Lower Brule Elections Redux: Governance and KXL

Tomorrow are tribal elections in Lower Brule, the Kul Wicasa Oyate. Below is a list of my blog posts about the Lower Brule elections, tribal governance, and the Keystone XL pipeline. There is a lot at stake for the Kul Wicasa Oyate, the Oceti Sakowin, our sacred Treaty Territory, our Mni Wiconi, and Unci Maka. This is an important time in our history, perhaps more so than any other. I have a lot of faith in our young leaders, but they will be taking over a system broken by four decades of no accountability and complete lack of transparency to the Oyate, the People.

Please take the time to read over the issues facing our Nation:

Audit Reveals Lower Brule’s Budget has Major “Material Weaknesses”

Michael B. Jandreau, You Don’t Serve the People

Kul Wicasa Elections: A lot at Stake

Declaring War on KXL: Indigenous Peoples Mobilize

Open Letter to the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council on KXL and TransCanada

The Keystone XL Pipeline: Coming to Terms and Demanding the Impossible

Hecetu Welo!

Michael B. Jandreau, You Don’t Serve the People

Dear Mr. Chairman Michael B. Jandreau,

Elections in the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, the Kul Wicasa Oyate, are around the corner. Anyone concerned about the future of the Indigenous Nations and lands along the Keystone XL corridor and the catastrophic impact Alberta tarsands extraction will have on all people and lands should take notice.

In our small Nation, much is at stake, not just for us but for the rest of the world. The future of our Nation, the Oceti Sakowin, is at stake. Our treaty lands are at stake, for both Native and non-Native peoples. The health and well-being of all our human and non-human relations are at stake.


The enemy is at the gates, and you have given them the keys.

The Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council is the ONLY Nation of the Oceti Sakowin publicly supporting the multinational corporation TransCanada, the firm contracted to build the Keystone XL pipeline. Our land, Kul Wicasa Makoce (Lower Brule Sioux sovereign land), is the only tribal land KXL infrastructure will cross. And our current elected officials support the pipeline’s construction, in the face of years of protest by our relatives and the citizens of our Nation.

You should all be ashamed.

In a recently released campaign letter signed and authored by you, the incumbent Tribal Chairman Michael B. Jandreau, you state that: “The 876 mile Keystone XL pipeline is an important issue to many of our people, however in a country where there are over 2,000,000 miles of pipeline (oil, gas and chemical) it is an issue that needs to be put into perspective.”

With all due respect, Mr. Chairman, as a relative, as a citizen of our Nation, as an educator, as an ikce wicasa (a common man), and, more importantly, as a disenfranchized voter, let me put this into perspective: I would never vote for you, and I pray that our people will in good conscience never vote for you and your cronies, and the corporation you chose to represent.

You don’t serve the people.

In fact, you’re a turncoat on the Oceti Sakowin. Your legacy will be forever tarnished with the acts of your reign: in the 1980s you pushed for a monetary settlement of OUR He Sapa (the Black Hills); you led the settlement with the state of South Dakota for our shoreline rights of OUR sacred Mni Sose (the Missouri River); you were a collaborator with Dan Snyder’s Redsk*ns to sell our popcorn in that racist sports team’s stadiums; and now you have collaborated with the worst of all our enemies, TransCanada.

You sold us out. The people in your administration sold us out.

Many, many of our relatives courageously resisted these actions. We still do with the knowledge that we have paid with our livelihoods. Yet, we persist because we have a better vision than what you promise us. We have to live with the shame that you turned your back on the Oceti Sakowin, our relatives. We have to live with the fact that you sold out the First Nations battling against the devastations of their lands against tarsands extraction—which the Keystone XL pipeline will only exacerbate.

You sold us all out. And the rest of world knows that you are on the wrong side of history.

Your opposition is young. They are educated in the ways of our sovereign rights as relatives and treaty signers, something you have forgotten. They represent the people. They are the protectors of our lands and rights.

You may go down in history as the longest serving tribal chairman, but your reputation and legacy will be forever stained by your actions against your own people.

Change is coming and its a beautiful thing. Embrace it.

Hecetu Welo!

Nick Estes (Tatanka Oohitika)
Kul Wicasa
Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Citizen

Kul Wicasa Elections: A lot at Stake


It’s election season and the Kul Wicasa should be primed for change. Take into consideration the perspectives of an Ikce Wicasa, a common man, and fellow relative of Kul Wicasa Oyate.

