[News] Trump Pushes a New Pipeline Permit as Floods Devastate Native American Tribes

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Apr 5 11:20:06 EDT 2019


  Trump Pushes a New Pipeline Permit as Floods Devastate Native American

Alleen Brown - April 5, 2019

_Three weeks after_ the flooding began on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 
South Dakota, families still remain isolated, trapped in their homes by 
water and mud, even as the water has begun to subside. On South Dakota’s 
nine Indian reservations, spring is gumbo season — when sticky, gummy, 
clay mud is exposed after the snow melts. In the aftermath of the 
floods, it’s so thick and deep that heavy equipment has been lost to it. 
In many areas, the miles of gravel and dirt roads that make up much of 
the reservations’ transportation infrastructure have washed away or been 
made impassable by gumbo. Septic tanks have overflowed, adding fecal 
matter to the muck.

The Oglala Sioux tribe estimates that 1,500 people are displaced from 
their homes and 500 lack access to drinking water. Teams of young men on 
horseback and the occasional helicopter have been helping deliver food 
packages, water, and medical support to isolated homes.

Farther north, 20-45 people have been staying in the Standing Rock Sioux 
tribe’s community center every night, according to Waniya Locke, who 
lives on the reservation and has been assisting with rescue efforts. The 
center lacks heat, so they’ve been relying on space heaters and thick 
blankets to keep warm. She estimates that around 300 people have been 
displaced from their homes. Last week, the nearby Cheyenne River Sioux 
tribe ordered the evacuation of a section of its reservation, airlifting 
out three families.

Asked what the long-term recovery might look like, Locke shrugged. 
“We’re not even to the point of discussing recovery, because we’re still 
in it.”

      In the Midst of a Climate Crisis, a New Pipeline Permit

On Tuesday, the Oglala Sioux Tribe joined the state legislature in 
calling on officials in Washington to declare a federal disaster in 
South Dakota, which would make available aid from the Federal Emergency 
Management Agency. “Rather than declaring emergencies that don’t exist, 
President Trump needs to pay attention to the ones that do,” said Tribal 
Chair Julian Bear Runner, in a statement referencing Trump’s declaration 
of a national emergency on the U.S. border with Mexico. “I call upon him 
to send us help before lives are further disrupted.”

He also requested that Trump drop his efforts to expedite construction 
of the Keystone XL pipeline. On Friday, in the midst of the crisis, 
Trump issued a new presidential permit that would allow the pipeline to 
cross the Canadian border into the U.S. “Trump’s decision to ram KXL 
through while our families suffer feels like being kicked while we’re 
down,” Bear Runner said.

The same Native communities that have been hit hardest by Midwestern 
flooding are also some of the most vocally opposed to the Keystone XL 
tar sands pipeline, which would pump up to 830,000 barrels of tar sands 
oil per day from Alberta, Canada, through Montana, South Dakota, and 
Nebraska. Many Oceti Sakowin people, known by the U.S. government as the 
Sioux, are concerned that the pipeline will leak, contaminating the 
rivers and waterways that provide the reservations’ drinking water and 
that lie within territory the U.S. government illegally swindled away 
more than a century ago. They’re also worried about the longer term 
climate impacts of continuing the production of dirty tar sands oil.

To opponents on Pine Ridge, the floods prove their point about the 
pipeline: Without a halt to fossil fuel extraction, the nation’s most 
vulnerable communities will pay the heaviest price for climate-fueled 
flooding, droughts, extreme weather, and ecosystem collapse. Scientists 
say the weather conditions 
that led to the flooding have become more likely because of climate 
change. “The use of fossil fuels has led to this extraordinary weather 
event and many other disasters,” Bear Runner said. “Keystone XL will 
only continue to exacerbate the cycle of destruction in the future.”

