Tag Archives: South Dakota

Dakota Access Pipeline protest timeline

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday turned down the request for an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to build under the Missouri River, after months of protests from Native American and climate activists.

The following is a timeline of the project:

December 2014

Energy Transfer Partners LP applies to build a 1,172 mile (1,885 km), 570,000 barrel-per-day pipeline to deliver crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields to Patoka, Illinois, crossing South Dakota and Iowa to the North Dakota Public Service Commission, kicking off a year of public hearings in the state.

January 2016

North Dakota regulators approve the pipeline unanimously

April 29

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers holds a hearing for Native Americans on the pipeline. At that time, there was heated opposition to the project from Native tribes.

July 25

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved three easements for water crossings for the pipeline at Sakakawea, the Mississippi River and Lake Oahe. Lake Oahe is an ancestral site for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

July 27

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sues the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia in connection with the pipeline, citing violation of multiple federal statutes that authorize the pipeline’s construction and operation, and seeks an emergency order to halt construction. The tribe also alleges the pipeline threatens their environmental and economic well-being and would damage and destroy sites of historic, religious and cultural significance. The Sioux Tribe say that because the pipeline goes underneath Lake Oahe, approximately half a mile upstream of the tribe’s reservation, leaks from the pipeline would be directly in the tribe’s ancestral lands.

Aug. 24

Celebrities including Susan Sarandon, Riley Keough and Shailene Woodley joined members of the Tribe outside a courthouse in Washington, D.C., to protest the pipeline saying that it could pollute water and desecrate sacred land.

Sept. 3

Private security guards hired by Energy Transfer Partners used attack dogs and mace after violence erupted at a private construction site along the pipeline route. Six people were bitten by dogs, a scene that was captured on video and broadcast widely.

Sept. 6

Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians, which represents more than 500 tribes, spoke to nearly a dozen of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet-level advisers at a Sept. 6 meeting of the White House’s three-year-old Native American Affairs Council. Cladoosby delivered an impassioned request to his audience: stand with Native Americans who have united with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Sept. 9

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington rejected a broad request from Native Americans to block the project. He, however, rules that no construction activity on the Dakota Access may take place between Highway 1806 and 20 miles to the east of Lake Oahe. Construction activity to the west of Highway 1806 may proceed. The tribe appeals the decision.

Sept. 9

Less than an hour after Boasberg’s decision, the U.S. Justice and Interior Departments and Army made an unprecedented move and ordered a stop to construction near Lake Oahe until the Army Corps of Engineers reviews its previous decisions and decides if it needs to conduct a fuller environmental and cultural review.

Sept. 13

Energy Transfer Partners told employees in a letter, provided to media, that the company was committed to completing the project. The midstream operator cited that the pipeline was 60 percent complete, and that it had already spent $1.6 billion so far on equipment, materials and the workforce.

Oct. 9

The U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit said that an administrative injunction related to the emergency motion of the Standing Rock Tribe would be dissolved, citing that Dakota Access has rights to construct on private land up to Lake Oahe.

Oct. 11

Environmental activists across four states disrupted the flow of millions of barrels of crude from Canada into the United States in a rare, coordinate action that targeted several key pipelines simultaneously. The protest group, the Climate Direct Action, said their move was in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. As a safety precaution, companies operating the pipelines shut off sections of the lines for several hours while they investigated.

Earlier in the day, Energy Transfer Partners said it looked forward to prompt resumption of construction activities east and west of Lake Oahe on private land.

Oct. 25

Government-to-government tribal consultations began across six regions on how federal government decision-making on infrastructure projects could better include tribal concerns.

Nov. 8

Energy Transfer Partners says it has built the pipe to the edge of Lake Oahe and reiterates its intentions to complete the project.

Nov. 9

Following the victory of Donald Trump in the presidential election, climate activists and the Standing Rock Sioux say they still hope President Obama will be able to kill the pipeline definitively. Analysts say the line is more than likely to go through.

Nov. 14

The U.S. government, in a joint notice issued by the Department of the Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers, delayed a final decision on permitting. They said the permit had followed all legal requirements, but said more consultation with Native American tribes was needed.

Nov. 18

Energy Transfer Partners’ CEO Kelcy Warren told the Associated Press that the pipeline would not be re-routed. The statement came as protests grew more heated.

Nov. 20

About 400 activists gather on a bridge between the camp protest and the construction path and law enforcement officers respond by using tear gas and water cannons on them in freezing temperatures.

