Crow Creek Sioux Chariman Brandon Sazue speaking at the U.S. Capitol
Published November 20, 2017
CALGARY, ALBERTA – “The Axis of Evil for us today is DAPL, the Keystone-XL Pipeline, and the delisting of the sacred grizzly bear,” Chief Stanley Grier asserted at a historic tribal gathering in the Black Hills on July 4th. With Nebraska’s Public Service Commission set to issue its decision today on whether or not to grant a permit for the highly controversial Keystone-XL Pipeline, Grier remains resolute.
“I stand by those comments,” the Chief of the Piikani Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy confirmed. Oil is now pumping through DAPL beneath the Missouri. Secretary Zinke has delisted the grizzly from the Endangered Species Act so Wyoming, Montana and Idaho can open trophy hunts on the Great Bear that many tribes consider a grandparent, while simultaneously removing restrictions on land usage in Greater Yellowstone to enable extractive industry. Keystone-XL is the last of Trump’s trifecta.
“With our brothers and sisters from the Great Sioux Nation, from the Ponca Nations, and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, on May 17 we signed a declaration opposing K-XL and tar sands expansion. We did it on TransCanada’s doorstep, in Calgary. With the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, representatives of over 80 tribal nations then met in the Black Hills on July 4 to reinforce that declaration through solidarity and ceremony. Last week, the latest TransCanada oil spill on traditional Great Sioux Nation lands provided yet another example of why we are raising our voices in defense of the sacred,” explained Grier.
The existing Keystone Pipeline spewed 210,000-gallons of crude from a rupture near Amherst, South Dakota last week, approximately twenty-miles from the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate. Chairman Dave Flute advised that the tribe “needed to know more” about the causes and impact. Conversely, Nebraska’s Public Service Commission is not seeking any answers, and confirmed that the spill will have no impact on its decision, which will be based upon information imparted at previous public hearings. TransCanada, Keystone and Keystone-XL’s owner and operator, has spent $925,224 on lobbying efforts in Nebraska during the last four years.
“The Tar Sands is just above the northern boundary of traditional Blackfoot Confederacy territory. I have seen it with my own eyes. It can only be described as an environmental holocaust. I remember thinking as I flew over it: ‘At what price a job? At what price corporate profits?’ We know that price now. Increased incidences of cancer among neighboring First Nations communities. Further cultural and social anguish from ‘man camps.’ For 35 permanent jobs in the US, Keystone-XL is not only the fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet, but also a devastating attack on our traditional cultural values that we continue to fight to retain,” said Chief Grier, who is presently Chairman of the Blackfoot Confederacy Chiefs.
Both industry supported and government reports that downplay the health impacts on First Nations’ communities from toxic tar sands pollution continue to be contradicted by the rates of disease in these communities. Alberta Health Services conceded that during one twelve-year period, cancers increased in Fort Chipewyan by 30% with an emphasis on leukemia, lymphomas, bile duct cancers, soft tissue sarcomas, and lung cancers. In peer-reviewed scientific studies, these cancers have been linked to petroleum products and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in tar and soot.
A provincial air quality study published in 2016 revealed hydrocarbon emissions from tar sands operations exceeded health related thresholds in and around the Fort McKay First Nation. Benzene has frequently been detected in First Nations located near the tar sands. “This carcinogen will inevitably be exported to the Great Sioux Nation, the Ponca, and other tribal nations if the Keystone-XL Pipeline is constructed,” cautioned Crow Creek Sioux Chairman, Brandon Sazue.
“This isn’t a Native or non-Native issue. It isn’t a left or right issue. It’s potentially a life or death issue, not only for those in the path of Keystone-XL, but the masses who rely upon America’s ‘breadbasket.’ 20% of the irrigated farmland in the US is sustained by the Ogallala Aquifer, and the populations of 8 states rely upon that aquifer for their water. It’s not just tribal people that warn of the devastation Keystone-XL will cause from a spill that results in irrecoverable harm to the Ogallala Aquifer – that’s the conclusion of foremost scientists,” Sazue continued.
Councilwoman Casey Camp and Chief Stan Grier sign the Declaration Opposing KXL
The Ogallala Aquifer extends from west Texas to the Dakotas, Nebraska to New Mexico, and it is the key formation in the High Plains Aquifer system that underlies 174,000-square miles of 8 states. TransCanada’s proposed 274-miles of Keystone-XL Pipeline in Nebraska will, in places, be laid where the aquifer is 10 feet or less underground. If approved, in Nebraska Keystone-XL will cut through 163 waterways and fragile ecosystems marked by permeable soils and shallow groundwater. Scientists have concluded that should the Ogallala Aquifer be contaminated by Oil Sands crude it will be “virtually impossible to restore” to a pristine state.
“We will not continue to serve as sacrifice zones for the extractive industries to use and leave behind the environmental devastation for us to die in. We are determined to protect the sacred air, water, earth and all life for the generation to come,” declared Councilwoman Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma. With Chairman Larry Wright of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Councilwoman Camp-Horinek was at the forefront of protests in Nebraska during the state’s K-XL public hearings in August.
“In his Executive Memos greenlighting DAPL and Keystone-XL, Trump pledged that the pipeline laid would be forged from American steel. It’s not. Keystone-XL is made from Ruble steel. The profits will be banked by one of the Trump family’s oligarch inner-circle, Putin loyalist Roman Abramovich, the money behind EVRAZ that has manufactured the pipe. As tribal leaders opposed to these actions, we shone a light upon the Trump-Ruble connection behind K-XL weeks before the Special Counsel was appointed. Now Manafort has been indicted and Papadopoulos has pled guilty, maybe the media will listen to us, and Special Counsel Mueller will add this to his radar,” said Chairman Sazue.
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribel Chairman Harold Fraizer signs the Declaration Oppoing KXL
Native News Online reported extensively on the Kremlin connections to Keystone-XL, and Trump Administration associates with links to Russia, and financial interests in both Keystone-XL and DAPL. The multi-tribe declaration opposing Keystone-XL includes a detailed analysis of not only the cultural and environmental impacts of K-XL, but also the lawmakers in the US House and Senate who have consistently promoted the pipeline with claims debunked by the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact. Many of those same lawmakers are recipients of campaign contributions from conservative mega-donors, the Koch Brothers. Koch Oil Sands Operating ULC (KOSO) owns 1.1 million acres of Alberta’s Oil Sands and has reportedly invested some $53-million in Keystone-XL lobbying efforts.
Tribal leaders are working on logistics to present the now fully-signed K-XL opposition declaration to Senator Bernie Sanders, regardless of the Nebraska Public Service Commission’s decision.
“Senator Sanders is a man of his word, and a man true to his convictions. We have great faith that our friend will not allow these forces to silence us, and that he will continue to stand with us to defend the sacred – the earth, our children, and our future generations,” affirmed Chief Grier.