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  • Members of the Yankton Sioux protested the Keystone XL Pipeline in 2013.

    Members of the Yankton Sioux protested the Keystone XL Pipeline in 2013. | Photo: Facebook / Yankton Sioux: Lake Andes, South Dakota

Published 20 May 2016

The Yankton Sioux Tribe, along with other Midwestern tribes and residents, have been fighting against a pipeline that could devastate ecosystems and sources water.

Members of the Sioux Nation, threatened by a massive oil pipeline that has been compared to the Keystone XL, met with the Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday to begin discussions to ensure the project takes into account the historical confiscation and destruction of tribal lands.

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The Yankton Sioux Tribe wanted to establish a “future respectful and meaningful process” that respects their history and culture, which the U.S. government “in the past hasn’t always honored,” said the tribe’s attorney Jennifer Baker, who attended pre-consultation talks with the Corps with another attorney and member of the tribe.

The Corps repeatedly declined requests by the Yankton Sioux for a consultation, and when they accepted, they suggested the meeting be held near a dam that devastated a Yankton community in the 1950s. The pre-consultation set down protocols for future meetings, such as opening and closing prayers, non-oppressive or dominant language, and acknowledgment of “sentimental beliefs and values,” Baker told teleSUR.

The Yankton Sioux are not the first to protest the pipeline — the Lakota Sioux also united with activists in occupying the proposed path of the pipeline with a traditional spirit camp.

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Baker said the meeting briefly touched on environmental concerns, such as the Corp’s refusal to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement and the pipeline's potential destruction of entire ecosystems and the sole source of water for many communities. 

The potential destruction of the pipeline is difficult to predict, even after ruptures occur, but the pipeline would stretch across four states — North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois — and would cross a major aquifer and the Missouri River, the U.S.’s longest.

The pre-consultation mostly focused, though, on cultural issues: the proposed path crosses the traditional ceremonial and burial grounds of several tribes, all of which are mobilizing with non-tribal neighbors against the project.

Baker said the nation is most disappointed that the Corps sees those resisting the pipeline as factions and is breaking up the large-scale environmental impact into specific issues of water crossings.

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