Nov. 26

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tells protesters they need to leave the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the primary protest camp located on federal land, by Dec. 5. They later say they have no plans to enforce this order.

Nov. 28

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple issues an evacuation order for the Oceti Sakowin camp, citing harsh weather on the way. Officials the next day tell Reuters they plan on blockading the camp so supplies cannot get in. They later back off that plan to say they may just issue fines but retreat from that idea as well.

Nov. 30

A group of U.S. veterans announce they will bring more than 2,000 service members to North Dakota to stand as human shields between the protesters and law enforcement. They begin arriving over the next several days.

Dec. 4

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denies Energy Transfer Partners’ request for an easement to run under Lake Oahe, sparking a celebration amongst protesters. ETP says it will continue to fight for the line. The incoming Trump administration has said it supports Dakota Access, along with other pipeline projects.

National day of action set to protest Dakota Access Pipeline

A national day of action will take place Tuesday, Nov. 15, to call for a permanent rejection of the Dakota Access Pipeline under the threat of a Donald Trump presidency.

This call to action from indigenous leaders at Standing Rock, North Dakota, is in response to increased violent repression from militarized police as the pipeline company continues construction on sacred land despite a voluntary hold by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to a news release from organizers.

More than 200 actions have been planned, with thousands of people expected to participate.

The Indigenous Environmental Network and Honor the Earth is coordinating the effort in solidarity with indigenous peoples at Standing Rock and with support from other climate and social justice groups across the country, including: 350.org, Native Organizers Alliance, National Nurses United, Hip Hop Caucus, CREDO, BOLD Alliance, Greenpeace USA, Beyond Extreme Energy, Rainforest Action Network, Stand.earth, Oil Change International, Our Revolution, Center for Popular Democracy, Powershift Network, Earthworks, Food and Water Watch, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ, Center for Biological Diversity, Daily Kos, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Iraq Veterans against the War, Ruckus Society, Friends of the Earth, Climate Hawks Vote, and many more.

Actions will be held in Washington, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and dozens of other cities across the country and worldwide.

A list of actions and partner organizations can be found here, including details for actions in Wisconsin cities of Green Bay, Milwaukee, Madison and Stevens Point.

Spill in South Dakota shuts down Keystone pipeline

The Keystone pipeline will likely remain shut down for the rest of the week while officials investigate an apparent oil spill in southeastern South Dakota.

Oil covered a 300-square-foot area in a farm field ditch 4 miles from a Freeman-area pump station, about 40 miles southwest of Sioux Falls. It was discovered Saturday. TransCanada hasn’t released the amount of oil.

About 100 workers are investigating where the oil came from and removing the contaminated soil. No pipeline damage had been found as of midmorning Tuesday, company spokesman Mark Cooper said.

TransCanada also said it had found no significant environmental harm. State officials were monitoring the cleanup, and so far TransCanada has “taken the necessary steps,” said Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist with the South Dakota Department of Natural Resources.

The pipeline runs from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Illinois and Cushing, Oklahoma, passing through the eastern Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. It’s part of a pipeline system that also would have included the Keystone XL pipeline had President Barack Obama not rejected that project last November.

The Keystone pipeline can handle 550,000 barrels, or about 23 million gallons, daily. Cooper didn’t immediately know the status of the oil that normally would be flowing through the pipeline.

The shutdown will have a short-term impact in which less-heavy Canadian crude will be getting to the market, according to Sandy Fielden, director of energy analytics for RBN Energy LLC. While it might have a temporary impact on some market prices, drivers are unlikely to see an impact at the pump.

The Dakota Rural Action conservation group issued a statement saying it was “more than a little concerning” that TransCanada didn’t inform the public until Monday. Cooper said the company notified landowners and regulators immediately on Saturday, and waited until Monday to notify the public so it had more information available.

Judge lifts injunction against hemp farmer

A federal judge this week lifted a decade-old injunction prohibiting a South Dakota tribal member from producing industrial hemp, although other issues need to be resolved before he can grow it on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken of South Dakota said there has been a “shifting legal landscape” since the 2004 order was filed against Alex White Plume, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. That includes a change in hemp laws in the 2014 farm bill and legalization of marijuana in some states.

White Plume’s lawyer, former U.S. attorney from North Dakota Timothy Purdon, said the order is a victory for both White Plume and tribal sovereignty.