This year, the small Nation of the Kul Wicasa Oyate, the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, drew national media attention when its elected council leadership passed a resolution in support of a partnership with TransCanada, the multinational firm slotted to build the Keystone XL pipeline. Unfortunately, many tribal members, myself included, had no proof the resolution existed—only rumors on social media and conversations with relatives. Fortunately, a brave soul, presumably “on the inside,” posted the document on Facebook and put the rumors to rest.

The resolution to “authorize Chairman Jandreau to sign [a] letter to President Obama and Secretary Kerry stating Lower Brule Sioux Tribe’s prospective benefits and working relationships with Transcanada [sic]” was dated November 12, 2013. It was only in March of 2014 that the actual resolution surfaced, much to the chagrin of the Oyate.

Meanwhile, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Sicangu Oyate, our relatives, ardently opposed the pipeline, even going as far as to publicly declare war on KXL and TransCanada if the project moved forward. Many of our relatives traveled to Washington, D.C.—among other places—to denounce TransCanada, the cataclysmic tarsands extraction in the territories of relatives to the North, and hopefully quash, once and for all, any prospects of KXL.

Many great speeches were given in support of the Kul Wicasa’s opposition to its own government. After all, we posses the only tribal land KXL infrastructure, a power substation and a 71-mile transmission line, would transgress. And our Council seemingly signed away our rights without our knowledge and without our consent.

But this about more than just a pipeline.

It always has been since the first mass community meeting in March. It has been before TransCanada came knocking on our doors, checkbook and contract in hand.

The grandiose speeches and romantic images of Indians uniting with larger environmental movements has largely faded from national attention. It seems we fulfilled our function in one moment in time, to a system that allowed the idea of KXL to be entertained and continues to allow the devastating extraction of Alberta tarsands.

But our problems persist.

Our problems lie within our government system. They always have. Transparency and accountability—as should be abundantly clear by now—simply do not exist. We have no checks and balances, let alone the decent moral character of councilmen to not act against the best interests of the people or the Oceti Sakowin.

Much has changed since the Kul Wicasa Oyate first adopted the IRA government in 1935.

It should be noted, too, that we have lost a lot. We went from an undefined territory, where we were free to roam and live as we chose among the Oceti Sakowin and other Indigenous Nations; to 25 million acres of the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory; to 446,500 acres of original 1889 Lower Brule reservation land (also known as the Whetstone Agency); to 232,725 acres after the 1887 Dawes Allotment Act; to 122,000 after the Dawes Act formerly ended in 1934; to our current 95,030 acres after the inundation of our lands from the Fort Randall and Big Bend Dams.

To put these numbers in perspective, media mogul Ted Turner owns over a 138,000 acres alone in South Dakota and has wealth that far exceeds all wealth generated from the tribe and its population. Not to mention, state and corporate interests have been successful at swindling away any hope for meaningful existence in our own homelands!

Instead of being appalled at such a drastic reduction and loss of land, the current leadership appears to be ready to cash a check and sign away more land and rights away from our Oyate.

Once we had district voting. Once we had off-reservation voting and an off-reservation representative to account for the population displaced by the massive flooding. Once we had monthly newsletters and town hall meetings to discuss current government proceedings and decisions. These happened on- and off-reservation. We even once had the first woman tribal council representative of all IRA governments back in 1935. Where is that leadership now?

Many of these changes to our constitution and leadership took place in the 1980s when district voting—largely based on clan and family—went to the wayside in favor of council open elections and the voting restrictions to only on-reservation members was enforced. It begs the question, does this adequately reflect the concerns of our current population? About 1,400 members live on-reservation with about 2,100 living off-reservation.

Those living off-reservation, myself included, are denied the right to vote in general elections. Is this democracy when most of our membership lives off-reservation, but are still denied full rights as voting members? Who’s laws does the current Council represent?

Are we less Kul Wicasa? Are we less relatives when we’re denied the vote and representation in a government that counts us but denies our human and sovereign right to vote?

I care deeply about my Nation, the Kul Wicasa Oyate. I am Kul Wicasa. I am Hihansu Wakpa Oyate. Let me show it by allowing me to vote in how our future is determined. I represent 2,100 votes that could make a difference.

Nonetheless, the longest serving tribal chairman, and his cronies, have got to got to go. Make room for the young, those that walk in power in the spirit of ancestors and the generations to come.

Lewis Grassrope promises this. Let’s follow his lead, as Chairman, and speak truth to power. Let’s hold our flag high. Let’s hold our heads high once again and live up to our birthright as sovereign, proud people of this land. Our history and futures depend on it.

