Nathan Phillips of the Omaha Tribe sings and plays a drum at the fifth annual Ponca sacred corn planting ceremony at the Tanderup farm near Neligh, Nebraska on Sunday. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

'We will be waiting': Tribes remain opposed to Keystone XL Pipeline

With construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline set to begin in 2019, tribes remain opposed to the controversial crude oil project.

TransCanada, the Canadian firm behind the pipeline, sent letters to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Fort Peck Tribes last week, informing them of construction-related activities in South Dakota and Montana. One leader had a short but pointed response.

"We will be waiting," Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier wrote in the letter. He added in a post on Twitter: "You are not welcome on our treaty territory TransCanada."

The 1,179-mile pipeline would link the oil fields of Canada’s Alberta province to refineries in the United States. Former President Barack Obama rejected the project in November 2015 but President Donald Trump reversed course and approved it after taking office in 2017.

The Keystone XL route runs through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska before connecting to existing pipeline infrastructure. Tribes in all three states have opposed the project but have been unable to stop it in the courts, with Cheyenne River losing a ruling in its case in South Dakota last month.

The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma are trying a new approach. They recently accepted the transfer of 1.6 acres in Nebraska in hopes of stopping the pipeline from running through their ancestral territory.

“When we talk about these issues on eminent domain, the Ponca Tribe is painfully aware of what can happen, how the federal government can make up its mind to erase a nation, to erase a people,” Larry Wright Jr., chairman of the Poncas in Nebraska, said during a deed signing on June 10.

TransCanada plans to start construction-related activity this month and continue through the fall, according to the letter sent to Cheyenne River. Actual construction is expected next year, Inside Climate News reported.

"TransCanada recognizes tribal nations as rightsholders who have a distinct relationship to the land," the July 11 letter reads. "We appreciate the concerns that local tribal leadership and community members may have with the increased activities throughout Montana and South Dakota, and welcome the opportunity to discuss further."

The pipeline route does not cross any reservations but it runs through territory promised to the Sioux Nation by treaty. It also crosses the Ponca Trail of Tears, the path the Ponca people were forced to walk 141 years ago, when the federal government ordered them to leave Nebraska and move to Oklahoma.

Read More on the Story:
‘We Will Be Waiting’: Tribe Says Keystone XL Construction Is Not Welcome (Inside Climate News July 13, 2018)
TransCanada to Move Materials, Prep Sites for Keystone XL (The Associated Press July 14, 2018)

South Dakota Supreme Court Decision:

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