I have two pieces of wonderful news to share with you! As of yesterday, TC Energy at last canceled all remaining plans for the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL). The Zombie Pipeline is finally completely dead! At the same time, I was able to negotiate a deal with the South Dakota state’s attorney and avoid jail time for my KXL protest last year.
It was a good day not just for me, personally, but for all water protectors. This shows that — even as many states around the country continue to pass laws criminalizing protest — the people still have power. Our activism can make a real difference. As my fellow Cheyenne River protester, Oscar High Elk, said yesterday, “Respect our existence, or expect our resistance.”
Of course, as you know, our resistance still has much left to accomplish. I’m grateful that KXL’s immediate threats to our land and water are gone, along with the dangers its mancamps presented to Indigenous women and girls in Lakota Country. But Dakota Access still operates — without a legal permit — and Line 3 presents the same peril to the homelands of our Anishinaabe sisters and brothers in Minnesota.
Now, it’s time to #StopLine3 and continue our #NoDAPL fight. The cards are always stacked against us, but we have shown time and time again our resilience, the power of our movement, and our ability to triumph against the greatest odds.
Just this week, hundreds gathered at a pump station near the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota, led by my sisters in arms, for the largest Line 3 protest yet. Reports tell us that a Department of Homeland Security helicopter harassed them, kicking up dust and gravel in an attempt to deter my relatives. It didn’t work. More than 100 were arrested, and we aren’t done yet. Like Lakota Law’s team, I’m considering ways I can best support this movement going forward. Because — take it from me — we can win!
Wopila — I’m very grateful for your solidarity with our resistance. Jasilyn Charger via the Lakota People’s Law Project
The Keystone XL pipeline project is officially terminated, the sponsor company announced Wednesday.
Calgary-based TC Energy is pulling the plug on the project after Canadian officials failed to persuade President Joe Biden to reverse his cancellation of its permit on the day he took office.
The company said it would work with government agencies “to ensure a safe termination of and exit from” the partially built line, which was to transport crude from the oil sand fields of western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska.
“Through the process, we developed meaningful Indigenous equity opportunities and a first-of-its-kind, industry leading plan to operate the pipeline with net-zero emissions throughout its lifecycle,” said François Poirier, TC Energy’s president and chief executive officer in a statement.
The pipeline has been front and center of the fight against climate change, especially in Indigenous communities. Native people have been speaking out, organizing, and in opposition of the project for several years.
“OMG! It’s official,” Dallas Goldtooth, Mdewakanton Dakota and Diné, wrote on Twitter regarding Keystone XL’s termination. “We took on a multi-billion dollar corporation and we won!!”
Goldtooth is part of the Indigenous Environmental Network. The network said it has been organizing for more than 10 years against the pipeline.
“We are dancing in our hearts because of this victory!” wrote the network in a statement. “From Dene territories in Northern Alberta to Indigenous lands along the Gulf of Mexico, we stood hand-in-hand to protect the next seven generations of life, the water and our communities from this dirty tar sands pipeline. And that struggle is vindicated. This is not the end – but merely the beginning of further victories.”
The network noted that water protector Oscar High Elk still faces charges for standing against Keystone.
Construction on the 1,200-mile pipeline began last year when former President Donald Trump revived the long-delayed project after it had stalled under the Obama administration.
It would have moved up to 830,000 barrels of crude daily, connecting in Nebraska to other pipelines that feed oil refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Biden canceled it in January over long standing concerns that burning oil sands crude would make climate change worse.
In this Feb. 18, 2020, photo, a protester plays a drum and sings while joined by others opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline at the South Dakota Capitol. (AP Photo/Stephen Groves, File)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had objected to the move, although officials in Alberta, where the line originated, expressed disappointment in recent weeks that Trudeau didn’t push Biden harder to reinstate the pipeline’s permit.
Alberta invested more than $1 billion in the project last year, kick-starting construction that had stalled amid determined opposition to the line from environmentalists and Native American tribes along its route.
Alberta officials said Wednesday they reached an agreement with TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, to exit their partnership. The company and province plan to try to recoup the government’s investment, although neither offered any immediate details on how that would happen.
“We remain disappointed and frustrated with the circumstances surrounding the Keystone XL project, including the cancellation of the presidential permit for the pipeline’s border crossing,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in a statement.
The province had hoped the pipeline would spur increased development in the oil sands and bring tens of billions of dollars in royalties over decades.
