First of all, from my home in Cheyenne River to yours wherever you may be, I hope you are staying safe and well. Over my years, I’d come to think maybe I’d seen it all — but not so! One thing I know is that we’ll only get through this period of separation and hardship by sticking together. So I write to you today with an opportunity to help make a real difference that could save lives.
Please email Montana Governor Steve Bullock and tell him to halt Keystone XL construction in his state during the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter what our president says, KXL man camps do not enable “essential work” — instead they represent cauldrons of potential coronavirus transmission and threats to nearby communities, including tribal nations such as mine in South Dakota.
As I have shared with you previously, we Native women have been hard at work organizing our communities to prepare for the dangers KXL poses. The man camps that house oil workers were already scary before we knew they could become petri dishes for the virus. Allowing two of them near our reservation just increases our peril.
But allow them, Trump will. He’s cynically using the pandemic to take full advantage of our inability to engage in grassroots organizing on the ground. On March 31, TC Energy announced a final decision to complete KXL, explicitly thanking the president for giving the go-ahead. Three days later, Trump tweeted his happiness.
Though TC Energy has claimed it will follow procedures to limit the spread of the virus, Republican Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has said that he won’t expect workers traveling from out of state to be quarantined. Meanwhile, here in South Dakota, Republican governor Kristi Noem has steadfastly refused to institute shelter-in-place mandates or close businesses, despite 447 documented positive tests and six deaths in our state.
We must lean on the Democrat, Bullock, to do the right thing. He has, at least, waffled on KXL. On the one hand, he said, “Look — if it’s done right, we can’t take it off the table.” On the other hand, he’s commented that the Department of State failed to adequately consider the pipeline’s environmental impacts, and he’s expressed concern about the threat to Montana’s water from a leak or spill. Bullock has also criticized the Trump administration’s failure to adequately consult with Native American tribes affected by the pipeline — a major reason to hope he’ll listen to us now.
It’s worth noting that KXL has many of the same weaknesses in its design and approval process as the Dakota Access pipeline, which — partially due to safety concerns including an inadequate leak detection system — just had its federal permits revoked by a court ruling. Let’s protect public safety and stop KXL construction.
Wopila tanka — I thank you, sincerely, for your life-saving activism!
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project
Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859
The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.