Those that are on the ballot that acknowledge this prayer, this wocekiye, know. Kevin Wright for Vice Chairman, Loretta Grassrope for Secretary Treasurer, Robbie Her Many Horses for Council, Desiree LaRoche for Council, and Sonnie Zeigler for Council have the Kul Wicasa Oyate’s best interest in mind. Show them support. If I could, I would.

Hecetu Welo!

Nick Estes (Tatanka Oohitika)

Declaring War on KXL: Indigenous Peoples Mobilize

Declaring War on KXL: Indigenous Peoples Mobilize

What does it mean to declare war on a pipeline? An energy corporation?

The National Lawyers Guild—Massachusetts Chapter’s Mass Dissent newsletter published my piece on the proposed northern leg of the KXL pipeline and Indigenous resistance on the Northern Great Plains.

Open Letter to the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council on KXL and TransCanada

NOTE: This is an open letter to the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council in response to conflicting accounts of whether they oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline. As part of pressuring the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council into rescinding their support of TransCanada and the Lower Brule to Witten Power Project, please feel free to use, modify, and/or create your own letter. Here is the letter template: LBSTC KXL LETTER TEMPLATE. Mail physical copies to each individual councilmen at the address below. Please send letters and share this information, even if you are not an enrolled member of the Kul Wicasa Oyate. We need your help! Our land, water, and future are at stake. Pilamayelo! Documents: LBSTC TransCanada Resolution FEIS Programmatic Agreement Appendix J Basin Electric For more information on how to help and support the Kul Wicasa Oyate, contact Lakota George Estes (605 730 0852), Shaylene High Elk (605 730 0651), or Nick Estes (wicasatanka@gmail.com). Map of the Lower Brule to Witten Power Project crossing reservation land: Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 2.46.06 PM To the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council: Chairman Michael Jandreau Vice-Chairman Boyd Gourneau Councilman Red Langdeau Councilman Darrel Middletent Councilman John McCauley Councilman Shawn LaRoche Lower Brule Sioux Tribe P.O. Box 187 Lower Brule, SD 57548-0187 SUBJECT: SAY NO TO THE KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE AND CEASE NEGOTIATIONS WITH TRANSCANADA IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE OYATE AND THE OCETI SAKOWIN It has come to the attention of the public that the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council passed Resolution No. 14-0007 on November 12, 2013. This resolution authorized Chairman Michael Jandreau to sign a letter to President Obama and Vice Secretary Kerry “stating Lower Brule Sioux Tribe’s prospective benefits and working relationships with Transcanada [sic].” In spite of having passed this resolution to express support for TransCanada, the construction company contracted to build the Keystone XL pipeline, Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council members have again and again claimed they oppose the pipeline. Most recently Vice Chairman Boyd Gourneau recently told KSFY News, “We—the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe—are opposed to Keystone XL pipeline.” And Chairman Jandreau reiterated Gourneau’s statement and expressed the following: “It is time that Tribal people come together positively to those activities that are so destructive to our continuation as Lakota’s [sic]!” Where does the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council stand on the Keystone XL Pipeline and TransCanada’s ancillary power projects? What has been negotiated and agreed upon? To begin with, Basin Electric Power Cooperative is proposing to construct and manage a 76-mile 230kV power transmission line from the Big Bend Dam to the Witten Substation to provide power to a proposed Keystone XL pipeline pump station. Along with the power transmission line, Basin Electric is planning to construct the Lower Brule Substation near the Big Bend Dam. Both proposed project would be on Lower Brule Tribal Reservation trust lands. The transmission line would also cross individually allotted land, some of which remains fractionated and owned by multiple interests from members of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and enrolled members of other tribes. In total, the project requires only 16 acres of land within the Lower Brule Reservation boundaries. In a December 2011 “Routing Report,” TransCanada states:

The need for the [Lower Brule-Witten] Project is driven by two key factors: 1) serve proposed short-term load growth on the 115-kV system between Basin Electric’s Mission and Fort Randall Substations, including electric service demands from pump stations for the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline; and 2) provide an additional source of power at the Witten Substation to improve regional system reliability and voltage stability.

