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2014-05-01 / Voices

Power For People or Pipeline?

NATALIE HAND
Owe Aku Lakota Media Project

On

April 24, 2014, a public information meeting and lunch was hosted by West Central Electric Company to inform the members of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe of their proposed plan to build new electric transmission lines through their homeland.

West Central Electric CEO/Manager Steve Reed, along with other key employees were in attendance. However, the meeting and lunch lasted approximately 20 minutes. When the tribal members began asking direct questions about West Central’s involvement with Basin Electric Power Cooperative and their plan to construct a new power substation and transmission lines to power the TransCanada Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline, company officials abruptly ended the meeting.

Through the invitation of grass roots people from Lower Brule, a delegation of anti-pipeline supporters from Pine Ridge-based Owe Aku (Bring Back The Way) travelled to Lower Brule to support the tribal members in their fight to stop any and all construction of infrastructure needed to support the KXL pipeline.

Following the meeting, a silent protest was held at the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal offices to demonstrate the peoples’ incontinued ability to be heard by their Tribal Council and Chairman Michael Jandreau.

Coincidentally, Chairman Jandreau had granted tribal employees administrative leave that day. As the silent walk through began at the tribal offices, the delegation came upon Lower Brule Vice Chairman Boyd Gourneau.

“Personally, I’m against the pipeline,” stated Gourneau.

When pressed to confirm if the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe had entered into a programmatic agreement with Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Gourneau vehemently denied any deal had been struck. “There has been no tribal resolution approving a new substation or transmission line”.

However, the Basin Electric Power Cooperative website shows that the construction of the Lower Brule power substation and mega-watt transmission line is beyond the proposal phase.

“The reason why West Central Electric is here is just to build a simple loop line for times when our other power lines are down”, stated Gourneau.

Contrarily, in the April 2014 West Central Electric Cooperative newsletter, CEO/Manager Steve Reed is quoted as saying, “I hope that at the end of the 90 day review that the Secretary of State and the President concur that the project is in the National Interest and they issue the permit so we can get started on the project.”

In response to this, the grass roots people (Kul Wicasa Oyate) of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe plan to set up a spiritual camp along the proposed route of the transmission lines needed to power the KXL pipeline.

“On May 16 we will set up this camp to block the construction of the transmission lines that TransCanada needs to power its dirty tar sands pipeline. We want to encourage our Lakota relatives and anti-pipeline allies to join us in solidarity to protect our water,” stated Travis LaRoche of Lower Brule.

Debra White Plume, Oglala Lakota activist and Director of Owe Aku noted, “We came here today out of love for our water and ancestral lands. We will put our moccasins on the ground to stop the “zuzeca sapa” (black snake), the KXL Pipeline. Using non-violent direct actions, we will stand up for sacred water.”

“We have to protect what our ancestors fought and died for. We appreciate the support and prayers”, stated Herbie Eagle Thunder of Lower Brule.

To assist the Kul Wicasa Oyate with their spiritual camp, contact Travis LaRoche (605) 295-0401. For more information on Moccasins on the Ground Non-Violent Direct Action and Owe Aku visit www.oweakuinternational.org

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