Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
STROUD, OKLAHOMA When President Barack Obama visited Cushing, Oklahoma last Thursday, Principal Chief George Thurman of the Sac & Fox Nation, based in Stroud, Oklahoma, was in attendance. He was one of twenty people ushered in for a quick meet and greet with Mr. Obama.
President Obama in Cushing
As part of a four state trip highlighting his administration's commitment to energy programs in the United States, President Obama was in Cushing to announce his administration would fast track the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Principal Chief George Thurman
Though he had the opportunity to shake President Obama's hand, Principal Chief Thurman did not have time to discuss the concerns his Tribe has pertaining to the fast tracking of the pipeline.
On August 10, 2010, the Sac & Fox's Tribal Council passed a resolution in support of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe's opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. While the Keystone's southern leg takes the South Dakota based Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe out of the equation, it now impacts the Sac & Fox Tribe because a portion of it directly runs through the reservation for about four miles. However, the southern leg will be laid close to allotted tribal lands of the Tribe in other sections parts of its route.
Cushing is the hub of oil produced in Oklahoma. Several storage tanks are on historic Sac & Fox land.
The Tribe is concerned about potential leaks and the potential for ancestral burial grounds disturbed.
“We have been working on protection of our graves this for years with different entities,”
said Sandra Massey, historic preservation officer for the Sac & Fox Nation and a citizen of the Tribe.
“We think there could be mass burials out there. Traditionally our ancestors were buried along creek beds. We just don't know what graves may be out there”
Because of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act known as NAGPRA, enacted in November 1990, any company that discovers American Indian ancestral burial remains or graves is supposed to immediately stop construction of development to have it examined by an archaeologists assist to identify the remains. If there is a determination that any remains are American Indian, the tribe with jurisdiction will be called in to properly reinter the remains.
This would apply if TransCanada, that owns the Keystone XL pipeline, discovers ancestral remains along its route. In three counties - Lincoln, Payne and Potawatomi Counties - in the Sac & Fox Nation's tribal lands, Massey would be contacted.
“We would apply the NAGPRA. As a tribe, we deal with the federal government. NAGPRA is a federal law. We know there is a possibility there are graves that will be disturbed and has me worried. We have been moved around forever it seems. The Sac & Fox were out east. We were in Canada and in Michigan. We just kept getting pushed west,”
“I wonder when does it finally stop so our people will not be disturbed again?,”
Massey said the Tribe is also worried about the potential for leaks that may occur along the route of the Keystone pipeline.
“It seems that when leaks happen, the land is never made right,”
Massey also stated.
Massey said the Sac & Fox have not signed an agreement with TransCanada, but wants to ensure there are clauses written in that will safeguard the concerns of disturbances of ancestral remains and leaks on tribal land.
posted March 28, 2012 6:50 am edt
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