Tribal members suspect Lower Brule not invested in KXL fight
Posted: April 2014
But members of one Tribe suspect their government isn’t fully invested in the fight. On the Lower Brule Reservation, there are many who believe a deal has already been made to help pave the way for the pipeline’s construction.
The Lower Brule Tribal Government says it shares the opinion of other South Dakota tribes when it comes to the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“We – the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe – are opposed to the Keystone XL Pipeline,” said Lower Brule Tribe Vice Chairman Boyd Gourneau.
But there are Tribal members who believe an agreement was made between Lower Brule and TransCanada to build a power station at the Big Bend Dam, and ultimately a transmission line to power the pipeline.
“Back in 2010, our Tribal government signed an agreement with XL Pipeline to provide electricity for the pipeline to go from here to Witten, South Dakota. We did not know that until recently,” said Lower Brule tribal member Lakota George Estes.
“Chairman Jandreau says they are supporting us on the pipeline. But yet, they are also going to provide electricity to them, so you can’t do both. You have to do one or the other,” said Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer.
Lower Brule tribal member Lewis Grass Rope tells KSFY News he feels his government isn’t being transparent, “When I came back to ask my Tribal Council members about this atrocity, this deal of making a deal with this black snake, this Keystone Pipeline, one of them did verify that they did support this pipeline.”
That is why pipeline opponents held a meeting Sunday in Lower Brule.
“We’re here gathering. We’re getting information. We’re showing support to each other and this is what’s important,” said Oglala Sioux tribal member Standing Soldier.
“There’s been some things said out there that we are here to get answers on. About a transmission line and about a power station. So we’re here to get the facts,” said Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Cyril Scott.
“There’s vocal opposition, there’s strident opposition within the Lower Brule community against this. So all we want to do is bring attention to that. We want people to know that this Tribe officially may agree with the Keystone XL Pipeline, but its people do not. Its people are divided,” said Lower Brule tribal member Nick Estes.
Leaders of other South Dakota tribes wanted to get answers directly from Lower Brule officials.
“I was hoping Chairman Jandreau would be here and some of the council people, but they’re not,” said Brewer.
No members of the Lower Brule Tribal Council were at the meeting, but Vice Chairman Boyd Gourneau told KSFY News by phone that while the tribe was approached about building up its current infrastructure, no deal was ever signed with TransCanada, “We haven’t approved it, we haven’t agreed with it. We were just informed it would provide additional capability to us.”
“I’ve known Chairman Jandreau for a while and I respect him. He’s been a leader in Brule Country for a long time. I believe he does have the trust of his membership or he would never be put back into office,” said Scott.
An office Gourneau believes political opponents have their eye on, “There’s going to be people that have their mind made up. In Lower Brule, we have an election coming up. And I believe it’s been politically motivated.”
While some may accept the pipeline as an inevitability, others point out that it’s not a done deal – and that gives them hope.
“Maybe Chairman Jandreau made a wrong decision here, but I don’t know what his thought was at the time, but we all have a responsibility to take care of our memberships. We have a responsibility to take care of mother earth first of all,” said Scott.
“You love your children, you love the water. Because the water is the first medicine. Without it, we die. Without it, we die,” said Standing Soldier.
Lower Brule Tribal Chairman Michael Jandreau released this statement on the perceived disconnect between his government and the other Tribes:
“It’s time that Tribal people come together positively to those activities that are so destructive to our continuation as Lakota’s!”
The president’s decision on the pipeline is expected within the next couple of months.