Ever Been to the Badlands?

By Ohio, originally posted at Corrente.

Lambert here. Yves had asked me to put up a quick post on yesterday’s Keystone XL truck stoppage in the Lakota Nation. But Ohio said everything a lot better than I could have. I’ll add some linky goodness at the end (including some Lakota contact info).

* * *

Not the Sissy Spacek movie.

They’re called that for a reason. Summer or winter, they’re a bad place to be. The climate is unpredictable and extreme, as in -40°F to 116°F, and you can look forward to the thunderstorms and blizzards.

Steep slopes, loose dry soil, slick clay, and deep sand. Lots of fossils, so people who hate the idea of evolution must also hate the place. The Lakota knew they were looking at fossils, that the area must have been underwater at some time and the petrified bones and turtle shells they found belonged to species that no longer existed.

I’ve been to the Badlands. Once during one of those childhood excursions where your dad decides you just have to drive two thousand miles in a week. The station wagon was a lovely dental gold color, unbearably hot in the summer. There was a pop-up camper and we camped. I remember mosquitos the size of sheep near the lakes of Minnesota. There were little boxes of cereal for breakfast and my mom had a red plaid thermos full of coffee.

The second time was in winter. My seven siblings and I were crammed into a different station wagon, but Rose had the same plaid thermos. I was five. I have never been so cold.

I remember the wind. There’s that old saying: An ill wind blows no good. Well, a South Dakota wind blows right into you and takes your breath with it. Especially in winter.

South of the Badlands sits the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I’ve been there, too.
Pine Ridge is bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. I’d call it a hellhole, but hell has better roads, especially that big one paved with those intentions.

Population about 28,787. Eighth largest reservation in the United States and the poorest. Unemployment on the reservation hovers around 80%, and 49% of the people live below the poverty level. Adolescent suicide is four times the national average. Many of the families have no electricity, telephone, running water, or sewer. Life expectancy is about 47 years for men and in the low 50s for women. The infant mortality rate is five times the national average.

Annual income is less than $3,500. There are no jobs and almost no infrastructure. Most people have to walk to get where they’re going—summer and winter—and people die when they get lost. (AIM leader Anna May Pictou Aquash ‘s body was found by the side of State Road 73 about 10 miles from Wanblee, South Dakota. Medical practitioner W. O. Brown determined she died of exposure. He somehow missed the .32 caliber bullet hole in the back of her head.)

The people there got nothing but that crazy wind.

But they’re standing up for themselves. And in the process standing up for everybody else. Brenda Norrell’s Censored News reports:

Debra White Plume, released from jail in Kyle, South Dakota, said Monday night, “Alex [White Plume], myself, Sam Long Black Cat, Andrew Iron Shell and Terrell Eugene Iron Shell were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.”

“We formed a blockade to stop tarsands oil mine equipment from passing our lands…There were about 50 to 75 people on the blockade at the village of Wanbl[ee] in Eagle Nest District on the northern side of the Pine Ridge rez.”

Debra White Plume said the trucks were coming from Texas and going to Alberta, Canada to the tarsands oil mine.

“They said their office in Canada made the route with the State of South Dakota to cross the Pine Ridge rez in order to avoid paying the state of South Dakota $50,000 per truck,” Debra White Plume said.

“There were about 75 people on the blockade, people brought pots of soup, frybread, cases of water, doughnuts, soda, and parked their cars to join the blockade. The oldest woman there was Marie Randall, another elder was Renabelle Bad Cob who came in her WHEELCHAIR and participated in the blockade.”

Let me take a moment to give respect: old women, you are badasses.

“The tribal police took us to jail. Our lawyer Sonny Richards did the paperwork to get us out of jail. The tribal police had to let the trucks get off the rez. They escorted them to the reservation line.”

