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A typical man camp.

Keystone XL Opponents Quiz TransCanada About Man Camps

Jacqueline Keeler

As hearings wound down last week on whether the South Dakota Public Utility Commission (PUC) should re-certify the application by TransCanada to run the Keystone XL pipeline through the state, Yankton Sioux Tribal attorneys cross-examined the company’s witness, Rick Perkins, on how dangers posed by camps of temporary workers near the Yankton Sioux Reservation would be managed.

Under questioning, it became apparent that TransCanada had not consulted with affected tribes and that the camps have no policies in place to deal with prostitution, human trafficking or criminal activity perpetrated by camp residents in the local communities outside the boundaries—all issues that have arisen around similar settlements, known as “man camps” because of the predominance of male workers housed there, in and near the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota.

RELATED: Will Keystone XL Pipeline Pump Sexual Violence Into South Dakota?

The hearings are required to determine whether TransCanada must resubmit its application entirely, or if it can get the original permit—which was approved in 2010—recertified.

RELATED: Vague Answers, Questionable Credentials Define Keystone XL Hearings in SD

Three so-called man camps will be built near treaty and unceded territory of the Yankton Sioux, Rosebud Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes. These camps will be managed for TransCanada by Target Logistics, which presently manages 12 such installations in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, housing almost 4,000 workers. The three proposed Keystone XL man camps in South Dakota would be much larger in size and population than the average Bakken camp, housing about 1,000 workers each.

Reports from the Bakken of steep increases in sex trafficking, sexual assault and domestic violence affecting neighboring Native American communities have raised concerns from tribes near these proposed Keystone XL man camps. In Williston, North Dakota, a reservation border town, the past five years have seen rates of theft, abduction, violence, domestic abuse and sex crimes triple due to the oil boom.

RELATED: Brave Heart Women Fight to Ban Man-Camps, Which Bring Rape and Abuse

Grace Her Many Horses, a former Rosebud Sioux Tribe police chief, witnessed it firsthand when she took a temporary job working in the Bakken Region near Newtown, North Dakota on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. She found a small, tribal town overwhelmed by crime and with no jurisdiction over non-Indians and little cooperation from local county sheriffs, she told the Rosebud Sioux newspaper Sicangu Eyapaha for a story that was later reprinted in the Lakota Country Times.

Due to the 1978 Supreme Court ruling Oliphant vs. Suquamish Indian Tribe, tribes must turn non-tribally enrolled offenders over to the FBI, though it often declines to prosecute. This is something that the criminal element that is sometimes employed in the oil fields is likely to exploit.

“ ‘In North Dakota you can take whatever pretty little Indian girl that you like, and you can do whatever you want, and police don’t give a f— about it,’ ” said Annita Lucchesi (Southern Cheyenne), who works for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Council, telling Pacific Standard magazine what she had overheard workers saying. “To hear something like that—he was literally talking about kidnapping and raping girls in public at three in the afternoon—that is how bad it is.”

Yankton Sioux tribal elder and traditional leader Faith Spotted Eagle expressed concern about similar situations developing along the Keystone XL construction route. The man camp proposed for Southeastern Tripp County “is equidistant between the Rosebud Sioux Reservation and the Yankton Sioux Reservation,” she testified at the South Dakota PUC hearing last week. “However, it is closer to the Yankton Sioux Reservation when traveling by vehicle. The Yankton Sioux Tribe’s Fort Randall Casino and Hotel will be the closest large-scale entertainment center that offers a large selection of gaming, evening entertainment, bar and restaurant, and hotel in one place. I strongly believe that there will be undesired consequences that negatively and directly impact the Tribe’s sociocultural life, as well as a surge in violent crime for an already overburdened police force.”

