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Posted: April 6, 2020

Leaders of the Fort Belknap Indian Community attend a federal court hearing in their case against the Keystone XL Pipeline in Great Falls, Montana, on September 12, 2019. Photo: Native American Rights Fund


TransCanada Pushes KXL Construction Despite COVID-19 Threats

 Great Falls, MT (April 3, 2020) – On the same day the Trump Administration announced that up to 240,000 people may succumb to the COVID-19 virus, TransCanada announced it is proceeding with KXL pipeline construction. In fact, TransCanada outlined several activities scheduled for April all along the route of the pipeline, not just at the border. With this construction, workers will descend on the communities along the pipeline’s proposed path. TransCanada ignores the threat that this influx of people creates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the face of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the Fort Belknap Indian Community and Rosebud Sioux Tribe, represented by the Native American Rights Fund, asked the court in Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Trump to grant a temporary restraining order on pipeline construction. The Tribes are asking the court to put a short hold on construction until a hearing scheduled later this month.

“Fort Belknap has declared a state of emergency on the reservation because of the extremely dangerous COVID-19 pandemic and its threat to the health and well-being of the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribal members” said President Werk of the Fort Belknap Indian Community. “We are very concerned about TransCanada bringing in outside construction workers from all over to build this pipeline within an hour from our reservation,” President Werk continued.

“Rosebud has issued a curfew, closed businesses, and asked all to shelter in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are joined in a fight against an invisible enemy that we now know is highly contagious before its hosts even show symptoms” said President Bordeaux of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “Based on these extraordinary circumstances, we ask that TransCanada halt any construction during this pandemic,” President Bordeaux continued.

Leaders of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe attend a federal court hearing in their case against the Keystone XL Pipeline in Great Falls, Montana, on September 12, 2019. Photo: Native American Rights Fund

A two-week delay in the face of a pandemic would seem like the obvious course of action. Instead, despite the danger to tribal citizens and all of the people living in the area, TransCanada is pushing to quickly build as much of the pipeline as possible. Of course, they can then use this ongoing construction as justification for allowing the project to proceed whether or not the project is legal.

“We are in unprecedented times, and to continue in the face of this pandemic and place our communities at greater risk is irresponsible,” said NARF Staff Attorney Matthew Campbell. “The KXL pipeline as currently routed violates the treaties, federal law, and tribal law. We’re asking that the United States honor its treaty obligation to protect Rosebud and Fort Belknap.”

More information about the case at



About Native American Rights Fund (NARF)

Since 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) has provided legal assistance to Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide who might otherwise have gone without adequate representation. NARF has successfully asserted and defended the most important rights of Indians and tribes in hundreds of major cases and has achieved significant results in such critical areas as tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, natural resource protection, and Indian education. NARF is a non-profit 501c(3) organization that focuses on applying existing laws and treaties to guarantee that national and state governments live up to their legal obligations.

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