This morning the DJ from KILI, the only radio station in the area, played “Folsom Prison Blues” in honor of those arrested. Johnny Cash. It’s the right name and it leads to something else: these people are going to need some help. Not help with guts because they got that. Not help with clarity because they got that, too. They’re going to need financial help: money for bail and bonds and lawyers. And for more than just a donut or a plaid thermos of coffee.

* * *

Lambert here again. Here’s a useful backgrounder showing Keystone XL’s proposed route. The same post also has a lot of quotes from TransCanada, the pipeline builders, the tribal chairpersons, and material on past spills. Similar protests have occurred before; this is an ongoing story. The Native News Network and Common Dreams have more.

Here’s KILI’s original call on FaceBorg:

ACTION ALERT PINE RIDGE SD: Calling all Lakota Men on the Pine Ridge Reservation to come to Wanblee SD.

XL Pipeline trucks are being held there at the border by our Lakota Oyate, OST Police and State Troopers in an effort to keep them from entering our territory. Even the state troopers told the trucks they have to turn around and cannot bring their…pipeline or other materials on to our reservation. The XL Pipeline trucks are refusing to turn around claiming they have corperate rights that supercedes any other laws. Olowan Sara Martinez, Debra White Plume, Grandma Marie Randall and others are there holding their ground.

Here’s an aggregation from Color Lines that links out to this local blogger, who has quotes and pictures. [UPDATE More here.] And this on trucks will seem familiar those fighting fracking, mountaintop removal, and landfills.

As far as Ohio’s call for “financial help…” I don’t know if anybody has thought that far ahead, though maybe they have. I made a call, and it sounds like Olowan Martinez or Alex Whiteplume would be good names to start such a conversation with. Sorry for the FaceBorg links, but I guess I’m trying to use FB for good…

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. citizendave

    The XL Pipeline trucks are refusing to turn around claiming they have corporate rights that supersede any other laws

    Sounds like the definition of Oligarchy, or maybe Plutocracy. The Corporation rules. Rule of law be damned.

    1. JIm Sterling

      The historical double standard is stunning. For centuries English law, that American law draws from, said that if youi were a private land owner, you had the right to prevent trespassers creeping around your actual home, and you had the right to the product of your extensive lands (i.e. no poaching). But as for regular people crossing your land, you couldn’t stop them. Land ownership didn’t include that right.

      Naturally, big owners have pushed out against this for centuries, claiming their moral right to exclude anyone they felt like, because it was their land, dammit.

      But when large private lands that belong to poor people lie on a route that the trucks of a rich man’s corporation want to cross, suddenly it’s all change, and they’re all about right to roam. Funny that.

      Their land is their land, and your land is their land too.

  2. F. Beard

    Lots of fossils, so people who hate the idea of evolution must also hate the place. LS

    Nice cheap shot.

    But the Theory of Evolution still doesn’t account for the Origin of Life nor does it account for the fine-tuning of the Earth and the Solar System and of the constants in the laws of physics.

    1. sciance for dopes

      But an invisible oriental potentate in the sky, that ties up all the loose ends, yessiree. QED.

      1. Ray Duray

        Dear sfd,

        LOL.Thanks for finding the words I couldn’t. I realized after I’d typed a soon deleted reply that saying that the Theory of Evolution also “could not explain the profound ignorance and stunningly profound mendacity of much of humanity, but that religion could”…. might be ‘misin-twerp-eted’ as an ad hominen attack.

        1. Dave of Maryland

          I am TIRED of that crap. I am tired of cheap, materialistic, phony science. I am tired of bowing my head and bending the knee to every knee-jerk scientific fantasy. WHO CARES about evolution !!!! Don’t you have better things to do? The Lakota STARVE and people trash them with Holy Evolution. Get a life.

          1. wb

            I’m tired of Beard reducing the intellectual level of every thread with his crackpot egotistical religious mania. There’s loads of credible scientific hypotheses concerning the origin of life, from chemistry to biology, ( e.g. viruses ) and they are all more convincing than Beard’s Iron Age semitic Sky-God hypothesis, which he feels compelled to plug regardless of the topic. It’s trolling.
            I consider the tar sands operation to be a gross atrocity, an obscene insult to the Earth and to all life.