“This order brings some justice to Native America’s first modern day hemp farmer,” Purdon said. “For over 10 years, Alex White Plume has been subject to a one-of-a-kind injunction which prevented him from farming hemp.”

Federal prosecutors in South Dakota could not be reached for comment.

Cultivation of hemp

The order does not resolve the ongoing question of whether cultivation of hemp on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota should be legal. Purdon said Viken’s order should further the discussion on whether the Oglala tribe is being treated unfairly under a farm bill that allows states to produce hemp under certain circumstances.

Hemp can be used to make clothing, lotion and many other products, but growing it has been illegal under federal law because it is a type of cannabis plant and looks like marijuana. The White Plume family, including Alex and his brother, Percy, planted hemp on the reservation for three years from 2000 through 2002, but never harvested a crop. Federal agents conducted raids and cut down the plants each year.

Viken said the key to his opinion is the “shifting national focus” on industrial hemp as a viable agricultural crop and the decision by the U.S. attorney general to open dialogue with several tribes regarding the farm bill and a 2013 federal memo that outlined the federal government’s priorities in pursing marijuana cases.

Anti-transgender bill vetoed in South Dakota

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard on March 1 vetoed HB 1008, legislation to force transgender children to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity.

“Gov. Daugaard chose to do the right thing and veto this outrageous legislation attacking transgender kids,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in a statement. Today, the voices of fairness and equality prevailed and these students’ rights and dignity prevailed against overwhelming odds and vicious opponents in the state legislature.”

He continued, “Unfortunately, another anti-LGBT bill is still pending in the South Dakota Legislature and we must keep up the fight to ensure today’s veto holds and this other odious bill never makes it to Governor Daugaard’s desk.”

LGBT civil rights advocates organized across South Dakota to challenge HB 1008, similar to legislation pushed by Republicans in Wisconsin.

HRC, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, worked with state and local organizations, including the ACLU of South Dakota and the National Center for Transgender Equality, to try to stop the bill. Other national groups, including Lambda Legal, GLSEN and the National Center for Lesbian Rights also got involved.

In late February, petitions signed by more than 80,000 people were delivered to the governor to encourage his veto.

Meanwhile, national child welfare, medical, and education groups — including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American School Counselor Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association — sent an open letter to all the nation’s governors expressing grave concerns and objections to this type of legislation.

The governor’s meeting

Before making his decision, Daugaard said meeting with transgender South Dakotans “put a human face” on the impact the legislation would have had and helped him to see things “through their eyes.”

Reactions to the veto

Equality California executive director Rick Zbur: “Fortunately, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard today took the appropriate step of vetoing legislation that would have only invited lawsuits, discrimination and violations of privacy for all students. With a Republican governor in the Midwest and the California Democratic Party both acting to protect the rights of transgender people, a very strong message has been sent that this is not a partisan or regional issue. No state has and no state should take any action that prohibits a student from simply using the bathroom. Transgender students, like all our kids, deserve to be treated with respect and should be able to feel safe, especially in their school.”

GLSEN: “We hope this sends a message and serves as an example to other state and local policymakers that all students, including transgender and gender nonconforming students, should have access to safe and affirming schools. GLSEN calls on all policymakers to best serve their students and educators by supporting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination and anti-bullying and harassment laws. GLSEN is ready to work with policymakers, school administrators, educators and students to help create school climates where all students can thrive.”

Rebecca Isaacs, executive director, Equality Federation: “We especially applaud the brave, young transgender people who courageously met with the governor and shared their stories in the media. The more people get to know transgender people and their families, the more empathy prevails.”

National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling: “Gov. Daugaard has demonstrated true leadership in listening to the hundreds of transgender South Dakotans and their families who would have been directly impacted by this bill. He has made a carefully informed decision that protects all students in South Dakota. His example shows that scare tactics can be overcome by understanding who trans people really are.”

NCLR Transgender Youth Project attorney Asaf Orr: “We salute Gov. Daugaard for meeting with students and listening to the concerns of legal experts and medical professionals about the serious harms caused by denying students equal access to all school programs and activities. School policies should be based on evidence, not irrational stereotypes and fears, and should support the health and well-being of all students.”

Heather Smith, executive director of the ACLU of South Dakota: “Today Gov. Daugaard made a symbolic statement that South Dakota’s transgender students are a valued part of the community and that our state leaders won’t be swayed by out-of-state groups that don’t have the interests of South Dakotans at heart. People from across the state and country took time to reach out to the governor to urge this veto — that’s the true testament of democracy.  There was no place for discrimination in South Dakota when this bill was initially proposed by a handful of legislators, and today the governor confirmed unequivocally that discrimination has no place in our future. Thank you governor, for listening to the collective voices of South Dakotans and voting your values.”