Attorneys general from 21 states had sued to overturn Biden’s cancellation of the pipeline, which would have created thousands of construction jobs. Republicans in Congress have made the cancellation a frequent talking point in their criticism of the administration, and even some moderate Senate Democrats including Montana’s Jon Tester and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin had urged Biden to reconsider.
Tester said in a statement Wednesday that he was disappointed in the project’s demise, but made no mention of Biden.
Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, was more direct: “President Biden killed the Keystone XL Pipeline and with it, thousands of good-paying American jobs.”
A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on TC Energy’s announcement.
In case you missed it, a recent decision in the legal saga of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) will keep the oil flowing while an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is done over the next nine months — and the courts have essentially stepped away from responsibility to shut operations down. Sadly, in his latest opinion, D.C. Judge James Boasberg has basically stated that his hands are tied by a higher court ruling.
Watch: Lakota Law chief counsel Danny Sheehan joined me to discuss the developments on Cut to the Chase.
As a reminder to you about what got us here, Boasberg (an Obama appointee) ruled last July to vacate federal permits for Dakota Access. He reasoned then that the Army Corps of Engineers failed to conduct a full EIS, as demanded in a lawsuit filed by the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes. Then, in August, an appeals court affirmed Boasberg’s decision to invalidate the permit, while simultaneously overturning his decision to empty the pipeline. DAPL has been operating unpermitted ever since — a completely unheard-of scenario, and a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Boasberg has since been essentially asking the Corps to make a political decision on whether it’s acceptable for this pipeline to operate without a valid permit on federal land. So far, the Corps (an executive branch agency now under president Biden’s leadership) has shown no desire to do the right thing. Rather than issuing an order to halt operations until proper environmental review is complete, Biden and the Corps are ducking responsibility.
Our legal analysis is that there’s still a potential path forward in the courts. At this stage, the tribes could go directly after the Army Corps under the Administrative Procedures Act. This could lead to a court-order forcing Biden and the Corps to make a decision on whether to continue allowing DAPL’s operation in violation of NEPA.
Lakota Law, its supporters, and a host of like-minded organizations and allies continue to ask Biden to step up and shut DAPL down. We’ll continue to closely examine all the legal and political angles, assessing potential leverage points to push the Corps. Stay tuned.
Wopila tanka — thank you, always, for standing with Standing Rock! Chase Iron Eyes Co-Director & Lead Counsel The Lakota People’s Law Project
With a heavy heart but with clear eyes, I write to you today as Lakota Law’s newest team member. Global Indigenous communities are mourning over the recent discovery of a mass grave containing the human remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential school in Canada. This discovery is not the first and will not be the last. Residential and boarding schools occupy a long and bloody, but recent, chapter in the story of Turtle Island’s colonization. The last school didn’t close until 1978.
Watch, then take action: Chase provides real talk about the tragedy of 215.
Since our inception, the Lakota Peoples’ Law Project has focused on protecting the health and safety of Lakota children. In partnership with the tribes and Native communities in the Dakotas, we have years of experience fighting to keep Native kids in Native care and for the proper implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Most recently, your support has helped us establish a Native-run foster home on the Standing Rock Nation, as another means of dismantling this practice of forced assimilation.
We did not stumble upon this undertaking. Our work grew from the same sense of urgency — shown to us by Lakota grandmothers as their grandkids were being stolen by the state — that you are now experiencing as you read about the children found in a mass grave at The Indian Residential School at Kamloops. This “breaking news” is an all-too-familiar reality for Indigenous children and families. Generations of Native communities have suffered from the deadly and traumatizing boarding school experience.
We should not be surprised that countries founded on the ideals of the Doctrine of Discovery — an ideology that supports the dehumanization of those living on the land and their dispossession, murder, and forced assimilation — would have so much to answer for.
I have written an article to attempt to explain this history and its present-day implications for allies. This is not an easy read. It was not an easy write. I wrote it to eliminate the need for any other Native person within our network to suffer by having to explain this senselessness.
Wado — thank you for reckoning with the harsh realities we Indigneous People continue to endure. Sarah Rose Social Media Coordinator The Lakota People’s Law Project
Winter has turned to spring here in the Dakotas, and the yearly promise of new life and fresh growth has arrived. In that spirit, I write to you today with an update on the progress of our new Standing Rock teen center project, which I’m happy to say your generous support is making into a reality. As can happen with projects of this magnitude, we’re working through a small snag. But we won’t let anything get in the way of its completion!
