A press release dated April 29, 2015 stated that the Lower Brule Lakota Sioux Tribe of South Dakota has invoked a clause from the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868: the “Bad Men” clause. This clause states that the offender will be arrested and punished according to U.S. law.
The accused offender in this case is the foreign tar sands pipeline company TransCanada.
The press release stated that “roughly 40% of South Dakota is off limits to TransCanada.” The Lower Brule Lakota Sioux Tribe feels that the actions of TransCanada as well as the presence of the Keystone XL Pipeline is hazardous to both the land and its inhabitants. Acting chairman Kevin Wright of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe said:
“As descendants of the people of this land we have witnessed destruction of many magnitudes. We are concerned for our land, water, and most importantly not only the physical wellbeing of our people but spiritual wellbeing as well. I am first a human being, not a politician, when it comes to these matters. I believe in protecting our people and look to more ecological ways of living.”
Native Americans and the Canadian First Nations have been fighting against pipelines and tar sand projects for years. In 2014, the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, made up of Native Americans, American landowners, and Canada’s First People, met in Washington D.C. to protest the Keystone Pipeline.
By invoking the “Bad Men” Treaty clause, the Lower Brule Lakota Sioux Tribe hopes to put an end to the Keystone Pipeline for good.
Although the Lakota Sioux have invoked the “Bad Men” clause, it is uncertain whether it will in fact protect their land. In February 2015, Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stated that she would ensure that tribes would be provided a platform to address issues relating to Keystone XL; however, since then the Department of Interior has denied meeting with South Dakota Tribal Nations regarding this issue. The Harvard Law Review also reports that out of all the times the “Bad Men” clause has been invoked in the past, it has only been successfully deployed once: in 2009, Lavetta Elk was rewarded almost $600,000 from the United States government.
Despite this, the Lower Brule Tribe refuses to give up and continues to hopes that they will succeed in their fight against TransCanada.
“We all have rights as indigenous peoples and demand that we be heard,” Wright states. “This land is all we have and we are obligated to preserving it for our future generations. We are encouraged by Presidents Obama’s strong stance on climate change and his recent statements supporting our indigenous youth. President Obama, it would be a great honor to have you stand alongside the Oceti Sakowin on May 8th and once and for all reject Keystone XL.”