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.
Voting rights are under attack across America. President Trump’s threat to withhold funding from the U.S. Postal Service is just the latest attempt to limit our power by blocking free and fair elections. Of course, to Native people like me, this is nothing new. That’s why, two weeks ago, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe voted unanimously to team up with the Lakota People’s Law Project, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and U.S. House Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) to make sure Congress passes the Native American Voting Rights Act (NAVRA) as soon as possible.
We Standing Rocked the Vote in 2018, and now, with your help, we’ll pass NAVRA and ensure fair elections are held throughout all of Indian Country.
You likely recall that, in 2018, North Dakota passed a voter ID law specifically aimed at disenfranchising Native citizens without street addresses. I remain grateful that you leapt into action at that time, helping us Standing Rock the Vote. Together, we put 100 tribal volunteers on the street, printed 800 new IDs, and doubled turnout over the prior midterm.
But other Indigenous communities around the U.S. aren’t so fortunate. Many face significant hurdles, such as remote or difficult-to-reach polling locations, language barriers, and no vote-by-mail option. NAVRA will address these concerns and more.
I also want you to know that we’re just getting started. We intend to engage the members of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association — the leaders of 16 tribes throughout North and South Dakota and Nebraska. We’ll also organize with tribal nations around the country to gain bipartisan support, and we’ll train a group of ambassadors from Standing Rock to phonebank and turn out the national Native vote, come election time. The tribe has also requested a congressional hearing.
Voter suppression within communities of color must end, right now. We have the opportunity to make a tremendous difference — not just for folks on reservations, but for the future of our nation. Please join us in what could be the most important action we’ve ever undertaken together.
Wopila tanka — my thanks for standing with Native voters!
Standing Rock Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project
Someone out there in the great E-universe, how can I match up this company and their technology with the Navajo nation that so desperately needs a green source of clean water? https://air2watersolutions.com/about-us/
Today contacted the company.
Tomorrow begin a GoFundMe page.
Wednesday begin calling around for assistance to make something happen.
It appears that we’re in for a long, hot summer. People are rising up. Colonizer statues and racist mascots are coming down. And finally, winds of change are making their way to the D.C. courts. As you know, a federal judge ordered the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) shut down by Aug. 5, pending environmental review.
Unfortunately, a D.C. court of appeals has granted DAPL operators short term, temporary relief on that order, extending the deadline for the pipeline to be emptied. The verdict, though, maintains the authority to halt operations at any time. In the interim, we’re releasing footage from our Chase Iron Eyes trial archive to illustrate what makes DAPL so dangerous in the first place and why we must keep pushing for it to be shut down for good. You can take a look at our new video about DAPL’s deficient leak detection system, and we hope you will watch and share it with your networks.
Energy expert Steve Martin of the Chippewa Nation and attorney Peter Capossela explain the constant risks posed by Dakota Access.
Getting down to brass tacks, DAPL’s leak detection system is criminally inadequate. Actually, at the most critical area of stress for the existing pipeline, there isn’t even a detection apparatus in place. So, if and when DAPL springs a leak, oil could seep into the groundwater and rise to the surface before pipeline officials or local residents have any idea something is wrong.
A leak of this type could take place over the course of months, contaminating the water used to grow food and raise children on the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.
As Indigenous energy executive Steve Martin points out in our video, it’s outrageous that water — the source of all life — isn’t regarded as more sacred. Why do we allow these dangerous pipelines to jeopardize our children’s future? Why is the money made from a barrel of oil more important than my community’s right to clean water and safe food? Not to mention the impacts on climate.
If you’d like to explore the issue further, we’ve also written an in-depth blog on the topic of DAPL’s leak detection system.
We’re in the midst of a great shift. While it didn’t begin with NoDAPL, I know from living at Oceti Sakowin camp for eight months — through police raids, surveillance, and blizzards — that embers from our sacred fires continue to find their way into the current moment. Let’s keep Trump and his oil cronies on the run. Hold the faith. Even bigger change is coming.
Wopila tanka — Thank you for standing with us to protect our water, our land, and our families!
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project
Less than one month ago, we marked the 40-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision awarding more than $100,000 million to the Great Sioux Nation as compensation for the federal government’s taking of the Black Hills. Just a few days later, President Trump’s visit to Mount Rushmore highlighted why we have never accepted that payment. No amount of money could possibly alleviate the pain we feel at the repeated desecration of one of our most sacred sites. True justice can only be accomplished one way: the return of the Black Hills to the Lakota people.