Please watch this original music video produced by our co-director, Daniel Paul Nelson, about violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act by South Dakota.
As of a few weeks ago, we’d identified a wonderful building for sale on Main St. in the city of McLaughlin, Standing Rock’s second largest town. It’s just a couple blocks from our foster home, and we were excited about the location. Importantly, our vision for putting the teen center on Main St. includes helping revitalize the primary artery in a community struggling to keep businesses open and buildings from decaying.
Sadly, though, the non-Native property owner of the building — once he realized our goals — took the building off the market “due to family issues.” So it’s disappointing, to say the least, that his for-sale sign came down for just two weeks before it was back up in the window. Surprise, surprise, blatant racism is alive and well in South Dakota, even at Standing Rock. So we’re now talking to lawyers about the Fair Housing Act and considering a threat to sue, as we also look at other properties in town.
It has been more than five years since Standing Rock had a safe, fun place for teenagers to go after school. Even as Standing Rock captured the attention of the world during NoDAPL in 2016, the children of this community had no place to enjoy themselves in the afternoons. As managers of McLaughlin’s Lakota-run foster home, we’ve seen youth drift into substance abuse and other bad behavior because of neglect. Making kids feel supported is so important; that’s why, in partnership with you, we’re continuing to do our part.
We’ve been protecting Lakota children now for 15 years; our work began with a focus on fixing the foster care crisis in Lakota Country, and we still prioritize efforts to enforce the Indian Child Welfare Act. In solidarity with the children, Lakota Law co-director Daniel Paul Nelson produced this original music video highlighting the urgent need to make South Dakota stop taking Native kids from Native communities. We hope you’ll accept a gift from us and download the tune for free here.
Wopila — thank you for standing with our children! Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
I hope you’re staying safe as we begin this new year. It’s been a wild election season, culminating with Tuesday’s Senate races in Georgia and Wednesday’s insurrection at the Capitol. Sadly, it’s inevitable that many of Trump’s (mostly white) followers will get away with their seditious actions in D.C. — meanwhile, a pair of young, Native activists here at the Cheyenne River Nation face charges after nonviolently protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.
Also on Wednesday, police arrested Cheyenne River tribal member Oscar High Elk (30 years old) and charged him on 12 counts, including felony aggravated assault, though he committed no acts of violence. Now, he faces a maximum of 23 years in prison. How wrong it would be should either one of these young water protectors serve time for standing against a Canadian pipeline which would provide little economic value to Americans and threaten Unci Maka.
This glaring disparity in our country between how law enforcement treats us Natives and other people of color as opposed to whites underlines the urgency of our struggle. We must take every opportunity to secure justice for Black and brown communities as the Trump era comes to an ignominious end. If you have not already done so, please sign our petition to the Biden transition team telling the president-elect: It’s time to end KXL and DAPL once and for all. We hope you’ll stay with us — and with our young activists — in the fight for environmental justice.
You can also share our call to action via social media by clicking the buttons below:
Wopila tanka — thank you for supporting our struggle! Mni wiconi.
Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
From my family on Cheyenne River Nation to yours, I hope you’re having a joyous and safe holiday season! Of course, it’s a different kind of year in 2020, when we have to bring up safety in reference to the holidays. With all that’s happened, it’s critical that we do everything we can to ensure that 2021 and the years to come see meaningful change for a healthier world.
We need president-elect Biden to enforce a robust environmental agenda from day one. The climate clock is ticking, and ending both KXL and DAPL should be one of his first steps as our chief executive. He has expressed his intent to take an anti-pipeline stance, and now we need to keep the pressure on. As FDR once said to a civil rights leader, “I agree with you, now make me do it.”
Courts have blocked both pipelines, but that hasn’t slowed their advance. In July, the Supreme Court even weighed in, upholding a decision to prohibit KXL crossing domestic waterways under the Endangered Species Act. Still, TC Energy has moved forward to create man camps which threaten Native women very close to my reservation. On DAPL, Trump reversed Obama’s decision to require further environmental review; but courts have kept its oil flowing, at least for now. The bottom line is that Biden ought to enforce the standards spelled out by the National Environmental Policy Act.
