Santee Sioux Tribe Rescinds Support for TransCanada’s Keystone XL -Debra White Plume
Santee Sioux Tribe Rescinds Resolution to Support TransCanada, Inc. KXL Pipeline
by Debra White Plume
“Wow, I wonder if we will get to see the cranes?” was the thought on my mind. I had just hung up the telephone from a conversation with a movement brother who was calling from the Santee Sioux Nation Tribal Office. He had said that TransCanada was on the Tribal Council Agenda, and that council had just passed a Tribal Resolution to Support TransCanada’s KXL Tarsands Oil Pipeline in the area of economic development and job opportunities. “What??” I practically screamed into his ear. (Sorry, bro!). So, to make a long story short, we answered the call from our good brother to come to Santee Sioux Nation.
We got some funds together, formed a delegation of activists, singers, speakers, warriors, elders, planned our route, got some gas money, made a plan and called our bro to let him know we were coming to answer the call of our allies.
Our Santee allies held community meetings, got some meals together, gathered funds, rented our delegation some cabins, made fliers, secured a training location, did radio spots to let their people know we were coming to do a Sacred Water Protection Teach In on May 7 at 1pm at the Oyate Center in Santee Village.
Back home on the beautiful Pine Ridge Homelands, we arranged pick-up locations for delegation members, loaded the drum, blankets, duffle bags, and off we went in a small caravan of Oglala Lakota people dedicated to stopping the KXL tarsandsoil pipeline from entering 1851 Ft Laramie Treaty Territory.Santee Nation in Nebraska was the next stop in Owe Aku’sMoccasins on the Ground NVDA Tour of Resistance!
We arrived two hours late, took some wrong turns, ended up in Santee Village, and eventually found the Niobrara State Park where there were cabins waiting for us. We unloaded ourbags of snacks and drinks, and divided ourselves into groupings for the cabins. We had a delegation meeting, met with the Santee organizers, spoke strategy, had some good laughs, bungled our way through some technology problems (our Lakota Media Project workers were unable to attend) and finally gave up and said, we will just talk and not show the video. Then, all of a sudden, the computer and projector decided to work! We were so surprised and thankful, but had to accept that we would be unable to show the documentary about our work to challengeuranium mining, Crying Earth Rise Up. (No wifi connection!)
Then the meeting was over, we all went to sleep, anxious for the next day. We woke up around 5am, had some talks, and headed to Santee Community College. We met Jim Hallum, of the KZZY radio station, housed in a small RV trailer. He immediately put us on the air, nine of us spoke, sharing our message about sacred water and Lakota obligation to protect it, and the Oyuhpe Singers shared traditional Lakota music, literally rocking the little KZZY Radio Station! Our good ally,Jennifer Baker, and Alex White Plume shared a lot of valuable history, and a pipeline fighter from Nebraska spoke as well (wonderful allies!), and our radio show ended. There was a lot of teasing and fun laughter shared, as the poet/actor John Trudellis from Santee Nation, and acted in a role as a DJ on a little windblown Indian Reservation in a little trailer, in the iconic movie Smoke Signals.
We drove a few blocks to the Oyate Center, and set up real fast for the Sacred Water Protection Teach In. After opening with prayer and song, we all did our presentations to share about the terrible environmental impacts of the tarsands oil mines up in Canada and the proposed KXL pipeline from Montana to Texas. Alex White Plume of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council spoke about the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, an international standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples and our rights to territories, water, and ways of life. Kate Thunder Hawk of Wounded Knee, who spoke of environmental racism and solidarity for Unci Maka, said, “I will stand and die for my children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews against the KXL.” I said to the group, “we are called to this path by Creator, the time is now to accept that responsibility, we will put our bodies out there, the fed gov or TransCanada, Inc. will have to put us in jail or kill us to lay that pipeline. Will the Santee Band stand for sacred water? Come to Owe Aku’s Moccasins on the Ground Nonviolent Direct Action training June 14 through 16 at Bridger, SD and learn skills to defend your lands and waters.” Melvin Lee, Santee, spoke about how the hunting season will be impacted by the KXL, including the economic benefits that hunting brings to their area and tribal economy.
There were about 60 people from Santee Nation who cameto the Teach In, including several elders, which was a really good turnout considering there are only about 300 Santee people living on their Rez. Several ‘Pipeline Fighters’ and members from the Cowboy Indian Alliance (CIA) Against KXL from Nebraska attended, which was way cool. Faith Spotted Eagle from the Ihanktuwan Nation Yankton Homelands explained what the Treaty to Protect the Sacred is, and how nations are joining the treaty against the KXL. “Protect the Sacred is the name of our campaign to protect our sacred sites from the KXL” she said. Faith was on her way to a big meeting at the Pipestone Quarry in Minnesota.
A small group from our delegation met with Santee Tribal President Roger Trudell, (brother-cousin of John Trudell)sharing with him the strong stand the Oglala Band of the Lakota Nation is taking against the KXL pipeline to protect our drinking water, and we presented him with a Tribal Resolution we drafted that calls for the Santee Nation to oppose the KXL pipeline. President Trudell assured us the resolution will be on the tribal council agenda for the June meeting (first Monday) and thanked us for coming to share our Sacred Water Protection Teach In. We thanked him for opposing the first Keystone pipeline a few years ago, that was done so quickly and quietly, hardly anyone even knew about it, let alone allowing time to oppose it!
President Trudell informed us the Tribal Council had taken action to rescind their Resolution 2013-30 supporting TransCanada’s KXL pipeline. Earlier in the day Robin LeBeau,Tribal Council from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of Eagle Butte SD, had asked TransCanada, Inc. employees (an Omaha Indian and a Comanche Indian) to leave their Reservation as their tribe opposed the KXL pipeline. I thought, ‘hmmm, this is not a good day for the KXL tarsands pipeline, but it is a wonderful day for sacred water!’ Apparently, TransCanada has hired natives to go speak to tribes on their behalf. Scouts? To check us out?
After that meeting, we went back to the Oyate Center, andenjoyed a scrumptious meal provided by the community and the organizers, and spend our last evening at the beautiful lodge along the river, which we all pledged to protect from the KXL pipeline. The Oyuphe Singers, led by George Jumping Eagle ofManderson, SD, sang a prayer song, a thanksgiving song, and a victory song along the banks of the Niobrara River, and we offered tobacco to the spirits, thankful for success in our mission. I felt like that was also a reminder that Arvol Looking Horse will bring out the Sacred Bundle on May 18 at Green Grass, to pray for protection for Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) and sacred water.
It was a good trip, and the Great Sioux Nation has another band, the Santee Band, who will oppose the KXL pipeline from entering Treaty Territory! As we drove away from Santee, a huge bald eagle flew overhead in circles, then fly along side of us for a while. I felt so comforted, guided, and blessed by our escort. I whispered, Mitakuye Oyasin, and put out some tobacco.As we drove along through the beautiful lands of the SicanjuLakota on the Rosebud Homelands, we heard on KOYA Radio that there will be a March Against the KXL Pipeline on May 17 in Rosebud. We immediately formed a delegation and made plans to attend. We will be there!
Big wopila to Melvin Lee, Eugene Saul, DeWayne Wabasha, Jim Hallum and the many Santee for standing up for the sacred water, the land, and the people. On our travels home, across the wetlands near Santee, we saw a few herrings, but we did not get to see the cranes, who had left several weeks ago from sandhills country, where sacred water rises, then disappears.
Next spring, next spring, I told myself, I will come back to the sandhills to see the cranes!