          2. citizendave

            There is much wisdom in the ancient stories. The paradox of wisdom is how to recognize what is wisdom and what is not. You basically need to already have wisdom in order to recognize it. I appreciate Beard’s references, though I am not an adherent on that path. I look for the wisdom, and if Beard’s references are pertinent, as they nearly always are, I can decide for myself what is wisdom and what is dogma. We stand on the shoulders of the ancients, but we are seeing with first eyes. The children who follow us will stand on our shoulders, and will see what we cannot yet discern. Learn patience. We who seek truth and wisdom are descendents of a long line of seekers. When you criticize others you say more about yourself than about the others. Don’t curse the darkness — light a candle. Offer your own wisdom and insight.

          3. skippy

            “Nice cheap shot.”… beard.

            Thousands of years of incorrect observations does not bode well for your argumentation in support of your belief. An over riding and increasing need to reverse engineer, yea, countermand old observations to give the appearance of modern relevance is poor substitute for flexible scientific theory. As system that is open to new discovery and not a closed loop, unsupported absolutes vs. this is what we can divine today yet tomorrow may bring change… radical change. And let us not forget beard that much of what we call the western world is a derivative of your monotheistic belief as exercised by countless generations before us, it is the root code.

            Personally I find your self professed knowledge about all things biblical extremely wanting, its almost vaporous, no denomination ( scared to congregate cuz your single… BTW its ordained that you do ), zero peer reviewed submissions, only able to confront the most simplistic rebuttals with offerings from half way across the cannons, dismissive attitude, failure to engage the mass of evidence put under your nose ( only pick out one line item which you feel you can win or redirect the conversation ). of which you completely missed my Noah reference ie. bigot, Ethiopians and stripes thingy.

            Your in a self imposed cave of thought, completely cut off, a wannabe prophet. Please in the future provide more substantial proof than maniac like dissertations divined from one tomb, after decades of indecisiveness.

            @Dave of Maryland… When you can utilize a chart that encompasses all the cosmos, known and unknown, then I’ll have a look. Other wise its the same rubbish peddled down through the ages and has be thoroughly debunked ad nauseam ( are you rich by it, safer by it, is it better than the bible code?


            Thousands of satisfied users in Israel, the United States and Europe have bought Computronic’s software because it is the best in the market, and its low prices.

            Testify! Will I win on the track to day? Ohh low prices… ummm made in China?

            Skippy… the anchors and millstones humanity must bare moving forward… shezzz.

          4. wb


            “The children who follow us will stand on our shoulders, and will see what we cannot yet discern. Learn patience. We who seek truth and wisdom are descendents of a long line of seekers. When you criticize others you say more about yourself than about the others. Don’t curse the darkness — light a candle. Offer your own wisdom and insight.”

            Quoting wise words from an ancient book is nothing like having your OWN wisdom, it’s an attempt to gain faked authority by co-opting someone else’s. What’s right, wise, at one time, is wrong at another time.

            FWIW, if you want my wisdom, this dispute over evolution is easily and simply resolved. There’s two ways of knowing, two ways of being in the world, called mythos and logos, corresponding approximately to right and left brain hemispheres ( See Iain McGilchrist bk ). Religion, spiritual stuff, ( as favoured by Beard and Dave of Maryland ), is mythos. Science, logic and reason, are logos. It’s not an ‘either/or’. We need BOTH. We can’t avoid having both. They are of equal importance. Poetic truths and literal truths. The problems, discord and disputes arise when people don’t understand this, and muddle the two up, misapply them, or claim exclusive privilege for the one or the other.


      2. scraping_by

        Don’t get bent out of shape with those who come to your conclusions by different routes. Unless you want to remain just snarking. Finding common ground is power, and if power scares you, speak truth.