It’s not the only contentious decision that was finalized in the midst 
of the disaster. Last week, Gov. Kristi Noem signed into law two bills 
designed to help the state government pay for the costs of policing what 
are expected to be massive, Indigenous-led demonstrations if 
construction begins. One of the two laws, SB 189, creates new civil 
penalties for “riot boosting,” which would apply not only to riot 
participants but to anyone who “directs, advises, encourages, or 
solicits other persons participating in the riot to acts of force or 

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing South Dakota for infringing 
on the free speech rights of organizations including the Indigenous 
Environmental Network, Sierra Club, Dakota Rural Action, and the NDN 
Collective, all of which assert that the law will limit their ability to 
provide training and support to pipeline opponents.

At the single hearing for the two bills, a lobbyist for the governor’s 
office called the riot-boosting law a key aspect of what he hoped would 
be “the next generation model of funding pipeline construction.” The 
second law, SB 190, has received less attention. That law creates a fund 
from which law enforcement can draw money as they police the protests. 
As Remi Bald Eagle, head of intergovernmental affairs for the Cheyenne 
River Sioux tribe, put it, “The PEACE fund does nothing more than create 
mercenaries out of state law enforcement institutions.”

Much of the money in the PEACE fund would come directly from the 
pipeline parent company, TransCanada. The state government would bill 
TransCanada monthly for policing costs, up to $20 million. Additional 
PEACE money would come from a “Riot Boosting Recovery Fund,” made up of 
penalties from the new riot law. If the state managed to obtain grants 
from the Justice Department or money from Congress, that would also go 
into the PEACE fund.

      Native Women Challenge Big Oil Via the Vote

According to state Rep. Peri Pourier, who’s from Pine Ridge, one of the 
biggest problems with the pair of laws is that while TransCanada and an 
array of public officials, including law enforcement and county 
representatives, were consulted, the state’s nine tribes were left out 
of discussions entirely.

Tribal leaders have noted that the tribes are likely to accrue large 
expenses if protests break out, since both protest camps and “man 
camps,” temporary housing sites for pipeline workers, are likely to be 
located near reservation borders. Indigenous women across the U.S. are 
disproportionately victims of violent crimes, including homicide and 
sexual assault, and many are concerned that violence against women will 
rise as temporary, mostly male workers flood the area. Yet already 
under-resourced tribes are apparently not eligible to access the PEACE fund.

Pourier decided to run for office in mostly white, Republican South 
Dakota precisely because tribes are routinely left out of decisions that 
impact them the most. Pourier was part of a historic wave of Indigenous 
women elected into state and federal offices last November — a result of 
indigenous cultural and political organizing that has been reinvigorated 
nationwide, in part because of pipeline organizing. She and two other 
Native women joined three incumbent Native men in the state legislature. 
The Native legislators were among the handful who voted against the bills.

“My greatest hope is that Native women and Native men in those spaces 
becomes normalized,” Pourier said. But the road will be uphill. “These 
political structures were not created for us; the reservation was 
created for us.”

After the election, a handful of Republican legislators accused Pourier 
and newly elected state Sen. Red Dawn Foster, also from Pine Ridge, of 
election fraud. They claimed that the two Oglala Lakota elected 
officials violated a state law that says legislators must be residents 
of the state for two years before taking office. Pourier, they said, 
spent part of the two years in Nebraska, and Foster was in Colorado. An 
ultimately confirmed their eligibility.

“I was a resident of South Dakota since 2015 — they took one piece here 
and one piece there and created a picture and a narrative about me that 
was completely untrue,” said Pourier. “It was ridiculous for them to 
argue that somehow an Oglala Lakota was not from her Indigenous homeland.”

Pourier has spent the last few weeks helping coordinate volunteers and 
supply deliveries on the reservation, as co-founder of the nonprofit 
Pine Ridge Reservation Emergency Relief, formed in the wake of the 
disaster. Although Noem sent in the National Guard last week to 
distribute drinking water, Pourier said that much of the relief efforts 
have come from community members.

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