Keystone XL Pipeline Must #HonorTheTreaties


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Keystone XL attorneys and clients stand in front of courthouse

On Thursday, September 12, 2019, the United States District Court for the District of Montana, Great Falls Division, heard arguments in Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Trump.

At the hearings, the US government argued that the treaties that the United States signed with tribal nations are not relevant to the Keystone pipeline. In fact, the treaties were created specifically for this sort of violation.

“When the Tribes negotiated their treaties, they gave millions of acres of land to the United States—including, ironically, the land on which the courthouse now stands. In return, they asked that the United States protect their lands from trespass and their resources from destruction. Today, the Presidents of Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Fort Belknap Indian Community were in federal court to invoke their sacred inheritance from these treaties—because the KXL pipeline is exactly the kind of depredation the Tribes sought to prevent,” NARF Staff Attorney Natalie Landreth explained after the hearings.

“The federal government and TransCanada argue that the treaties don’t matter. Obviously, that is not the case. Like the US Constitution, treaties are the law of the land and no one is above that law,” said NARF Staff Attorney Matthew Campbell.

When they entered into treaties with the United States, the tribal nations were working to protect their natural resources (water, grasslands, sacred places, and  the great buffalo herds) and keep people from crossing their lands. The United States formally agreed, among other things, to keep outsiders off Lakota (Sioux) and other Tribal nation’s territories and protect tribal cultural and natural resources. The 2019 pipeline approval violates both of these provisions.

tribal supporters stand in front of the US District Court, September 2019Maps issued by TransCanada (TC Energy) clearly show the proposed KXL pipeline crossing tribal lands. They are proposing to do so without the tribal consent required under the treaty law. The Tribes argue in their amended complaint that the 2019 permit, which would allow a Canadian company (TransCanada) to build another dirty tar sand crude pipeline across American soil, also creates a substantial risk of

  • the desecration and destruction of cultural, historic, and sacred sites;
  • the endangerment of tribal members, especially women and children;
  • damage to hunting and fishing resources, as well as the tribal health and economies associated with these activities;
  • the impairment of federally reserved tribal water rights and resources;
  • harm to tribal territory and natural resources in the inevitable event of Pipeline ruptures and spills; and
  • harm to the political integrity, economic stability, and health and welfare of the Tribes.

All the Tribes are asking is that the US government honor the treaties that the president signed and the US Congress ratified. All they are asking is the law be upheld. NARF will not allow the US government to ignore or forget the agreements made with tribal nations. Neither the president nor wealthy foreign corporations are above the laws of our country.

Treaties are not just an agreement between two sovereign governments.  Rather they are an agreement between the citizens of those sovereigns. If a sovereign government violates their agreements, they dishonor not just themselves, but also the people they are representing.

Don’t let this president dishonor our country.  Don’t allow him to dishonor you. You can support the Tribes’ fight for justice.  Donate today.

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Read more about the illegal permitting of the Keystone XL Pipeline.