        The story of the Creative Class lost in the sea of cretins is one of the divisions that keeps the kleptocracy in power. Divide and conquer begins with divide.

        The Earth is our mother or public health is threatened or the ecological balance must be restored or the Green Man must be appeased or God has given us a garden or we are all One. Doesn’t matter, it’s many journeys to the same place.
        And that place will move the world, if you have the grit.

        1. different clue

          If “we are all One” proves too difficult to achieve, or even too otherworldly to aspire to, there might still be the hard-nosed coalitions-of-shared-interest between different grouploads of people who will never have anything in common except certain shared brute-survival interests. Perhaps those shared brute-survival interests may be enough to inspire deeply different grouploads of people to share joint effort on advancing those shared brute-survival interests.

    2. Eric

      The theory of evolution does not claim to explain the origin of life – origin is beyond the scope of the theory. Origin of life has its own theories.

    3. different clue

      Since the Theory of Evolution never said that it did account for the first origin of life or anything about any physical constants and laws whatever, it is a nice cheap shot on your part to pretend that it ever did, so that you can deceitfully claim that it fails to do so, even as you knew all along that it never made any such claims in the first place.

      As to the religionists “hating” the badlands for having lots of fossil bones, the religionists solved that problem.
      Religionist Fundamentalists have clearly said that God made the earth with multi-million-years-old fossil bones in it to see which humans are faithless and godless. The faithless and godless humans will try to analyze the bones and their meaning based on the ages of the bones. The faithful and godful humans will accept that God can make a bone which is a billion years old at the very moment God is making it. You can do things like that when You’re God, you know.

      1. citizendave

        A literal belief that the supreme beings could create the world ex nihilo, perhaps capriciously, would render morality and ethics pointless. Why bother?! We got fuel to burn, we got roads to drive, keep on rockin’ in the free world. If the truth is that God has no agency, that does not disprove that God exists. If prayers of intercession are seemingly unanswered, that does not mean you know the reason why.

        1. skippy

          “A literal belief that the supreme beings could create the world ex nihilo, perhaps capriciously, would render ***morality and ethics pointless***.”…. CD.

          Survival of ours and other species, a path to less self inflicted pain, too grok what we do not know… yet assert we do, et al.

          Skippy… Reductio ad absurdum… if we do not believe… we all die… a blind death…. barf.

          PS. why pre – define the unknown. why cling to assumptions from antiquity when the history is so bloody? Comfort?

          1. citizendave

            PS. why pre–define the unknown. why cling to assumptions from antiquity when the history is so bloody? Comfort? – Skippy

            I agree, we should relentlessly try to discover our own assumptions and prejudices, and then get rid of them. Our assumptions tend to obscure or color our perception of the true nature of phenomena. “All data is theory-laden”. We probably have managed to make some progress, for example Galileo’s debunking of the notion of the Earth-centered universe. But it seems very difficult to gauge how much understanding we have gained, compared to how much more there is of which we may have not even an inkling. Socrates said something like ‘the more I learn, the more I discover how little I know’. Still, I have arrived at a point where I believe I know one thing: the simple fact of my existence. I know I exist, or I know that I am an aspect of that which exists. What to make of it, precisely, remains an open question. Let it suffice to say that the world appears much different to me now compared to how it seemed when I started 1st Grade in 1954. Partly, the world has changed, but my comprehension has changed as well.

            I like the quote from Chief Seattle, posted elsewhere in this conversation by rps: “We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy – and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his fathers graves, and his children’s birthright is forgotten.” This view of the world is much different from the viewpoint I acquired in school, which I later spent many years trying to shed. Our children’s birthright has not only been forgotten, it’s been sold to the highest bidder for very temporary financial gain in our too-short lifetime.

