CUSHING, Okla. —
Many tribal leaders in Oklahoma, including Kurak, have no objection to TransCanada's pipeline plan.
TransCanada says that there will be three monitors and one tribal liaison on every segment of pipeline under construction. "There's always the possibility that we are confronted with an unanticipated discovery that requires mitigation," Thompson said. "Our tribal monitors' main responsibility is to help us identify those unanticipated discoveries. They are rare, but they do occur."
But other tribal leaders remain troubled, despite TransCanada's assurances.
"All we know is that it's coming through our tribal jurisdiction," Thurman said. "They say they will stop digging if they hit something, but there is no guarantee that they are going to stop."
If they don't stop, the tribes could go to federal court or ask the Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs to intervene.
After the Oklahoma tribal leaders' first meeting with Thompson, Massey sat on the edge of the annual Sac and Fox powwow, part ceremony and part country fair featuring jumbo corn dogs, frozen chocolate-dipped cheesecake and fish tacos. Men in feathered regalia and women in long patterned skirts and necklaces danced in a circle around a dozen traditional drummers. Others watched from folding chairs and bleachers as an announcer over a microphone urged people to participate.
"Some things are sensitive to us. If they want to go through a grave, the ground around it may be sacred, too," Massey said, shaking her head. "We're all wary. We don't trust anybody."
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Other tribes also are worried about the pipeline excavation. In February, Robert Cast, the historic-preservation officer of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, with homelands in four states, wrote to the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation warning of "imminent and irreparable damage" to an archeological site in Lamar County, Texas.