Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

State News

September 19, 2012

Keystone pipeline's path cuts across Native American land, history


CUSHING, Okla. —

Moreover, while the pipeline doesn't cross current reservation boundaries in South Dakota, it runs across rivers and water pipelines that do.

Even under congressional legislation, a process of consultation is required for all federal agencies. But Cast said that the State Department, which is weighing the Keystone XL cross-border permit, told tribes to voice concerns at open meetings with other citizens.

"The State Department has its own process talking about government-to-government talks and the sovereignty of tribes, but they don't really believe that," Cast said. "Our main issues are with the federal agencies. I think they abandoned the tribes."

Baker said: "The consultation process is really broken. Tribal interests are rarely able to be brought forward properly, and when they are they are rarely listened to."

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Native Americans have had success melding their interests with business and oil development. The Sac and Fox, like many other tribes, rely heavily on casinos for income. The tribe said in a May newsletter that it received two-thirds of its revenue from its casinos.

The oil and gas industry is a familiar presence, too. Though Oklahoma was chosen as Indian Territory in part because it was thought to be worth little, the state turned out to hold substantial oil and natural gas reserves. That led to further reductions in Indian land holdings while derricks and small boomtowns sprung up. Throughout Indian areas today, old pipelines, some dating to the 1930s, can be seen alongside gently seesawing pump jacks, and the old boomtowns remain largely deserted.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Interior Department has acted as Indians' trustee for these resources, though Native Americans have complained that it has often done a poor job of guarding their interests. The Osage tribe, which in 1906 was savvy enough to retain mineral rights when private allotments were carved out in Osage County, filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department for mismanaging those mineral rights; last October, the government settled for $380 million.

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