New leadership means new possibilities. It’s up to you, me, and all who hold our oldest relative, Unci Maka — our Grandmother Earth — dear to make sure we realize them.
Wopila tanka — Thanks for your action, and may our New Year bring big change!
Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
I encourage you to watch our new video, in which I detail our many, impressive shared accomplishments in 2020 — and our vision for progress together in the year to come.
Thanks to you, the Lakota People’s Law Project made life better for so many this year. You helped us support Standing Rock’s legal fight against DAPL and partner with the tribe to activate Native and swing state voters. You kept tribal health and safety checkpoints operational, protecting Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge during the COVID-19 pandemic. You sent nearly 10,000 petitions urging president-elect Joe Biden to appoint the first Indigenous Cabinet member — a fight we won when he picked Rep. Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior!
We have so much more to accomplish together in 2021. Please continue to stay with us so we can permanently end DAPL and KXL, get the vote out for the Georgia Senate run-off elections, and expand our kinship care program at Standing Rock, ensuring that the next generation of Lakota youth is cared for and given every opportunity to succeed.
You’re likely aware of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s partnership with the Lakota People’s Law Project to reach and activate voters in Georgia between now and Jan. 5. Today, I have some great news for those of you who’d like to be even more involved. We’re excited to offer you an opportunity to join the calling team!
If you can volunteer to help ensure that underrepresented voices are heard in Georgia’s Senate run-off elections, please join our Standing Rock members in calling Native American voters and others in Georgia who care about the issues so important to us.
2) Be available for training via Zoom this Friday Dec. 18th at 5 p.m EST.
You can help Standing Rock make a difference in the Georgia run-offs!
You’ll need a laptop, computer, or tablet, a good internet connection, a phone, and preferably a headset. We’ll provide you everything else, including the names and contact info for the voters and a script that you can follow!
Once you’ve completed the training, you’ll be free to make calls any day of the week (except Friday) between 1 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. EST. We’ll also exclude some holidays, which we’ll clarify at the training. We do ask, if you sign up and go through the training, that you commit to completing at least one four-hour volunteer calling shift.
Now that early voting has begun in Georgia, we’re calling potential voters and asking them to make a solid plan to vote. This is extremely important, because turnout in special elections is always lower than in presidential elections, and studies show that many people who intend to vote may fail to follow through due to lack of planning.
We must help each voter determine whether they’ll vote by mail, vote early, or vote on Election Day. Can you join Standing Rock and help Georgia voters make their plans? There’s so much at stake in this election — including whether we’ll be able to effectively protect our rights to clean air and water in the years to come. Mni wiconi — water is life.
Wopila tanka — your attention, and your participation, are very much appreciated!
Chase Iron Eyes Lead Counsel The Lakota People’s Law Project
In this final week before the election, as we dive into the homestretch at Standing Rock to get out the vote here and in battleground states, we’re working harder than ever to make sure America hears our voices and counts our ballots. Lakota Law’s new video provides you with an inside look at our phone bank, as our Standing Rock members call into two states where the Native vote has the most potential to make a difference for Grandmother Earth: Arizona and North Carolina.
Phone bank leader Melanie Thompson demonstrates to Chase Iron Eyes exactly what a successful call to a 2020 voter looks like.
As part of this massive effort, we’ve dialed more than 55,000 numbers and had 3,000 meaningful conversations with voters in North Carolina. For example, we’ve spoken to almost 1,000 voters in Lumbee tribal territory — the counties of Cumberland, Hoke, Scotland and Robeson — who have already voted or committed to voting.
On Saturday, Oct. 24, following in the footsteps of former Vice President Biden, President Trump visited Robeson County and pledged to federally recognize the Lumbee — North Carolina’s largest tribe. It’s all part of a pattern of candidates increasingly courting the Native vote, after so many election cycles where the opposite was true.
Of course, Native Americans still face many barriers to voting, and thankfully the press is helping to shine a light on our plight. Lakota Law’s Phyllis Young, phone bank leader Melanie Thompson, and I did interviews with the Associated Press last week, and the story dropped today. I urge you to give it a read!
The bottom line is that we insist on Native voices being heard this election cycle — and it seems that the world has begun to listen in a new way, thanks in large part to the support you give to our Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and to the Lakota People’s Law Project. I cannot thank you enough.
Wopila tanka — it means the world that you stand with Standing Rock!
Terry Yellow Fat Tribal Elder Via 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.