PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A tribal official told a state panel Tuesday a proposed oil pipeline shouldn’t be permitted to divert water from three South Dakota rivers.
Kip Spotted Eagle, the historic preservation officer for the Yankton Sioux Tribe, said the Keystone XL project could harm cultural resources and infringe on tribes’ hunting and fishing.
The South Dakota Water Management Board heard his testimony on the third day of a hearing that was scheduled for five days but could go longer.
TC Energy — formerly known as TransCanada — wants to build a pipeline to carry crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta through Montana, western South Dakota and Nebraska.
The company already has the Keystone oil pipeline running through eastern South Dakota.
The new project seeks permits from the South Dakota board to use water from the Cheyenne, White and Bad rivers. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has recommended the permits be granted.
Spotted Eagle was the first tribal official to testify. He said there was “a high concentration” of cultural resources along the rivers and that, to his knowledge, no tribal people participated in the cultural survey conducted for the company.
There are altars, ceremonies and annual events, such as the Big Foot Ridge memorializing the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, along the rivers, according to Spotted Eagle.
He acknowledged the closest boundary of the Yankton Sioux reservation is about 70 miles east of the proposed right of way, but he described all of the territory as aboriginal and first inhabited by tribal peoples.
Spotted Eagle told William Taylor, a Sioux Falls attorney representing the project, that he hadn’t visited the three diversion points. But, he added, “The river is a cultural site for us.”
Spotted Eagle said he didn’t know whether any Yankton Sioux officials had signed the programmatic agreement with the federal government in 2009 for how the project would be conducted.
He said he helped get federal funding for the tribal historic preservation office but someone else was hired at the time. He officially started as preservation officer October 11, 2016.
“When I was the T-H-P-O, we were opposed to the Keystone pipeline,” Spotted Eagle told Taylor.
Spotted Eagle later told an attorney representing the Yankton Sioux government that the diversion points were within aboriginal territory of the Oceta Sakowin — Seven Bands — or Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people.
One concern he said was the Cheyenne River diversion could stir up sediment that could contain dangerous tailings carried downstream by creeks from Black Hills gold mines.
“Almost all ceremonies we have require water,” Spotted Eagle said. “Absolutely we need clean water for those ceremonies.”