Sioux Nation joins DM#x0026;E; fray

Line would cross former Indian land

By Jeffrey Pieters

The Sioux Nation of western South Dakota has joined the growing mass of parties appealing a federal decision authorizing the Dakota, Minnesota &; Eastern Railroad project.

The Nation's appeal, filed last Wednesday in the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, "just may well inhibit" the Surface Transportation Board's power to authorize the $1.5 billion railroad project, according to Richard Streeter, attorney for the Nation and several others appealing the STB ruling.


According to Streeter, the basis of the appeal is the 1886 Fort Laramie treaty between the Sioux and the U.S. government.

The treaty ended war between the nations and gave clearance for construction of a railroad line through Sioux lands. That line today belongs to Union Pacific Railroad.

"In exchange for that, the United States pretty much limited what could be built across the lands of the Sioux Nation," then the western half of South Dakota, Streeter said.

The DM&E; proposes to build 260 miles of track from the current line terminus, in South Dakota, to Wyoming, where the railroad would begin hauling western coal to eastern markets.

Some of that construction would cross lands once belonging to the Sioux.

The Nation is joined on the petition by 56 individual landowners and a business, the Triple Seven Ranch. Many of them are members of the Mid States Coalition for Progress group.

The Nation's argument, based on a federal treaty, "brings to the table an argument none of the other parties can make," said Rochester City Attorney Terry Adkins.

Seven separate challenges now have been filed opposing the STB decision since it was issued Jan. 30.


In addition to the Sioux Nation and landowners, appealing parties include the cities of Rochester and Mankato, Mayo Foundation, Minnesotans for an Energy Efficient Economy, Sierra Club and Olmsted County, which was the last to file, on March 29.

Numerous other parties have filed motions to intervene in the case. Among them is the Citizens Against Rochester's Bypass group. DM&E; itself also has filed to intervene.

Additional intervenors have until April 29 to file motions to join the case. Some parties have intervened simply to maintain close watch on the proceedings.

The Eighth Circuit Court is based in St. Louis. Clerk of Court Michael Gans said arguments in the case likely won't begin until October. Case arguments might be heard in St. Paul, Gans said.

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