The document reveals that the Basin Electric and TransCanada would benefit from the proposed power project, but does not indicate that there will be any benefit the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. Nonetheless, the project would solicit negotiations with the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, since it proposes to enter the jurisdictional boundaries of the reservation; and it would require that the Bureau of Indian Affairs approve any right-of-ways for the proposed project that would cross Indian trust lands. A 2013 December document, listed as “unclassified,” also names Chairman Jandreau and Tribal Cultural Resource Officer Claire Green under “Consulting Tribes’ Points of Contact” for “the implementation of the Programmatic Agreement for the Keystone XL Pipeline Project.” The Programmatic Agreement (first drafted in 2010 and then amended in 2013) provides that if culturally sensitive areas affected or discovered during the construction process tribes will be consulted. But signing the Programmatic Agreement also gives evidence that TransCanada has consulted with tribes. Yet this is a violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ Article 32, which states:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources. [Emphasis added]

As it stands the current Programmatic Agreement does not allow for free and informed consent prior to the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Lower Brule to Witten Power Project. Nothing in the agreement’s current language allows for the tribes to reject either project, and suggests that through negotiation and consultation implicit agreement has been reached to the projects’ terms and inevitability. However, in September 2011 the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association adopted the “Mother Earth Accord” that calls for “full consultation” under the Declaration’s “free and informed consent prior” to these projects’ approval. The Association further called for a moratorium on oils sands production and urged President Obama to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline’s Presidential Permit. Likewise, the Oglala Lakota Nation, the Sicangu Oyate, traditional treaty councils, and many community organizations have adopted resolutions in opposition to any negotiations with TransCanada and the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. In sum, the Oceti Sakowin and the Oyate opposes the Keystone XL Pipeline. Where does this leave the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council if they have adopted a resolution to the show support to TransCanada? First, public statements issued in opposition to the pipeline appear moot if the Council continues to negotiate for the Lower Brule to Witten Power Project. Second, the Lower Brule Tribal Council has turned its back on the Oceti Sakowin and enrolled members of its tribe if it allows this power structure to be built within its reservation boundaries, since it will provide an essential source of electricity to one of the pipeline’s pump stations. Not taking a firm stand in opposition to the pipeline places the Lower Brule community at risk as well as the all communities that will be affected by the pipeline’s construction. Access to clean drinking water will also be placed at risk. The proposed route of the Keystone XL Pipeline currently crosses 357 streams and river, namely the Cheyenne River and White River, which are also tributaries to the Missouri River. The pipeline would also cross the Mni Wiconi Rural Water Supply Project, which currently provides fresh drinking water to the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Lakota Nation, and the Sicangu Oyate. More importantly, the pipeline crosses the Ogllala Aquifer, the one of the world’s largest freshwater aquifers. Contamination of this aquifer would result in catastrophic effects that would impact countless people, animals, and plants that depend on this vital source of water. Given TransCanada’s poor record with spills resulting in faulty construction and poorly maintained pipelines, it would not be a matter of if the pipeline spills but when the pipeline spills. The inevitability of spills, then, would result in the inevitable contamination of fresh water. Successful cleanups of oil sands spills have proven ineffective and these spills often result in near-permanent water contamination. By negotiating with TransCanada and supporting the construction of the Lower to Witten Power Project, the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council will not only put the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe’s water at risk for contamination, but also everyone else’s water. As several Oceti Sakowin tribal councils are in the process of drafting a Declaration of War against TransCanada and the Keystone XL Pipeline, it is imperative that the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council rescind its support for the TransCanada and the Lower to Witten Power Project and publicly denounce these projects. It is imperative that the Lower Brule Tribal Council refuses further consultation and negotiation with TransCanada. It is imperative that the Lower Brule Tribal Council stands with the Kul Wicasa Oyate’s collective opposition to these projects. It is imperative that the Lower Brule Tribal Council supports the efforts of its enrolled members to put a halt to these projects. It is imperative that the Lower Brule Tribal Council stands with the Oceti Sakowin, other Indigenous Nations, and non-Indigenous communities in the fight against TransCanada and the Keystone XL Pipeline. This is a struggle for life, the future, and the continued survival of the Kul Wicasa Oyate. It is my hope that you take these insights seriously, as a relative and fellow citizen of the Kul Wicasa Oyate. Sincerely, Nick Estes Enrolled member of the Kul Wicasa Oyate PhD Student, University of New Mexico

The Keystone XL Pipeline: Coming to Terms and Demanding the Impossible

La Jicarita


As the mass demonstrations and opposition to the construction of TransCanadas 1,200-mile Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline project mount, key concern has been paid to the serious environmental and social risks the KXL pipeline poses. The recent State Department publication of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL Project (EIS) has raised important objections as to the validity and potential outcomes of the construction or non-construction of KXL. But what is at stake? More importantly, what does the EIS say about the current and future world of oil-dependence? If we take look a close look at the EIS, we can begin to understand that much more than construction of pipelines is at stake if we are to begin to imagine an oil-free future.

Proposed KXL route The proposed KXL Pipeline’s 1,200-mile route would connect Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, NE. This graphic shows the only…

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