            As for the comfort of ignorance, ignorance is bliss. But it seems improbable that people make a conscious decision to cloak themselves in blissful ignorance, thereby to avoid any unpleasantness brought on by a clear vision of the real world. The few glimpses I’ve had of the real world were of a beautiful, mysterious, miraculous universe, which invariably led me to wish I could see it that way all the time. But instead we inhabit this meatspace, and must endure all the ills to which the flesh is heir — including massive degradation of the world, caused by our not-very-well-thought-out economic engine.

            When I was a kid I could see WAY more stars than I can see now. It’s not just my eyes — there’s a lot of cr@p in the air.

            I think we can find a cure, but I think it will come from the arts, rather than politics.

    4. Flying Kiwi

      The Theory of Evolution has nothing whatever to do with explaining the origin of life or the laws of physics. However once life – in the sense of a dynamic entity capable of manipulating its environment in order to perpetuate its existence in another entity – gets going the ‘theory’ of evolution circumscribed by the laws of physics provides a perfect explanation of how myopic, tiny minds like that of cat called, it seems, F. Beard.

        1. F. Beard

          Here’s a contradiction in two adjacent verses!

          Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

          Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. Proverbs 26:4-5

          Or is God mocking those who want any excuse to not believe?

          Btw, the above gives me license to ignore or refute as I see fit.

          1. wb

            More nonsense, what a pity, I was so enjoying the crickets, Beard. :-)

            He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know.

            I don’t care what anyone believes. I respect your love for the Bible and dedication to your God, however conceived. In fact, some of the nicest people I have met recently were Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I draw the line when people try to convert me and convince me of the superiority of their beliefs. I’ve found your application of Biblical knowledge to contemporary monetary and banking matters very interesting, Beard. However when you start talking about physics, biology and evolution, etc. you’re exceeding your competence, to put it politely. You’re misleading people. ‘CO2 is plant food…’. ‘Circumcision isn’t mutilation…’ Seriously, with respect, a little humility and recognition of your own ignorance might permit you to learn, perhaps ? Some of those dead people in the Bible might have given you that advice, but would you have listened, would you have heard ?

          2. F. Beard

            I was so enjoying the crickets, wb

            Good point. Sunday was 3 days ago. :)

            And yes, my chief interest is momentary reform but I am not unarmed in other areas either.

          3. F. Beard

            Let’s hear your ideas on banking as a “public utility”. How about a long post?

          4. F. Beard

            And if your reforms are based on counterfeiting and usury as the present system is then they are doomed to failure.

          5. Clem

            Beard, here’s a good description of bible thumpers:

            “A fool returnith to his folly, the way a dog returnith to his vomit”

  3. don

    Thanks for posting this.

    I’d like to add the link below, which provides some description of the tar sands ecological impact.

    But more importantly, watch the interview with Naomi Klein about growing opposition to large and heavy tar sands equipment/trucks traveling highway 12 in the northern rockies for Canada. The link to the interview is on the right, just down from the top.

    Highway 12 departs far western Montana and over the Lolo Pass into Idaho, following the Lochsa River to its confluence with the Selway River, which together form the Clearwater River. This area is breath taking in its beauty, and citizens in the general area are organizing against the use of the highway to exacerbate global climate warming.


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Excellent link, Don. The trucks are a flashpoint, up and down the whole route, on all these projects.

      And, I would think — any truck experts here? — the bigger the truck, the higher the profit margin. So the conflict is pretty direct.

  4. American Slave

    What we could have is renewable energy and just export coal, oil and gas thereby earning tax income rather than burning it for no reason.

  5. Eugene Villarreal

    Stand your ground. How much more can be taken away from the Lakota Nation. The beauty is in the peaceful landscape and the nation that respects it. I’ve been to the Badlands, Wound Knee, Devil’s Tower and at the Crazy Horse Monument. What made my quiet enjoyment of the sights was that I read “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” a long time ago.

  6. bob goodwin

    I read the post 3 times trying to understand the plot of the post, and came away with “poor native americans try to stop truck caravan from crossing reservation, but the truck caravan had a legal right to cross, so poor native americans are arrested.”