Renowned Artist Shepard Fairey created this beautiful mural in Los Angeles and later teamed with Lakota Law to distribute t-shirts with his incredible design.
The high court’s ruling shows that the law is on our side. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 assigned the Black Hills to us in perpetuity, but it didn’t take long for miners to violate that edict in search of gold. The federal government essentially allowed it to happen, eventually imposing upon us our current reservation boundaries. We have never accepted those boundaries nor the taking of our treaty land. The Black Hills are not for sale — and they never were.
Unless we act together to stop it, there’s no end to the colonial disrespect of our lands, sovereignty, and safety. Trump’s moronic, divisive visit to Mount Rushmore underscores the dangers to our democracy and the Lakota people. Predictably, COVID-19 is again on the rise in South Dakota, and community spread is especially serious around Mount Rushmore and our Oglala Nation.
That’s why we protested his coming, and that’s why it’s critical that you help us demand safety, justice, and the return of the Black Hills. Once we reach our goal of 20,020 names, our petition will go to Congress demanding #LandBack2020.
Wopila tanka — thank you for standing with us to restore the sacred!
Chase Iron Eyes
The Lakota People’s Law Project
NCAI Statement on Legal Filing by Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation Regarding Illegal Taking of Nation’s Missouri Riverbed Property Rights
WASHINGTON, DC | Today, the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation (MHA Nation) took steps to prevent the illegal taking of the Nation’s property rights to minerals beneath the Missouri River on its Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) holds firm its position in support of the MHA Nation’s land and mineral rights, and has advocated for government-to-government consultation between the MHA Nation and the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor to confirm the longstanding Executive and Congressional actions declaring that the Missouri River bed within the Fort Berthold Reservation is owned by the MHA Nation.
“The MHA Nation’s rights to the Missouri River bed minerals have been reaffirmed through a history of longstanding, well-settled, and still applicable legal precedents, and there should be no question as to the validity of the Nation’s claims,” says NCAI President Fawn Sharp. “We cannot reiterate strongly enough that consultation with tribal nations and upholding treaty obligations is not optional. It is mandatory.”
For these reasons, NCAI urges the Department of the Interior to immediately withdraw Solicitor’s Opinion M-37056 as an unwarranted threat to longstanding tribal trust assets. The fiduciary obligation of the United States is to protect and preserve tribal trust assets in order to ensure tribal nations have the resources needed to provide permanent homelands for present and future generations of their citizens. Instead, M-Opinion 37056 does the opposite, and completely reverses course on the Department of the Interior’s longstanding legal position with little or no rationale for doing so. NCAI stands with the MHA Nation in its fight to preserve its trust assets.
To view NCAI’s resolution on this issue, please click here.
About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.
Madonna Thunder Hawk, Lakota Law (email@example.com)To:youDetails
Inconceivable! Energy Transfer Partners (ETP)—the parent company to the Dakota Access Pipeline—just announced that they will ignore Judge James Boasberg’s order to shut down oil flow through the pipeline by August 5th. An ETP spokesperson said in a statement yesterday: “We are not shutting down the line. We believe Judge Boasberg has exceeded his authority and does not have jurisdiction to shut down the pipeline.” Outrageous!
Perhaps they’re taking their inspiration from the father of the Trail of Tears, Andrew Jackson. In response to the 1832 Supreme Court decision that established tribal sovereignty in the U.S. — Worcester vs. Georgia — President Jackson declared: “[Chief Justice] John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.”
But this is not 1832. And no matter how much Trump may want to do his best Andrew Jackson impersonation, we will not let him. We will not let this corporation, this pipeline, or this President trample on our sovereignty. It’s time to keep Indigenous voices as strong as possible in our collective defense of Mother Earth.
In 2016-17, more than ten thousand people of conscience traveled to Standing Rock to exercise grassroots power over commercial disregard for basic rights. We will stand again like this if we have to. And the Lakota Law legal team will explore options for submitting more amicus briefs to support Standing Rock and EarthJustice in court. One way or another, we won’t permit ETP to unilaterally disregard judicial decisions designed to protect Native health and sovereignty on treaty land. We will go toe to toe with Big Oil, and this time we will have the Constitution — not just Natural Law — clearly behind us.
Wopila — I thank you for your solidarity!
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project
In a decision being hailed as a win for tribal sovereignty, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a large portion of eastern Oklahoma remains a reservation.