U.S. court backs Native American families in ACLU suit

A federal court has dealt another blow to defendants in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit over the rights of Native American families in South Dakota.

Chief Judge Jeffrey Viken denied government officials’ motions for reconsideration of his order to them last March to stop violating the rights of Native American parents and tribes in state child custody proceedings.

“Once again the court has ruled that Native American children, their parents, and their tribes are entitled to fair procedures whenever the state seeks to remove children from their homes, as required by federal law,” Stephen Pevar, an attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, said in a news release.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and Rapid City attorney Dana Hanna on behalf of two South Dakota tribes — the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe — and Native American parents who suffered the loss of their children at the hands of the state.

The lawsuit in part charges that Native American children are being removed from their homes in hearings that lasted as little as 60 seconds, and that parents have no chance to present evidence. Last March, the court agreed with seven of the ACLU’s claims, and ordered the state to:

• Provide parents with adequate notice prior to emergency removal hearings.

• Allow parents to testify at those hearings and present evidence.

• Appoint attorneys to assist parents in these removal  proceedings.

• Allow parents to cross-examine the state’s witnesses in the hearings.

• Require state courts to base their decisions on evidence presented during these hearings.

The court also found that the state violated the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to ensure the security and integrity of Native American tribes and families. Late Friday, Viken issued a ruling rejecting defendants’ motions to reconsider; one final outstanding claim concerns whether the state Department of Social Services is returning Native American children in foster care to their homes as quickly as federal law requires.

The defendants are state Judge Jeff Davis, Pennington County prosecutor Mark Vargo, state director of the Department of Social Services Lynne Valenti and Pennington County DSS employee Luann Van Hunnik.

The lawsuit, Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik, was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota in Rapid City.

South Dakota lawmakers send anti-transgender bill to governor

The South Dakota Senate on Feb. 16 passed legislation that attacks the rights of transgender children in public schools and prevents them from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.

Civil rights and education groups at the state and national level condemned the vote and called on Gov. Dennis Daugaard to veto the measure. If signed, the law would put the state in conflict with the U.S. Department of Education and non-discrimination protections under Title IX of the United States Education Amendments of 1972.

“The Republican leadership of South Dakota’s legislature has disgracefully failed to fulfill its most fundamental obligation – to protect the state’s young people from harm,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “It is inconceivable that Gov. Daugaard would decide the fate of this bill while saying he’s never met a transgender person in his life. We urge him in the strongest possible terms to veto this legislation, and to engage in thoughtful dialogue with his transgender constituents, especially South Dakota’s transgender children. Knowledge is power, and we hope that by learning about their experiences, the daily challenges they face, and the damage this bill will inflict on their lives, that he will show true leadership and reject this measure. History has never looked kindly upon those who attack the basic civil rights of their fellow Americans, and history will not treat kindly those who support this discriminatory measure.”

At the ACLU of South Dakota, executive director Heather Smith said, “Today South Dakota Senators voted to pass a bill that targets vulnerable transgender students for discrimination. Lawmakers heard from South Dakota parents, teachers, students, school counselors, clergy and mental health professionals who wrote emails and traveled to Pierre from all corners of the state to testify and demonstrate the ways in which this bill does real harm to transgender students. The only people to testify in support of this harmful, discriminatory bill were lobbyists — not one South Dakota citizen testified to the necessity of this bill. And that’s because it’s not necessary and we don’t need discrimination codified. It begs the question; do our state politicians truly represent the people of South Dakota, or do they represent outsider lobbyists and interest groups? Gov. Daugaard should listen to his actual constituents and veto this bill and send a strong message that discrimination isn’t a South Dakota value and there’s simply no place for it in our schools, community, and state.”

H.B. 1008 would put South Dakota school districts at risk of losing federal funds under Title IX, forcing them to choose between state and federal law.

The measure goes against the policies and findings of the U.S. Education and Justice departments. Justice has said, “Discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex. As such, prohibiting a student from accessing the restrooms that match his (or her) gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination under Title IX.”

