Cheyenne River Sioux and Yankton Sioux Tribes Team with Dakota Rural Action to Fight Construction of Keystone XL Pipeline

Published October 12, 2018

PIERRE, S.D.  — The NOKXL Dakota Alliance is once again standing firmly in solidarity in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Yankton Sioux Tribe, and grassroots organization Dakota Rural Action have each submitted a letter to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) seeking information about TransCanada’s compliance with permit conditions and detailing numerous violations of both the PUC permit and the Presidential Permit that was issued by the State Department for the proposed pipeline.

The letter was triggered by ground-disturbing activity that clearly falls within South Dakota’s legal definition of “construction” and which was spotted at two locations in very close proximity to the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and the Rosebud Sioux Reservation.

According to John Harter, Chair of Dakota Rural Action, “[o]ur land and water are worth more than we are getting from this development. The Public Utilities Commission should be protecting the people and resources of South Dakota. It’s pretty simple to me, construction is construction.”

The letter alerted the PUC of this construction activity and identified five of the 50 conditions on which the 2010 permit was issued that the tribes and Dakota Rural Action believe TransCanada is violating. Once the requested information is received from the PUC, the entities expect to find additional permit violations. If TransCanada’s actions are in fact unlawful, the letter states, the PUC

should direct the company to cease construction activities and revoke the pipeline permit.

The route of the proposed pipeline crosses through the heart of the two tribes’ treaty territory as defined by the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty. “The 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty is the supreme law of the land. The Yankton Sioux Tribe objects in the strongest possible terms, on both moral and legal grounds, to construction of the pipeline through Sioux territory. TransCanada must respect the Treaty; it must immediately cease work and remove all equipment from our treaty lands,” stated Yankton Sioux Vice Chairman Jason Cooke.

Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier expressed his frustration and disbelief with both the company and the state and federal governments. “How can TransCanada start tearing into our treaty territory without proper government approvals and without following the law? I simply can’t believe the needs of a foreign company are being put before the needs of South Dakotans and all Americans.”

In defense of the land, water, and tribal sovereignty, both tribes and Dakota Rural Action participated as intervening parties to the PUC certification proceeding that concluded in January 2015, essentially reauthorizing construction that was originally approved in 2010.

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