In the 5-4 decision, the nation’s highest court said Congress never explicitly “disestablished” the 1866 boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
“Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word,” according to the majority opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Gorsuch was joined in the majority by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Jonodev Chaudhuri, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said the decision is a huge win for Indian Country and a profoundly impactful day for the tribe.
“Many folks are in tears,” said Chaudhuri, ambassador of the tribal nation. “Despite a history of many broken promises, as is true with many tribal nations, the citizens feel uplifted that for once the United States is being held to its promises.”
Chaudhuri said the decision provides jurisdictional clarity and that the tribe will continue to work to improve the health, safety and welfare of tribal members and non-tribal members alike.
“Creek Nation has a long history of working with its local, state and federal partners to protect the interests of all people in its boundaries and the clarity brought by today’s positions will only enhance that,” he said.
In fact, the Oklahoma congressional delegation said in a joint statement that they are reviewing the decision and are ready to work with tribal and state officials. The group of legislators want to ensure consistency and stability in the application of law and bringing criminals to justice.
“Indeed, no criminal is ever exempt or immune from facing justice, and we remain committed to working together to both affirm tribal sovereignty and ensure safety and justice for all Oklahomans,” the delegation said.
Additionally the state, along with the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Nations are working on an agreement to send to Congress and the Department of Justice addressing any issues related to the decision.
“The Nations and the State are committed to implementing a framework of shared jurisdiction that will preserve sovereign interests and rights to self-government while affirming jurisdictional understandings, procedures, laws, and regulations that support public safety, our economy, and private property rights,” the statement said. “We will continue our work, confident that we can accomplish more together than any of us could alone.”
Sarah Deer, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, expressed the same sentiment, saying that the sky is not falling on non-Native residents within the reaffirmed reservation boundaries.
“I think it’s a little too soon to know for sure what the ramifications will be outside the context of criminal jurisdiction,” said Deer, a professor at the University of Kansas. “I think that some of the media is overplaying it as, oh we’re going to start kicking everyone off of their land or something, but it will offer some new opportunities, I think, for the state and the tribe to collaborate to make everyone’s lives better.”
She was happy to see Gorsuch as the author of the court opinion with the first sentence carrying a lot of weight.
“As a Native person, as a Native attorney, you know, he starts out his decision with ‘On the far end of the trail of tears was a promise’ and, that very short sentence, I think it will make every Native person feel complete,” Deer said. “You know, that the court recognized that what happened to us was wrong but it’s time to make it right.”
The case has long kept Indian Country on pins and needles through two Supreme Court terms.
John Echohawk, Pawnee and executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, said the tribe endured a long and hard fight to protect their homelands.
“In holding the federal government to its treaty obligations, the U.S. Supreme Court put to rest what never should have been at question,” Echohawk said. “We congratulate the Nation on its success.”
Fawn Sharp, Quinault and president of the National Congress of American Indians, joined much of Indian Country in voicing support and congratulations to the tribe for their historic court win.
“This morning, NCAI joins the rest of Indian Country in congratulating the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and proudly asserting that its lands remain, and will forever be considered, Indian country – as guaranteed in their treaty relationship with the United States,” Sharp said in a statement.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblo, of New Mexico noted that Thursday’s decision sets an important precedent and affirms the federal government’s obligation to uphold and honor treaties.
“As we move forward addressing longstanding broken promises, this decision will serve as a marker to ensure the federal government honors its promises to Native Nations,” Haaland said.
The case involved tribal citizen Jimcy McGirt, Seminole, who was convicted of molesting a child but argued state courts lacked authority to try him for a crime committed on reservation.
The ruling means his case falls under federal jurisdiction. It does not mean McGirt’s conviction is nullified, rather he should have been tried in federal court under the Major Crimes Act. He is serving a 500-year prison sentence and could potentially be retried in federal court.
Ian Gershengorn, one of the lawyers who argued on behalf of the tribe in the May hearing, said in an emailed statement to Indian Country Today that the Supreme Court upheld promises made by the United States.
“The Supreme Court reaffirmed today that when the United States makes promises, the courts will keep those promises,” Gershengorn said. “Congress persuaded the Creek Nation to walk the Trail of Tears with promises of a reservation — and the Court today correctly recognized that this reservation endures.”
Robert Anderson, a law professor at the University of Washington School of Law, said in the larger scope of things the biggest changes will come in the future with the application of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the federal government prosecuting more cases.