    What did I miss? How does tar sands and a pipeline play into this plot line?

    1. guest

      Weird, and here I thought the Native Tribes had sovereignty over their reservations. Please post your citation of the the trucks right to cross the reservation w/o tribal agreement, as you must have a link since you made the assertion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribal_sovereignty_in_the_United_States

      The federal government may facilitate commerce with the tribes, but I doubt the truck drivers had a printed document from the feds.

      Just another case of corporations attempting to take advantage of the tribes as they have for mineral rights for ages. The tribe should just assess a fee of $75K per truck, similar to what the state did, if they trucks will not back down. Not what the tribal members are intending, but obviously the trucks are going to make to the tar sands at some point.

      1. bob goodwin

        The article stated that the people were arrested. Unless you think there is a conspiracy, that sounds like evidence that impeding the trucks was illegal. Reservations may have the right to restrict or tax the trucks, but it appears they did neither.

  7. rps

    “The attempted transformation of the Indian by the white man and the chaos that has resulted are but the fruits of the white man’s disobedience of a fundamental and spiritual law.

    Civilization has been thrust upon me since the days of the reservations, and it has not added one whit to my sense of justice, to my reverence for the rights of life, to my love for truth, honesty, and generosity, or to my faith.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

    Have the citizens of this country no shame, guilt, or remorse from our horrific history of the Native American Holocaust in the name of Progress? Even today, the government bullies a decimated people whose greatest crime was charity to the the early white settlers, believing they were human beings.

    “We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy– and when he has conquered it, he moves on.He leaves his fathers graves, and his children’s birthright is forgotten.” Chief Seattle

  8. IF

    I am very sympathetic with Native Americans even though reality often bites my romanticism. From the reports I am not sure that the trucks had pipeline equipment. But it seems the load was very heavy at >> 100 tonnes (probably causing damage to roads and the reason for high fees). I am just guessing. But from all I can tell tribes have great autonomy over their lands. It seems if the community wanted to disallow transit or set the transit fee at >50k per truck to keep them out they could. (Of course once you involve that much money you invite corruption.)

    It is not easy to understand the real reasons for the opposition. Is the pipeline going to pass through their rez or is it passing going to pass by?

    1. nonclassical

      “Smoke Signals”; “Who is your favorite Indian?”……”Nobody”…(refer-“Dead man”)

      bad lands…indeed.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Besides the larger issues for which many would oppose Keystone, from the backgrounder, TransCanada threaded the pipeline between two reservations, but also crossed a tribal water supply. You can’t drink oil.

      Also, the passage of heavy trucks is a fully legitimate cause for concern, and these trucks are only the beginning. Any community that’s experienced fracking or landfilling knows the damage that a constant stream of large trucks can do.

      1. IF

        I am not saying they don’t have a good reason. Just don’t think the messaging is clear. The article starts well and then gets confusing. And I am willing to read several extra articles and still don’t have the feeling to get their motivation. I am all for monkey wrenches, but at least Abbey could explain himself.

    3. Poco Ritard

      “It is not easy to understand the real reasons for the opposition.”

      Odd. Seems easy to me. Environmental destruction (local and global), financial fraud, robbery of present and future generations on a colossal scale, deceit, contempt for the will or welfare of the people affected… oh and not least the baroque, exquisite insult of running the trucks across the rez to save a few bucks that would have gone to offset the road wear. I hear it loud and clear: “F**ck ’em, they’re indians.” So do they, I think.

      Yeah, I’d roll my wheelchair out onto the damn highway too. Nice piece, Ohio. I get it. It’s not hard to understand why some people don’t: no poetry, no soul, no brains or mabye just no heart…

  9. scraping_by

    The bit that stood out is that S Dak state officials helped route the trucks so they wouldn’t have to pay $55,000 per truck in highway fees.

