May 19 2019 - Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Trump (KXL Pipeline)

The United States District Court for the District of Montana recently accepted an amended complaint in what will now be known as Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Trump (formerly Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. US Dept of State). The Native American Rights Fund represents the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Fort Belknap Indian Community in this case.

In late 2018 and early 2019, the courts repeatedly blocked TransCanada’s attempts to start construction on the Keystone XL pipeline. The judge found that the US State Department had not fulfilled its duties to the American people when it issued TransCanada a 2017 permit for the Keystone XL pipeline without the required environmental and safety review. They prohibited any construction until the Trump Administration and TransCanada conduct the necessary review. President Trump did not like these decisions. So, in March he withdrew the State Department’s permit and issued his own presidential permit as an attempt to avoid any environmental or regulatory oversight and to circumvent the court decisions.

The new complaint in Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Trump responds to President Trump’s March 29 presidential permit. President Trump is now a defendant and the case is now called Rosebud et al v. Trump, et al. The Tribes filed this amended complaint (1) to stop the President from trying to circumvent the court and (2) to add claims against TC Energy Corp. (formerly TransCanada Corp.) because maps now show the pipeline corridor crossing tribal territory and water supplies.

“President Trump tried to go around the courts, the laws, and the will of the American people, in order to put a foreign-owned pipeline on tribal lands,” said NARF Staff Attorney Natalie Landreth. “However, maps now reveal that the pipeline will cross tribal lands and water supplies—so the pipeline and the president MUST comply with tribal laws and treaties. The Native American Rights Fund is prepared to fight to ensure those treaties are honored and the water is protected.”

Importantly, the new complaint also calls on President Trump to protect Native American people. In his recent proclamation, Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Awareness Day, 2019, President Trump declared it imperative to end the violence that disproportionately affects American Indian and Alaska Native communities. To that end, the government must examine the potential impact of pipeline construction and “man-camps” on Native people, especially women and children.

In addition to extensive violations of law outlined in the original complaint, the new complaint raises the following issues:

Maps released by TransCanada show the pipeline corridor and access roads crossing Rosebud territory, some of which is held in trust, as well as Rosebud’s Mni Wiconi Water system.

TransCanada agreed to abide by tribal law.

New climate change information requires a new environmental impact analysis.

The federal government violated the 1851 Treaty of Ft Laramie and 1855 Lame Bull Treaty, in which the US committed to protect against future harm to the tribes’ natural resources.

The federal government must examine potential impacts on the safety and welfare of Native people—especially women and children.


Read more about the ongoing fight to stop the illegal permitting of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Map by Meclee – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Map by Meclee – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0