Protect The Sacred Gathering 2

Lower Brule, SD

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On November 20th, 2017, the Nebraska Public Service Commission approved TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline. The KXL is an addition to their already existing (and leaking) pipeline, the Keystone 1 pipeline. Youth organizers Lauren Howland and Andreanne Catt were present for the “Protect The Sacred Gathering 2” which was hosted and lead by the Kul Wicasa Dakota in Lower Brule, South Dakota. The gathering’s purpose was to unite those who fought and defeated the KXL years before and to renew the “International Treaty to Protect” which is an agreement between organizations, societies, and tribes to defend and protect Mother Earth and the people from destruction and desecration that is brought on by the fossil fuel industry.

The gathering consisted of tribal leaders, societies and organizations that were present and successful in taking down the KXL pipeline in 2014. Although it was a significant victory, their success was short lived with the election of #45 and the executive order signed concerning the KXL. New organizations were invited to the table with the reawakening of the pipeline and collaborative efforts began as soon as everyone walked in the door. Ironically, in the week leading up to the gathering, the Keystone XL’s predecessor, The Keystone 1 pipeline, leaked 210,000 gallons of crude oil just north of the gathering near the town of Amherst, SD. This did not deter the Nebraska PSC’s decision though.  

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In the minutes after the PSC’s live-streamed decision to approve the alternate route, Lauren sat alongside Eli Horinek(Ponca) as representatives with the International Indigenous Youth Council on a live-streamed panel that had local tribal leaders, spiritual leaders, women’s society leaders and youth leaders addressing the Nebraska PSC’s decision and what the local opposition planned to do moving forward to defeat this black snake. The feed went live on several organizations’ Facebook pages as well as Seeding Sovereignty’s facebook page.

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Among the commission’s 5 decision makers are 3 men and 2 women. The 2 women commissioners ultimately voted against the approval of the permit. Commissioners Mary Ridder and Crystal Rhoades voted against the approval.

Screen shot of Nebraska PSC live stream of KXL decision.

Screen shot of Nebraska PSC live stream of KXL decision.

Both women commissioners sited numerous reasons why they were respectfully dissenting with Commissioner Rhoades voicing her disagreements with the way Hearing Officers proceeded with limitations placed on some of the Formal Interveners (in regards to the tribal nation interventions) stating, “Forcing the consolidation of the Yankton Sioux Tribe and the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska –who have different language, history, culture, religion and tradition- was inappropriate in my view and a violation of their due process rights. One would not conclude that Germans and Italians are both European and therefore have the same concerns, and such a conclusion should not have been drawn for the Yankton Sioux and Ponca Tribes.”

Commissioner Ridder also voiced her concerns about the Applicant’s (Transcanada) failure to establish that the proposed route is in public interest stating, “I respectfully dissent. The Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act (*MOPSA") directs the Commission to determine if an application for a route through our state is in the public interest. MOPSA also states that the Applicant has the burden of establishing that the proposed route is in the public interest. The Applicant failed to meet this burden in at least three of the eight areas which the Commission was charged with evaluating under Section 51-1407.”

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We commend both commissioner Rhoades and Ridder with their efforts to protect and defend not only the general public but also Mother Earth as well. The women here at Seeding Sovereignty thank you for using your decision-making power to amplify the concerns of the indigenous people who will ultimately be the most affected when the Keystone XL pipeline leaks and who’s women will also be affected most with the ongoing epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which is statistically proven to be a rising problem in areas where the fossil fuel industry and mancamps are present.

Another gathering is in the works in the near future with the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate chairman offering to host the meetings on the Lake Traverse Reservation in North Eastern South Dakota. Thank you to the Kul Wicasa leaders for hosting the gathering and those that were inviting to us as youth leaders. A lot was learned in the short amount of time we were there with a lot more to be educated on in the coming months.

Ahehee and Wopila

- Lauren Howland

Lauren Howland