    Are state officials anti-state revenue? Do they need a budget deficit to impose austerity? Are they angling for jobs with the oil companies by shorting the public purse? Do they have some favor, not for the state at large obviously, on the way? Are they so reflexively the servants of corporations that they obey and don’t think?

    Trucks already pay only about half the damage they cause. This would work out to $110,000 damage per truck to the pavement, which will have to be paid by South Dakota taxpayers. Once again, public welfare for private enterprise.

  10. K Ackermann

    Thanks for posting this, Lambert. I hope you continue to contribute here because you do an excellent job.

  11. EmilianoZ

    This is a great post if only because no one else is talking about that. I tried typed Keystone Lakota into Google News. There’s only one relevant article from something called ColorLines. Incredible.

    1. psychohistorian

      The fact that actions by individual citizens or groups of citizens in protest against government or corporate actions is not covered in the MSM is a feature of conscious control by the Plutocrats.

  12. different clue

    Our survival (civilizational and personal) is based on untroubled minute-to-minute access to free-flowing oil and its products. We aren’t going to quit cold turkey and thereby freeze, starve, and die in the dark.

    But we could learn how to use less, and then still less, and then even less after that. Right now our public governators and private biznazi overlords are devoted to ordering our lives to facilitate us burning and otherwise using the absolute most oil possible. Until we can overthrow, tear down, destroy, and replace those two groups of people who stand in the way of re-engineering our civilization around minimal resource use; concerned individuals and groups of individuals ( communities maybe) will have to try reducing their own various uses of oil as best they can. Perhaps Yves Smith might run articles from time to time about people who are effectively doing that? Or about good ideas and sources of information about how to do that?

  13. different clue

    People “could” scatter caltrops on the roads over which these trucks are driven. I am not saying that people “would” or even “should” do such an illegal thing.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      This is Pine Ridge, so they probably have the tactical aspects of all this nailed down pretty well. What they might need, as Ohio points out, is assistance from the outside in the form of bail and lawyer’s fees. Actually, they probably have that nailed down too, but that’s something we could surely help with. It’s up to them, though.

  14. LucyLulu

    These poor people were herded onto this reservation, and given the most desolate land in the entire country. If they decide they don’t want people riding bicycles across their land, that’s their right. It’s their land. They don’t need to have a good reason.

    The part I don’t get is why tribal police arrested the 75 tribe members who blockaded the trucks. Was everybody on the reservation not in agreement? Or did pressure come down from outside the reservation? Had tribal police been informed that they would need to ensure that the trucks made it through okay?

    Those people that claim there’s no real poverty in this country….. could they be sent to camp Lakota for a month?

    1. jonboinAR

      It looks like maybe they had been successfully divided so that they could be more easily conquered. It could be the tribal police are in the pocket of outside forces, but that’s just a guess, of course. I would think that if the whole group could get on the the same page they could negotiate more to their advantage.

        1. Jonathan Kaye

          Why did the tribal police arrest their own people? Should they have arrested the truck drivers who were trespassing?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Part of the playbook for extractive projects is corrupting local officials, and also the rule of law locally. We saw it up here in landfills, and I’m sure it’s also true for fracking.

  15. Eleanor

    I’ve been to the South Dakota Badlands both summer and winter. They are astoundingly beautiful. Part of the Badlands is a national monument. The rest goes onto Pine Ridge. I have never visited the part on Pine Ridge, because the reservation roads are not good.

    Also, the mosquitos in Minnesota are a perfectly ordinary size. However, there can be a lot of them.

    What this article and the one in Common Dreams do not make clear is, do the trucks have tribal permission to cross? If the tribal council has agreed to the trucks crossing the reservation, then we have an internal conflict on Pine Ridge. (I would side with the people who don’t want XL trucks on their land.) If the tribal council has not agreed, then I would think there is a question of treaty rights here. And I don’t believe that corporate rights trump treaty rights.