Perkins claimed that TransCanada will work to solve cross-jurisdictional issues but admitted that they had not met with tribal police at any of the affected reservations. Most of his previous work in the field has been in Texas, where there are few federally recognized tribes. He confirmed that no study had been conducted by TransCanada regarding any potential increase of criminal activity due to workers in neighboring reservation communities. While TransCanada may not be legally required to keep crime down in man camps and protect the surrounding community, pipeline opponents at the PUC hearing said that the lack of attention to this element had them concerned.

Perkins also claimed there has never been a complaint about rape or sexual harassment at man camps run by Target Logistics, despite reports to the contrary. He also took issue with calling them man camps, saying that between four percent and six percent of the residents were women. He said that “pipeliners” are a different type of worker than the typical Bakken employee, as they are career professionals and union members. He did not know about drugs or human trafficking, saying that he knew only what he has gleaned from news accounts.

Perkins chalked up such concerns to “bad elements” but said that such workers are kept out of Target Logistics–run camps by a code of conduct that all residents are required to sign. He likened the code to the conduct that Holiday Inn expects of guests. For instance, like Holiday Inn, the Target Logistics camps do not allow open flames in rooms, he said.

When pressed by Yankton Sioux Tribal attorney Jennifer Baker about other things that are prohibited, Perkins listed alcohol, firearms, drugs and the sale of drugs. However, prostitution is not prohibited by the code of conduct. Neither is sexual activity with a minor, though both of those are against the law.

Also, Perkins admitted that neither Target Logistics nor TransCanada requires camp-worker background checks. He could not say whether a typical pipeline worker has a criminal record; registered sex offenders are not precluded from employment or from taking up residence at the camps.

He did promise that Target Logistics would turn over to law enforcement any resident engaged in criminal activity. However, once again, there is no official regulation specifically requiring the camp to turn lawbreakers over to law enforcement. Perkins also admitted that the code of conduct does not apply to criminal activity outside of camp. He noted that Target Logistics security officers are not licensed to carry weapons, and said he did not know whether they are trained in state and local laws or just camp rules.

Baker questioned TransCanada’s subsidizing of additional officers and asked whether this would prejudice law enforcement when it came to prosecuting TransCanada employees if officers’ salaries were being paid by the company. Perkins denied this would happen.

The responses did nothing to instill trust from the tribes that would be affected by the influx of oil-pipeline workers.

“TransCanada’s witness, Rick Perkins, did nothing to address the Tribe’s concerns,” said Thomasina Real Bird, representing the Yankton Sioux Tribe. “If anything, Mr. Perkins’s testimony reveals serious deficiencies in TransCanada’s proposed man camps, including, most shockingly, the lack of adequate safeguards put in place to protect the surrounding communities, the lack of background checks of the workers and security force, and the lack of any coordination with the Yankton Sioux Tribe law enforcement. TransCanada admitted to coordinating and donating to local county law enforcement—the same law enforcement to which it would refer allegations of crime that occur—but only if it occurs inside the camps.”

The hearings concluded on Wednesday August 5, and a final decision by the PUC is expected in November.

