes, environmental groups, grassroots membership organizations, and interested individuals from South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and New York,” said the release.

The certification of the pipeline by the PUC has no bearing on President Obama’s previous decision that prevents the construction of the pipeline, but opponents of the pipeline have not held back on their displeasure with the PUC’s ruling.

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“Today a battle was lost after the war was won. The SD PUC’s approval of the KXL permit does not override the Presidential Permit rejection. The facts prove that the project is not in the best interest of any living creature on the planet. We will remain steadfast beside our friends, allies and relatives to ensure our future generations have clean water and our land is protected. Unci Maka is not going anywhere and neither are we, our children’s grandchildren are depending on us,” said Paula Antoine of the Oyate Wahacanka Woecun/Rosebud Spirit Camp.

Continued attempts by Transcanada to gain approval of the pipeline at several levels of both state and federal government has included attempts to silence the voices of indigenous environmental advocates who have stood strong against its construction.

“Today, PUC Commissioner Hanson gave patronizing comments about Native world views, a blatant example of active settler colonialism at work in the hearing rooms of the conqueror; loftily approving Transcanada's request for a state permit through Dakota lands.  Hanson revealed his conqueror mentality by saying finally, finally he understood that Natives have a differing a world view, which he doesn't,” said Faith Spotted Eagle of the Ihanktowan Treaty council.  Such comments are dangerous and very, very oppressive.  His patronizing comments solidified continued active colonialism which means invasion of Native lands; destruction of sacred sites and lifeways; appropriation of land that is not theirs and ethnocide,” she added.

Newly elected chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Lewis Grass Rope, summed up the attitude of many across Lakota Country who are willing to take on the fight against big oil again in the future.

"Today our hearts hurt because of this decision. When our lands are threatened, so are our people. This decision reflects the greed by corporations who wish to destroy our great mother earth. As Lakota we are still here and we will stand till the end to save our generations to come. Through the unity of Indigenous People we will continue to stand on the front lines to defend our way of life and the future generations to come," said Grassrope.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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