Lakota Women Lead Victory Against Keystone XL. Have You Said Thanks? [Reader Forum] readers applaud the Lakota Nation's 75-person highway blockade action, which stopped Keystone XL's oil trucks dead in their tracks.

By Channing Kennedy Mar 12, 2012

On Tuesday, our /NOW blogger Jorge Rivas told us about a victory of nonviolent resistance and sovereignty over ‘corporate law,’ by members of the Lakota Oyate Nation in South Dakota. When word came that trucks servicing the Keystone XL pipeline were being routed through sovereign land, the Lakota organized at their border and physically prevented the trucks from entering. Over 75 people gathered, including a reader’s 92-year-old grandma, holding the trucks at bay for over six hours and drawing national attention to Keystone XL’s nightmarish environmental and legal ramifications. The fight isn’t over by a longshot, but it’s a victory worth celebrating and studying.

Here on Colorlines, we’re seeing a lot of great questions and answers around this topic, from community members both first-time and established. (Welcome, new folks!) So as always, this is just a few featured comments. Here’s what you had to say.

Longtime community member urbanskin starts us off:

I am Hunkpapa Lakota and extremely proud of my Oyate Nation. From 1866-1868, Red Cloud’s war, we whipped the United States military all over the Northern plains which resulted in the first and only treaty, the Ft. Laramie treaty, the United States entered into that was written solely on the terms of the Nation they lost a military conflict to.

Ten years later we again wiped out the United States military at the Little Big Horn and the Battle of the Rosebud when the treaty was breached by miners, hungry for gold, who entered our lands. Eager to secure the gold and pull the United States out of a depression, President Grant issued its "sell or starve" policy for us to cede the Black Hills, which we refused. Buffalo hunters were sent in to slaughter our food supply, which they did, murdering tens of millions of buffalo. They followed the starvation campaign by allowing US citizens to sue us in courts for supposed depredations, bankrupting us (think Haiti a la France). This followed massacres like Wounded Knee and the legalized theft of our children via Indian Boarding schools. At the same time, our spirituality was made criminal.

The combination of these factors has led to mass poverty on our eight different Lakota reservations in ND and SD, 70%-90% unemployment. A life expectancy of 48 years, which ties us for the 9th worse/lowest life expectancy in the world with South Africa.

In 1980 the Supreme Court ruled in Sioux Nation v. United States that the U.S. illegally stole the Black Hills, but offered only financial compensation, not the return of the land, which remains sacred land to us. We refused the money, which sits in a trust account totaling over $1 Billion. To this day we refuse the money and only want the return of our sacred lands.

It would be good for others to open themselves to understanding that this earth is our first mother and we are all her children. One does not rape their mother. Live with your relatives, not against.


I grew up in western NY. Several years ago, the Seneca stood strong against the governor taxing the First Nations. They closed two interstates. The interstates are now open and the First Nations are still not paying the taxes. This is an excellent example and was applauded by almost everyone who lived in that area.

I now live in Ohio but have had the privilege of learning from Lakota and Cherokee elders. As a veteran, I understand that my duty to that oath I took when I enlisted has never been relieved. I still support and defend the Constitution of the United States, not the Congress or the President, but the Constitution.

I honor my First Nation brothers and sisters for reminding those of us who took that oath of that duty and demonstrating how to stand in the face of adversity.


Hell yeah. Don’t step up to Indian grandmas. The people on this reservation are some of the poorest people in the United States. Yet they refuse to bend over for corporations. Many of these people are not able to afford electricity or running water. Everyone can learn about self determination, sovereignty and the courage to do the right thing for all earth from these principled, community nurturing elders.They are heroes.


Pilamaya, Grandma, for standing strong against the corporate interests that care nothing for the Lakota Oyate and their sacred land! Pine Ridge is in one of the poorest counties in America, and the roads, even those that are paved, are in terrible condition. Having trucks (probably overweight) drive on said roads will further deteriorate them, and they should be resisted by all.

Pilamaya also to KILI radio; wonder if the Rockin’ Lakota Blues Man is still dj’ing? Changleska Wakhan Apichiyapi. Mitakuye Oyasin.

Marc Jones:

[…] Too bad the corporate asses couldn’t open up a map and check to see if they might have any problems before they set off. Don’t they pay people to do that?

James Harper:

"… corporate rights that supersede any other law …"



Now corporations aren’t only people, they’re superior people.

The Lakotas aren’t the only people in need of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. I hope they don’t mind a white man invoking their names.


Keystone XL boasts of all the jobs and all the money it will bring to communities along the route of its hellish pipeline, but you see how picayune XL is — dodges around weigh stations to avoid paying overload fines. Here in Texas we are already seeing XL’s "benefits" as it starts eminent domain proceedings against 4th and 5th generation landowners. All this thanks to President Obama approving part of the route, from Kansas thru Texas.

Congratulations to the Lakota people for standing up to XL. Too bad Obama isn’t at least half Lakota.

Greg Meyer:

The president had no say in this part of the deal. Because it doesn’t cross a boarder, the state department has no say. This was a deal between the state and Transcanada. So while the president hasn’t done the best job so far, this particular issue has nothing to do with him. Blame NAFTA if anything.

Robin Faith Gladstone:

Please don’t think of Canadian oil companies in an undeserved light. They hire Aboriginals to do the crappiest jobs while touting that they are providing jobs for us. They have destroyed a way of life in Fort Chipewyan all along the Athabasca. Fish are deformed. This past weekend Elders told stories of how they could, as recently as the ’70s, dip a cup when fishing to drink from the river.

Now they have to bring bottled water on fishing trips. They can no longer feed their families fish caught there and are told to only eat it once a month. Tar sands is the dirtiest extraction and Canada’s dirty little secret that has been going on for years. Only now do the American people know it exists.

And the destruction will only be furthered by the pipeline. We ALL need to be diligent in our opposition of this terrible project; it’s killing Mother Earth and will be a permanent path of destruction that can never be reversed. Wado to the Lakota people for standing up; all bands are with you in spirit.

Walker Bennett:

Thank God for the First Nations standing up for their rights. The First Nations in Canada have already put the government on notice that any attempt to put a pipeline through British Columbia will be blocked. The Aboriginals have never signed an official treaty with Canada and the majority of the land in B.C. belongs to the tribes. The quickest way to get the tar sands from Alberta to the Pacific in order to sell it directly to China would be directly through reservation land in B.C. The First Nations Council have told the Harper government it "ain’t gonna happen."


Congratulations and thanks to the First Nations activists.

The struggles for human rights, against gold or oil or cotton (see slavery) or any of the other exploitations that have so badly damaged the land and the people of this, and other continents, have to be pushed as hard as possible.

It is about exploitation. The gold taken from the land enriched everyone but those who lived there. The tarsands oil is directly intended to be exported from this country. Much of the oil pumped out of our soil is exported, even as oil is imported. It is all about exploitation.

Only when we of (mostly) European descent realize we share more issues with Native people and new-immigrant people than with the 1% who control us, will they stop controlling us.

The time is always… now.

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