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Itshallbedonesoitis's picture
Submitted by Itshallbedonesoitis on
Thank you for every and any way that this disaster can be blocked, postponed and hopefully stopped completely. The Keystone XL project in my opinion, is murder. I accept that the continent of America - from Canada to Argentina, is sacred land and was given to the Indigenous Peoples, many, by the Creator because of the trust and faith that the many Indigenous Peoples original to the Americas would honor her and take good care of her and each other as he requested. I also question but generally accept and would say - I do not think there is a reason or excuse to be digging into the earth. Our life was to be lived on top of the earth and she provided for all our needs. Our happiness together and love for this life was what was necessary. The gold, oil, coal, uranium, diamonds, and rare minerals all belong to the earth. All inside the mothers body is for her to use as she knows and only she knows what purpose and use these materials will be used for. I think in reality, all that is in the earth is to be untouched and the precious and priceless gems of the earth is the happiness and well being of the earth and all her children. Even the questions about fracking, is it safe some asked. The ancestors would answer any question you have and tell you honestly. I accept that this day is here because the Ancestors prayed for us that it be so, they were taking good care of us also. This day may not have been possible but that their love for earth and life and protection of it blessed all of us to live. An addiction to money and monetized life is cruel disception. Money is worth nothing. It was given value and tied to such things not to be touched and it is also now connected to trillions of dollars of largess in debt by the government. I see so many parallels to the kingdom here. The land is becoming unlivable because of the governments actions, which is not an accident. The people were controlled more easily within the confines of the slums. In the kingdom people were also unable to live on the land in time because of the constant acts of terror and threats by the kings soldiers to burn houses, destroy crops, or kill members of the family - no one had a chance or choice and were removed from living independantly, they were relocated to slums of filth and starvation. The habitual act of lying is with the game of Royals who decided they would take the earth and the resources for themselves and that God had divined it so. The majority population learned to lie expertly well in case they were caught out of the slums looking for some food to steal. It was forbidden to leave the slums and punishment could lead to torture and or death. One had to be an expert liar in case of being caught, starvation was constant. Theft by the kings soldiers was income for the personal treasury of such royals. Theft was a necessity for the slum dwellers because they had nothing. These tools of taking everything was royal tradition of occupation, and or the brutal conditions in the slums of haunting death and starvation. This economy worked for the kings but the kingdoms economy has been disastrous to the Americas and for the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. Trust yourselves and not what is being said by any of the governments, or their representatives, always. Do not rely on their accountability, promises, words, or agreements - verbally or written. Shake all the hands, smile and be photographed if you like, but insist on what you need and what must be done. It is so ingrained to lie that it has become an unconscious act of a programed mind of ancient cruelties. Trust in yourselves and in what you know to be true and seek conditions or negotions from that point. Over and over again you will be frustrated and angered if you accept or acede to promises of anything. Tell yourselves the truth, absolutely. Do not demand the truth from the others, they were trained and taught as children that this meant lie or be severly beaten. The Indigenous Peoples of the Americas are the rightful and true keepers of the Creators blessing, this beautiful America - she was so lovely. Peoples of other lands, nations or cultures must respect, in reality, your laws of treating this earth, this continent - America with such respect as you request. The Creator put this confidence in your hands. You do have the authority, you always have, not the ones who have used violence on you and her. It is my opinon only, no other. I sincerely have faith that the wise speakers of spirit will guide the Indigenous Nations of the Americas through what ever is to come. It may be necessary to brush up on language skills as the instructions are undoubtedly given in the ancient tongue that the people were very familiar with. It certainly will not be given in English. The message and instruction is too important to not understand clearly, it is for the protection and safety of the people. When someone from that marbled hall tells people that - ´yes, starving thousands of children was worth it¨, then I know evil is about. I accept that it is a grave offense to the heart of being and all that is true, a violation of such magnitude to ever allow or promote the starving of children. If necessary it would be the adult who sacrifices hunger before ever allowing or accepting children to starve. The government has had no problem with starving children anywhere in the world. That is what Keystone XL is for the children, starvation. As they poison the mother and she weeps with poisons - she can not provide for the necessary nourishment of her children. Only the murder money madness and its addiction for the desperate death, endlessly. It is an alien thing that the kingdoms made, life into death for the wealth of the king, an infection that ever spreads and needs more death of life. Neither the kingdom nor money are not good for America, they belong where kingdom is. Life feeds the spirit of human being and spirit is here for human beings love and we were truely happy together. Money separated us and we are unhappy for our forgotten love. America is beautiful and she needs to live and her children need to live, she is spirit. The river, forest, mountains, the deer grazing, the bear eating berries, the croaking frogs, was where we left ourselves. Is a home where wisdom speaks and wants our understanding and cleansing from illusion and delusion. Beautiful truth speaks for you, beautiful clean, hearing clean. Listen all around, listen to the silence, hear the clean, blessed and holy, sacred and true clean you.