  16. Eleanor

    The ColorLines story says the trucks were on the rez, when they were blocked by people who had heard labeled Calgary, Alberta were crossing tribal land. (The XL Pipeline must be a major issue on Pine Ridge.) The truckers said a deal had been cut between the corporation and the State of South Dakota to route the trucks through tribal land, so they could avoid a $50,000 per truck state highway fee. The tribal police arrested some of the people doing the blocking, then escorted the trucks off the reservation. It sounds as if the trucks did not have tribal permission.

  17. Eleanor

    From Indian Country Today:

    By threading the South Dakota portion of the Keystone XL pipeline route between Pine Ridge and the nearby Rosebud reservation, whose water supply connects to that of the Oglalas, it appears TransCanada was trying to avoid dealing with the Sioux tribes, according to Oglala Sioux Tribe President John Yellow Bird Steele, who set up the meeting. “However, the company did not realize that the route crosses the Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System,” said Steele. “The OSRWSS consists of a core pipeline and related facilities, including a reservation delivery system, that are held in trust by the United States for the Oglala Sioux Tribe.”

    Now, TransCanada has asked federal agencies for an easement (right of way) that would allow Keystone XL to transport a particularly corrosive and toxic type of crude oil across the Oglala’s water system in two places. Not so fast, said Steele; it’s not just up to the federal government: “Under the Mni Wiconi Act, the Oglala Sioux Tribe must concur before any federal agencies can approve an easement.”

    The people on Pine Ridge are Oglala, so I would say TransCanada made the stupid decision to run trucks across the rez, when they were in not-entirely-friendly negotiations with the Pine Ridge tribal government.

  18. Lambert Strether Post author

    See also Last Real Indians for detail and quotes on the arrests, especially the involvement of “two Lakota grandmothers: Renabelle Bad Cob Standing Bear (in her wheelchair) and Marie Randal (in her 90s).” It’s always better when the grandmothers can be involved…

  19. Noonan

    It seems to me that if these people are truly destitute, they would welcome a pipeline as long as they were compensated.

    1. rps

      “Suppose a white man should come to me and say, “Joseph, I like your horses. I want to buy them.”
      I say to him, “No, my horses suit me; I will not sell them.”
      Then he goes to my neighbor and says to him, “Joseph has some good horses. I want to buy them, but he refuses to sell.”
      My neighbor answers, “Pay me the money and I will sell you Joseph’s horses.”
      The white man returns to me and says, “Joseph, I have bought your horses and you must let me have them.”
      I f we sold our lands to the government, this is the way they bought them. Chief Joseph

  20. rps

    “The truckers said a deal had been cut between the corporation and the State of South Dakota to route the trucks through tribal land, so they could avoid a $50,000 per truck state highway fee.”

    Follow the money trail. Someone needs to investigate the state government official who gave illegal permission (this is a criminal act to deprive the state in the collection of owed monies for use of public roads) for Keystone XL’s proposed route to avoid paying truck fees to the State of South Dakota.

    Follow the money and you will find the bribes in the pocket of the elected public official.

  21. wb

    What does environmental devastation actually look like? At TEDxVictoria, photographer Garth Lenz shares shocking photos of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project — and the beautiful (and vital) ecosystems under threat.


  22. Eleanor

    The thing that amazes me is the stupidity of routing the trucks through Pine Ridge, when TransCanada must have known that the tribe was opposed to the pipeline.

    My partner suggests that this is a cultural problem. Canadians may not know about treaty rights, though the people who routed the pipeline so it won’t cross Pine Ridge or Rosebud apparently did.

    @ Noonan — Last time I checked, the county that includes Pine Ridge was the poorest county in the US. Life expectancy for men on the reservation is 48. Life expectancy for women is 52. There isn’t a lot of available water. People need to protect what they have. And a lot of Native people genuinely feel they need to protect the Earth. This means it isn’t that easy to buy them off, in spite of their poverty.

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