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From Staff Reports

WASHINGTON — As Sen. Elizabeth Ann Warren, D-Mass., called for executive session, the Senate chambers last Tuesday suddenly fell silent as a shrill Lakota voice rose from the back of the crowded hall.

“The sergeant-at-arms will restore order,” Warren demanded immediately. “Restore order in the gallery.”

Republican and Democratic senators alike wheeled at this remarkable turn of events—a Lakota man singing in their chamber—which gave Americans who were watching evening news at the time a unique message never attempted in the Senate’s 238-year history.

The message?

Native Americans adamantly opposed congressional approval of Keystone XL pipeline, which Republicans had just failed to win, despite a Democrat-sponsored bill by a group of 14 party members supporting a losing colleague from Louisiana (Sen. Mary Loretta Landrieu) in a senate still controlled by Democrats.

The disturbance, reported in newscasts around the world, did not last long.

But to officials of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Congress had symbolically all but declared military engagement the week before, on Nov. 14, when U.S. House of Representatives approved the pipeline in a vote of 252-161.

The chanting and singing last week led by Greg Grey Cloud, of Rosebud, quickly underwent chorus-correction after he got knocked to the floor and shoved against the wall by capitol police. He and half a dozen other protesters were lined up, searched, handcuffed, marched to waiting vehicles, and taken to jail—with some still trying to sing an honoring song.

Their crime? “Disrupting Congress,” of course.

Only minutes earlier, the senate bill that would have authorized the controversial pipeline failed to obtain the 60 votes needed for congressional approval, sparing President Barack Obama’s expected veto for at least another two months.

In January 2015, Republicans officially take control of both Houses of Congress, thanks in part to Democrat’s failure to sell Obama’s successes enough to retain the senate in the Nov. 4 election. Conservatives have already threatened a government shutdown similar to one staged last year, costing taxpayers more than $24 billion, if Obama does not cooperate.

Gaining approval, the Keystone bill would create a northern venue to move dirty tar sands (bituminous) oil from Canada through North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, crossing the Ogallala Aquifer and violating signed treaties, say opponents. From there, the pipeline would move oil to refineries in Texas, owned by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch and Koch Industries. Permanent jobs in the U.S., after the initial 42,000 for temporary construction for two years and other support work, was predicted to peak at 100 jobs needed to “monitor the whole route,” according to company work analysts.

The Nov. 18 bill failed in a final tally of 41-59, missing senate approval by one vote.

Republicans vow Keystone will be back on the senate floor in early 2015, and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (soon Majority) pledges the pipeline will become reality no matter what President Obama says or does.

According to Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s now highly popular activist president, Cyril. L. Scott, 52, and some members of his RST Council, the U.S. House of Representatives, along with certain moderators on conservative radio and Fox News, drew first blood with the Feb. 14 passage of the Keystone XL project.

“The House has now signed our death warrants and the death warrants of our children and grandchildren,” President Scott said publicly in a news interview spread across the Internet. “The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will not allow this pipeline through our lands. We are outraged at the lack of intergovernmental cooperation. We are a sovereign nation and we are not being treated as such. Authorizing Keystone XL is an act of war against our people.”

Aside from President Scott’s escalating the war of words into dangerous territory, tribal officials worry that the pipeline’s notorious potential for leaks and ruptures will permanently damage the near-pristine Ogallala Aquifer and other community groundwater resources, which includes threatening major agricultural concerns in neighboring Nebraska. The southern leg, started earlier this year, is already showing leaks, according to government inspectors.

Many Lakota subscribe to the belief they were handed a task at birth by their ancestors to preserve sacred land and water for future generations, and that belief continues to persist today among people of Rosebud, also known as Sicangu Nation.

“We need to stop focusing and investing in risky fossil fuel projects like TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline,” President Scott told the Internet audience. “We need to start remembering that the Earth is our mother and stop polluting her and start taking steps to preserve the land, water and our grandchildren’s future.”

With last week’s failure of Congress to approve the Keystone bill, President Scott’s promise to close reservation borders will likely be placed on hold for now. Other than a warm-weather encampment near Ideal, there is little evidence that the tribe is arming its people in preparation for potential conflict if the pipeline gains final approval next year.

The tribal president has yet to reach out to his people to stay calm as this crisis gradually intensifies, or relay to them what role the state of South Dakota, a Republican state, is expected to play if a confrontation presents itself.

The Keystone bill passed by the House of Representatives, receiving full Republican support, was the ninth one they’ve passed, demonstrating the power oil plays in national politics.

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