Leaders from 11 Native American tribes from South Dakota to Oklahoma walked out of a meeting with federal officials in Rapid City on Thursday to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

They then issued a direct challenge to President Obama: Talk to us directly or not at all.

The meeting was arranged amid mounting tension in Indian Country about the pipeline, which would pump oil from Canadian tar sands to Texas refineries. Although the pipeline would not go directly through any Native American reservation, tribes in proximity to its proposed path say it will encroach on their traditional lands and that the project is fraught with environmental risks.

To help ease those concerns, representatives from the Department of State, which is deciding whether to approve the pipeline, agreed to meet with tribal leaders on Thursday morning in the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.

But before the talks could begin, tribal leaders walked out, upset that the government had sent what they considered low-level officials. In a press conference held by the tribes after the walkout, leaders took turns issuing angry statements against the project and the Obama administration.

"I will only meet with President Obama," said Bryan Brewer, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, who added that was the only true way to conduct nation-to-nation talks.

Other leaders listed a litany of environmental concerns with the proposed pipeline, from potential leaks that could contaminate ground water to the pipeline's contribution to climate change. Those same concerns have fueled protests by environmental groups across the country.

Casey Camp-Horinek, an elder with the Southern Ponca Tribe based in Oklahoma, compared the pipeline and other environmental damage caused by corporations to the disease and dislocation that had wiped out her people during European colonization.

"We find ourselves victims of another form of genocide, and it's environmental genocide, and it's caused by the extractive industries," she said.

Charles LoneChief, vice president of the Pawnee Business Council, also based in Oklahoma, said the public was still misinformed about the pipeline's environmental risks.

Unlike a traditional crude pipeline, Keystone XL will pump oil made from tar sands. To turn it into a transportable liquid, oil companies add chemicals that groups warn are highly toxic.

"That gets into our waterways, our water tables, our aquifers, then we have problems," he said.

Robin LeBeau, a council representative for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe based in South Dakota, pledged to protest against any construction, even if that meant standing in front of bulldozers.

"What the State Department, what President Obama needs to hear from us, is that we are going to be taking direct action," she said.

LeBeau said some younger Native Americans had warmed to the project because they believed it would provide construction jobs to reservations riddled with poverty and unemployment.

But LeBeau said such jobs were not worth the price of environmental and spiritual damage to traditional Native American land. She said the pipeline would run directly through her tribe's traditional burial grounds near Bridger, S.D.

LeBeau called on all Native American tribes to stand with the tribes against the pipeline.

"I believe this is going to be one of the biggest battles we are ever going to have," she said.

While not all 11 tribes were represented at the press conference, the morning meeting with the State Department included members from the Nez Perce based in Idaho; Southern Ponca and Pawnee based in Oklahoma; and Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Yankton Sioux, Rosebud Sioux, Oglala Sioux, Standing Rock, Lower Brule, Cheyenne River and Crow Creek based in South Dakota.

(10) comments

dangerous

Chris and Magaska, how do you think the fuel that you fill your tank with every couple weeks gets to Rapid City? Did you ever stop and think about that? Does it just magically find it's way into the underground tanks at the local Common Cents? Is it trucked in from refineries in Billings? No!

It comes in a pipeline from Newcastle where it is refined. It comes from Newcastle and cuts northeast to Rapid City to the tank farm off Eglin Street. From there it is trucked to your local gas station.

Have you ever heard of a leak or spill from that Newcastle pipeline? I haven't, and I've lived here for over 50 years.

You people are under the impression that the Keystone pipeline is the only underground fuel delivery pipeline in the world! News Bulletin! There are hundreds of underground fuel pipelines across the U.S. that transport millions of gallons of fuel a day without leaks.

Yes, pipelines leak sometimes. People make mistakes, things wear out. There is no infallible method of transporting fuel. Trucks have collisions. Just two years ago, a train hit remnants of a rock slide in Wind River Canyon south of Thermopolis and there was a large spill into the Bighorn River. Did it kill anyone? No!

Farwalker
Farwalker

we will not let it cross what indian land? it doesn't cross any indian land but I can garauntee that there is an existing pipeline crossin indian land now

Farwalker
Farwalker

". Although the pipeline would not go directly through any Native American reservation"

that's good enough for me. lets dig up the 2.5 million miles of existing pipeline too.
the oil can be transported much better on the railroad or on a truck. we never have any derailments and trucks never crash, right?

ofcourse the price per gallon will rise to double what it is now but who cares?

common joe

I HEAR YOUR SARCASM THERE FARWALKER BUT GOING THROUGH "INDIAN" LAND IS NOT THE POINT, THE POINT IS, THERE IS AN AQUIFER UNDERNEATH SEVERAL STATES THAT IS THE LIFE BLOOD OF OUR PEOPLE AND I'M SURE YOURS TOO. TO ERR IS HUMAN, AND IF IT'S MAN MADE THERE IS A GREAT POTENTIAL IT WILL LEAK SOMETIMES DOWN THE FUTURE AND COULD CONTAMINATE THIS VERY LIFE GIVING AQUIFER. YOU MUST BE A REPUBLICAN, SACRIFICE HUMANS AND NATURE AT THE EXPENSE OF PROGRESS AND THE ROOT OF EVIL.......MONEY

BHHorse

What options are those mr swan

Isa Villanen
Isa Villanen

The Native Americans speak about the same environmental issues I have been writing for weeks on end.The biggest threat is the danger of oil or tar sand spills, but also the construction of this monstrosity will create habitat loss and even endanger lot of endemic animals, not to mention the original tribes.The USA has already exploited the native tribes enough, and it all started with the early settlers, but it has to stop, and asap. I agree wish all the article says, and I strongly recommend you to stand your ground, i am on your side now and till the end. I live in Finland, but that is no obstacle in todays world. I hope your success will be a good and solid no to the Keystone XL, because I would not want that in my back yard. And the effect of CO2 emissions is already enhancing the global warming, not the mention all the habitat destructions it has and will have environmentally and to the land and water. We need no more fossil fuel, we need sustainable and non-polluting energy options. Protect your remaining lands, toy need them more, but also the rest of the world benefits from their protection and safety.
I wish you the best of luck, and I hope you get Mr. President Obama's ear and that he can listen well and appreciate what he will hear.
For Mother Earth, now and always, Isa

rezmedic15

It runs right through THE RED LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION in MN!!!!!!!

NelagT

The Keystone XL pipeline does not enter MN at any point.

Chris Good Eagle

I'm proud of our leaders taking a stand against the pipeline and the american government. This pipeline can not be built!

Magaska
Magaska

I agree Chris..We will not alow it to cross Indian Land ...All options are on the table!

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