“That’s what they [federal prosecutors] do in Indian Country all the time, is they prosecute cases where there’s an Indian defendant or whether there’s an Indian victim,” Anderson said. “It’s routine. And the fact that they haven’t been doing that for the last 100 years just shows us that a lot of people weren’t following the law, which is not unusual in Indian law.”
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. reiterated that fact in an emailed statement to Indian Country Today.
“This ruling does not mean that those who commit crimes on reservation lands will not face justice, no tribe would ever welcome that, and now we will continue to work with the state of Oklahoma and our federal and tribal partners on legal parameters under the decision today,” Hoskin Jr. said.
Among the justices, Anderson said he felt Gorsuch was the swing vote among the nine justices.
Anderson, Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe, spoke with Indian Country Today before the decision was handed down. He thought Gorsuch’s questions during arguments in the case indicated he was “very much in the tribe’s camp.”
McGirt v. Oklahoma was granted review by the court and tied to an earlier case heard during the 2018 term. In that case, Carpenter v. Murphy, Gorsuch recused himself as he had already ruled on the case during his time on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Anderson added that Gorsuch, with his time served on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Sotomayor, through her own interest and undertaking, are the two justices with the most background and experience in federal Indian law.
At the time, Anderson said they most likely would have some sort of influence over their colleagues.
“It’s just human nature to defer to somebody to some degree who’s an expert in an area, I would hope, even on the Supreme Court,” Anderson said. “It’s interesting that, you know, Justice Gorsuch is a very conservative and Justice Sotomayor is probably the most liberal, and they seem to be on the same page on these Indian law cases, which is great.”
In the minority were Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh. Roberts filed the dissenting opinion, joined by Alito and Kavanaugh and Thomas also filed his own.
Roberts wrote that the decision is not warranted and took the view that over the years, Congress disestablished the Creek reservation through a series of statutes leading up to Oklahoma statehood.
“What has gone unquestioned for a century remains true today: A huge portion of Oklahoma is not a Creek Indian reservation,” Roberts wrote.
At the May hearing in the case, several justices raised concerns that a ruling in favor of the tribe could have broad jurisdictional ramifications on things like taxes and other criminal cases. But Gorsuch indicated that so far, no signs of major consequences had emerged.
In the opinion, Gorsuch wrote that the federal government promised the Muscogee (Creek) Nation a reservation in perpetuity. While the reservation has been diminished over time, it was never explicitly disestablished.
“Yes, promises were made, but the price of keeping them has become too great, so now we should just cast a blind eye. We reject that thinking. If Congress wishes to withdraw its promises, it must say so. Unlawful acts, performed long enough and with sufficient vigor, are never enough to amend the law,” Gorsuch writes. “To hold otherwise would be to elevate the most brazen and longstanding injustices over the law, both rewarding wrong and failing those in the right. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma is Reversed.”
Kolby KickingWoman, Blackfeet/A’aniih is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter – @KDKW_406. Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
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It’s time to celebrate for a second day in a row, because we have amazing news from the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday late in the day, SCOTUS announced its ruling effectively halting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL)! Based on the Endangered Species Act, the Supremes upheld a lower court ruling preventing the pipeline from crossing domestic waterways. This is on top of Monday’s court decision to shut down oil flow through DAPL, making yesterday a truly good day for the environment and Indigenous sovereignty.
Let’s be clear: TC Energy, the pipeline’s operator, is not going to take this lying down. This is not KXL’s death-knell. So, we need to remain vigilant. For now, the Supreme Court has simply let stand U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris’ injunction against construction while the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the pipeline company’s appeal.
It’s likely there will be further legal wrangling and attempts by TC Energy to circumvent proper environmental review. We can expect the same from the Trump administration, should Trump be re-elected in November. On the other hand, Joe Biden has publicly pledged that his administration will cancel KXL, should he win the presidency.
For now, we can be thankful. Construction of KXL will remain stopped — a win for Unci Maka, our Grandmother Earth, and for our Lakota families here on the front line. We can be grateful that our people will retain access to clean water and a measure of safety from man camps, which might otherwise have spread COVID-19 and contributed to our epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
I thank you for standing with us against KXL so far. We’ll keep you informed of all developments going forward — and I hope I can count on you to stay with us, come rain or shine.
Wopila tanka — My sincere gratitude for your spirit and resolve!
Chase Iron Eyes
Via The Lakota People’s Law Project