Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe leads riders into Fort Laramie in Wyoming in April 2018 for the 150th commemoration of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. Photo by Richie Richards / Native Sun News Today

Native Sun News Today: Tribes object to Keystone XL Pipeline man camps

KXL Pipeline: Time’s up for comment on ‘tribally important’ areas

CAMP CROOK – The Sioux Ranger District of the Custer Gallatin National Forest, headquartered here, will take comment through June 6 about draft plans for public lands in a “tribally important” area of proposed hazardous Keystone XL Pipeline construction and ongoing uranium mine cleanup.

The tar-sands crude oil line would be built from Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, if all permits are secured. In the far northwest corner of South Dakota, the line would skirt ancient rock art and unreclaimed radioactive uranium tailings piles in the Cave Hills area of the national forest.

To draw up the drafts for comment, the U.S. Forest Service staff contacted 16 tribes, establishing an “Intergovernmental Working Group” for city, county, state, federal, and tribal representatives. The scope of the study included an assessment of “tribally important areas”, conducted with Lakota elders’ input for purposes of the revision.

The result was a set of initial recommendations distinguishing the Sioux Ranger District as part of unceded 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory. It recognizes: “With over 100 years of forced removal, some physical connections between the tribes and the national forest have been lost, yet many still remain in stories and traditions tied to the landscape.”’

A map prepared for the Native Sun News Today shows the proposed route of the Keystone XL Pipeline in South Dakota and the man-camp location in Harding County, as well as the proximity of abandoned uranium mines and sacred sites in the North Cave Hills of the Custer Gallatin National Forest. Map by Frank DiCaesare

The draft planning documents go on to address cultural heritage and hazardous Superfund sites in the ranger district but fail to account for their relationship to pipeline construction and operation.

In addition, the cultural resources overview for the sacred sites adjacent to radioactive waste is “seriously outdated,” according to comments submitted by archaeologist Linea Sundstrom.

A consultant, Sundstrom contracted with the Forest Service to help preserve the cultural materials before the agency deemed abandoned Riley Pass uranium mines off-limits due to “the human health, safety and environmental concerns related to elevated levels of hazardous substances including arsenic, molybdenum, thorium, radium and uranium.”

A map prepared for the Native Sun News Today shows the relationship of the legacy waste and the pipeline route, both of which menace 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory.

The map highlights a man-camp site where construction workers would be housed in a temporary settlement. That location is near Buffalo and the point at which the pipeline crossing of the Grand River would coincide with the bridge on Highway 85 (CanAm Highway).

It shows the pipeline would pass no more than 10 miles from the Cave Hills historic preservation area and the Riley Pass Uranium Mine Response and Restoration Project, operated as a Superfund site by the Forest Service.

The cleanup project and adjacent storied petroglyphs, including those of sacred Ludlow Cave, are approximately 25 miles north of Buffalo. The man camp is slated nearly 10 miles west of Buffalo just off Highway 20, on the way to Camp Crook, all in Harding County.

Landowners Tom and Lori Wilson have obtained state approval to divert well water in Hell Creek Aquifer from agricultural use to supply the man camp on their property.

Indianz.Com Video by Kevin Abourezk: Keystone XL Pipeline Decision

Now, South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Chief Engineer Jeanne Goodman has recommended that the state Water Management Board approve Wilsons’ new application to use their wells for as many as five other man camps in Fallon County, Montana; Meade, Haakon and Tripp counties in South Dakota.

However, no sooner had notice of her decision been posted publicly than did the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, CRST, petition to oppose it.

“The lands where the activities covered by the proposed permit would occur have been adjudged by the U.S. Supreme Court to be the aboriginal and treaty-titled land of the tribe,” CRST Attorney General Tracey Zephier noted in the petition, citing United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians (1980).

“Moreover, the planned KXL man camp in Meade County, which would be served by the water taken pursuant to the proposed permit, is slated to be just a few miles from the western boundary of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe,” she wrote.


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