Written Comments Submitted by
Vice President Tom Poor Bear, Oglala Sioux Tribe
Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
Public Hearing - Albion, Nebraska
As Vice President for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, I wish to express my opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, including the “Nebraska Re-route.” I speak now for my people and in support of our Indigenous brothers and sisters who join us in this struggle to protect life and what is sacred. Our Tribal Council has passed Resolutions opposing this dangerous proposed project not only because of the risks it entails, but because of the certain violations of natural and federal law that would accompany it.
Pursuant to Article 16 of the 1968 Treaty at Fort Laramie, much of the land through which the proposed pipeline has been routed is “held and considered to be unceded Indian territory.” Although the United States has since violated this and most of the provisions of that Treaty, courts of the United States have held that such unilateral actions are unlawful.
TransCanada did not even have the respect to approach the Oglala Sioux Tribe and other treaty tribes directly about their activities that will affect sacred ground and treaty lands. Sadly, even the state of Nebraska failed to show this basic degree of respect. The basis for Nebraska’s decision on this pipeline must include tribal input because the indigenous people who occupied and utilized these lands long before statehood still hold these lands and the sites and burials they contain to be sacred. The state of Nebraska simply cannot assess the threat to cultural interests, as it claims in its report to have done, without first consulting with those whose cultures have existed here the longest. My people cannot control the geography imposed on them that created the -boundaries of the state of Nebraska, but they should not suffer further cultural and spiritual annihilation because of it. The same must be said for each and every Indian tribe with traditional, historic, or treaty claims to this land. At the same time, state and federal agencies must recognize that each of these tribes is unique. Each tribe must be able to provide input to ensure protection of what is sacred according to its own specific history and spirituality.
Indigenous people in Nebraska contribute to the state’s revenue and its economy. Many of them live outside of Indian country and are thus subjected to the state’s jurisdiction. Indigenous interests are not just of concern to federal agencies. They are entitled to consideration and protection by state agencies as well. Until the state engages in meaningful consultation with interested tribal nations, the environmental report from NDEQ cannot be complete.
Like many indigenous people, to the Oglalas, water is sacred. It is without doubt that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline will spill. Due to the number of water body crossings, there is a very good chance that this pipeline will contaminate and desecrate the water we hold sacred. I therefore implore you to recommend the rejection of the proposed Nebraska Re-route and of any future route that trespasses through Lakota treaty territory.
Tom Poor Bear
Oglala Sioux Tribe