The recent decision by President Obama to delay to the permit to build the Keystone XL was a welcome one, especially for our community because it would have a disastrous environmental impact on our community for generations to come if approved.
As originally planned, the Keystone XL pipeline would have crossed numerous water tables and rivers in Northwest South Dakota and our main water source, the Mni Wiconi (Water is Sacred) waterline, which brings water from the Missouri River into our community. Keystone XL was planned to cross at two different sections of our Mni Wiconi waterline. A rupture from the Keystone XL pipeline at these 2 sections or along the water tables would have devastating consequences to our community because of the major health issues many of our tribal members and their families face and this is the water we depend on.
- Life expectancy on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is 48 years old for men and 52 for women. Other reports state that the average life expectancy on the Reservation is 45 years old. These statistics are far from the 77.5 years of age life expectancy average found in the United States as a whole. According to current USDA Rural Development documents, the Lakota have the lowest life expectancy of any group in America.
- The infant mortality rate is the highest on this continent and is about 300% higher than the U.S. national average.
- The rate of diabetes on the Reservation is reported to be 800% higher than the U.S. national average.
- Cervical cancer is 500% higher than the U.S. national average.
- Over 50% of the population is under the age of 21
When faced with these facts, the decision by President Obama to delay the pipeline was celebrated by many of leaders both local and grassroots in our community. One of those leaders includes Oglala Lakota Nation Vice President Tom Poor Bear, who helped deliver a message in Denver, Colorado to stop Keystone XL, with the support of the Indigenous Peoples Power Project who helped organize the protest.
Moving forward, I humbly ask all readers to encourage the Obama administration to consider the alternatives to the tar sands oil and look at clean energy alternatives, especially for a state like South Dakota where there is abundant amount of wind, particularly in our district where unemployment ranges from 60-80% and for our younger people at around 90%.
This would be a truly win-win decision for our reservation, tribal nations in South Dakota, the state of South Dakota and President Obama’s administration. It would bring a sustainable source of energy security for our county while providing employment for the younger people of our district.