Based on findings from HRC’s survey of more than 10,000 LGBT-identified youth, a report in 2014 revealed that gender-expansive youth take the brunt of exclusion and verbal harassment both inside and outside of school compared to their peers. About 40 percent of gender-expansive youth reported being excluded “frequently or often” by their peers. Nearly the same number of these youth reported “frequently or often” being verbally harassed and called names at school, and 42 percent reported being called anti-gay slurs.

A measure in Wisconsin that would roll back school district policies intended to protect transgender students is still pending. The bill, like South Dakota’s, would interfere with students’ right to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

South Dakota campaign drives for medical marijuana

New Approach South Dakota is collecting signatures for a proposal to make medical marijuana legal.

The initiative would appear on the 2016 ballot if supporters can collect enough signatures by Nov. 9.

If the proposal appears on the 2016 ballot and is approved by the voters, it would:

• Legalize the medical use of marijuana for patients with a medical practitioner’s certification and one of several listed conditions, including cancer, AIDS/HIV, seizure disorders, PTSD, and severe pain.

• Allow patients and their caregivers to possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis and grow six plants.

• Create a licensing system to provide patients with safe access to medical cannabis, allow businesses to process, dispense and test medical cannabis products.

• Prohibit public smoking and driving under the influence of marijuana.

Feds: No ‘significant impact’ in beam from Illinois to South Dakota

A federal government study has concluded that building and operating the proposed experiment in which scientists would shoot a beam of neutrinos from Illinois to the western South Dakota town of Lead would not have a significant impact on the environment.

The Rapid City Journal reports the draft environmental assessment from the Department of Energy studied potential effects of the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment at the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

None of the effects on people and the environment, as well as floodplains and wetlands, were considered major, so the department issued a “no significant impact” finding.

The project would help scientists learn about neutrinos, which zip right through us. Neutrinos are so fast and small that scientists have barely detected them for study.

Renovation modernizes South Dakota Corn Palace

The Corn Palace has been steeped in agricultural tradition since 1892, so when the caretakers of one of South Dakota’s most popular tourist attractions decided it was due for some maintenance, they also decided to gently nudge it into the 21st century.

Gone are the fiberglass green-and-yellow onion domes, replaced by airy steel versions. A new marquee, larger corn murals and a walk-out balcony have been added outside. And in perhaps the most modern touch of a $4 million renovation, the palace’s night face now features LED lighting that plays dramatically across the building.

“It needed a facelift,” said Katie Knutson, director of the Mitchell Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It needed something to draw a different crowd.”

The Corn Palace, which also features an arena to host concerts and high school and college basketball games, draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Knutson and others are hoping the new look will attract a new generation of tourists — and bring back previous visitors interested in seeing what’s changed.

The redesign hasn’t pleased everyone in Mitchell, a town of about 15,000.

Catina Kost, a Mitchell native who owns a consignment shop on Main Street, said some people think the “Las-Vegasy” look is too much of a change. She said some of the negativity may have come from the months-long delay between the old domes’ removal and the new domes going into place.

“There are so many people dissing it and being disrespectful about it when you read about it online,” said Kost, who said she likes it.

“I just try to be supportive,” she said, adding: “It’s our monument in town.”

The first Corn Palace was built in 1892 so settlers could display the fruits of their harvest. Almost every year since, artists have created colorful new murals on the outside walls using corn of different varieties and color, a fall tradition that costs about $150,000 a year. The building’s annual makeover begins each May when crews start tearing down the rye and sour dock that surround the murals. Workers dismantle the previous year’s corn murals in late August or early September.

Local artist Cherie Ramsdell then creates paintings to be enlarged and projected onto full-size black tar paper, so her designs can be outlined in a “corn-by-numbers” pattern. A crew of decorators follows her directions on where to nail each half-split cob.

Diane Bollinger, a recent first-time visitor to the Corn Palace, raved about it as she posed for a picture alongside her husband, Allen, and daughter, Lauren. The Bollingers were making a cross-country road trip to Seattle from Charlotte, North Carolina, and their first planned South Dakota stop had been the Badlands. Repeated texts from her friend in Charlotte, Francis Schonder, convinced the trio to pull off at the Mitchell exit.

“I’m so glad we did,” Bollinger said. “Have you ever seen anything like this?”

Matt Morrison, who moved to town recently from Sioux Falls to become lead pastor of Fusion Church, acknowledged that he doesn’t have the attachment to the Corn Palace that a Mitchell native might have. But he said he likes the updated look.

“The options for lighting at night definitely give it an element that it didn’t have before that I really like,” Morrison said.