PINE RIDGE – The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council Finance Committee has ordered an independent investigation into the tribe’s receipt of a $50,000 check from TransCanada Corp., setting Feb. 20 as the due date for results.
The tribal government is on record as opposing the construction promoted over the past 10 years by TransCanada Corp. of the Keystone XL Pipeline across unceded 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory. The Canadian company changed its name to TC Energy Corp. last year.
The Finance Committee voted 4-0, with one abstention, for “our attorney to do a full investigation on how the $50,000 check from KXL TransCanada was solicited and who all had knowledge of this check and why it was made to the Oglala Sioux Tribe and how the time frame of this whole process went up to Jan. 29, 2020, when Tribal Council was made aware of this check.”
The committee also voted to remove its chair, La Creek District Rep. Cora White Horse, from the position “due to no confidence” for failing to inform the rest of the committee when she found out about the check’s existence, which she said was Jan. 14.
On Feb. 1, Oglala Sioux Tribal Council Treasurer Mason Big Crow announced that the tribe had rejected the $50,000 donation and sent the money back to TransCanada Corp. last year.
“Currently, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Treasurer and the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council officially does not accept donations from KXL or TransCanada Oil Pipeline Companies,” the Treasurer’s Office said in a written statement.
“In keeping with our stance against KXL and TransCanada, the donation in question was rejected and sent back to TransCanada by the Oglala Sioux Tribe and our Office back in November of last year (2019),” it said.
All 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty tribes, and many others have signed multiple resolutions and treaties opposing oil pipeline construction.
The Tribal Council discussed the issue prior to the posting of the statement, during a special session on Jan. 29.
At that time, Tribal Council Rep. Nakina Mills asked about the status of the check and Tribal Council Rep. Richard Greenwald said, “We, as a tribe, said, thanks but no thanks,” according to a transcript the Treasurer’s Office furnished.
LaCreek Tribal Council Rep. Cora White Horse then informed the Council that her LaCreek District government had resolved at its most recent meeting to accept the $50,000, “because the original donation was in the name of LaCreek District and Pass Creek District.”
Minutes from the LaCreek District Council meeting of Jan. 15 reflect that South Dakota state-chartered Wild Horse Butte Community Development Corp. Executive Director Kimmie Clausen told the more than two dozen participants that she had a check in the amount of $50,000.
She said that half of it “will need to be distributed to Pass Creek District.”
She noted, however, that the check was made out to the Oglala Sioux Tribe and “OST won’t cash the check because of political issues,” the minutes read. “The OST president is against the pipeline,” they say.
District Council Rep. Desiree White Eyes moved to “send the check back” to the Tribal Council and get two replacement checks of $25,000 for each of LaCreek and Pass Creek districts. Council Rep. Linda Louden seconded the motion. It passed unanimously with a 21-0 vote.
The amount must be distributed “fairly to district members for propane or electricity assistance,” according to the resolution.
At a Tribal Land & Natural Resources Committee meeting on Feb. 3, LaCreek District Tribal Committee Rep. Craig Dillon said he carried the check to Big Crow after the District Council vote. When Big Crow did not agree to cash the check, he returned it to someone in his district, who he didn’t name.
The discussions caused Tribal Council representatives to question the adequacy of tribal laws regarding state-chartered entities on the reservation.
Pass Creek District Council President Consuelo Means and Vice President Julie Bad Wound distanced their district from the controversy.
Means issued a statement saying she “had no knowledge of the check from the Keystone XL Pipeline.” She noted, “We have not had a district meeting for the month of January due to respect for the families who have lost a family member.”
She went on to declare, “We never agreed to accept any money from Keystone XL, nor would we ever accept money from them. We, along we others, have supported the water protectors in North Dakota. Some of our own community members have taken the trip to support and camp to help in any way.”
The check in question is dated Nov. 29 and drawn on Citibank North America. It is, marked “PAY TO THE ORDER OF OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE” and is accompanied by a paystub printed on TransCanada Keystone XL letterhead. The paystub describes the payment as a “propane donation.”
The paystub was submitted to the recipient in the form an invoice denoting gross and net amounts of payment due as $0,000.00.
Another $50,000 check to the Oglala Sioux Tribe that is intended for the LaCreek District, according to Dillon, is on hold until the authorities can discern the rules for disbursement. It is from the Eastern Band of Cherokee.
As Oglala Lakota officials scurried to trace the paper trail of TransCanada Corp’s donation, their allies at the non-profit BOLD Nebraska to the south called out pipeline management for reneging on its commitment to the project.
TC Energy Corp advertises, “We are committed to working with indigenous communities to explore project opportunities that benefit and align to their community interests, as well as address concerns, recognizing that activities have the potential to affect their lives as rights-holders distinct relationships with the land.”
However, on Feb. 13, CFO Don Marchand said the company’s commitment is no longer firm.
“If we can get comfort that the risk-reward proposition is attractive to us, we will proceed. If we can’t line all that up, the project will stay where it is,” he said.
The company’s 2019 fourth quarter profit margins suffered because its Keystone I Pipeline leak in North Dakota in October required a shutdown that reduced shipping and sales volume.
BOLD Nebraska team member Jane Kleeb responded: “So after over 10 years, this company that has been spending millions to try to push its dirty tar-sands pipeline across the fragile Sandhills and precious Ogallala Aquifer is ‘not ready to commit’ to the project?”
Somebody should tell TransCanada: “We were never into you,” she said.
BOLD Nebraska has set meetings for landowners on the pipeline route Feb. 20 and 28, when the Holt County Board of Supervisors will hold permit application hearings.
(Contact Talli Nauman at firstname.lastname@example.org)