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Ho-Chunk Nation looks to derail added rail line

Tribe legislature passes resolution opposing BNSF Railway's added rail expansion through La Crosse

Ho-Chunk Nation looks to derail added rail line

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - About 5,000 people have been added to the list of those opposing a railroad expansion in La Crosse.

The Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature recently passed a resolution saying the tribe is against the added line. Now the tribe will need to work with BNSF Railway before anything else can happen.

Passing a resolution means the Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature is informing tribal members and the public of the tribe's stance on a certain issue. In this case, the Ho-Chunk Nation is opposing the proposed BNSF Railway expansion through La Crosse for health and safety as well as historical reasons.

If BNSF Railway wants an additional four miles of train track, it's going to have to go through the Ho-Chunk Nation first.

"The whole area is part of our traditional land base. Ho-Chunks have been a part of the La Crosse area for a very very long time," Arvina Martin, chief communications officer for the Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature, said.

Because the tribe has such a history in the area, it worries an added rail line may bring up the past.

"We also want to make sure that an expansion would not be damaging to any sites of historical significance whether they're sacred sites or burial sites," Martin said.

The Ho-Chunk Nation said there are 284 tribal members living in La Crosse County and a new rail line raises some concerns about their health and safety.

"We do know that the oil that will be transported is more volatile then standard crude oil so that's a concern. We're also concerned about the tankers they're going to be using, some of them are not up to standards," Martin said.

Now that a resolution has passed, the tribe will begin looking into historical documents, but tribe members said BNSF will need to do its part.

"This process does require a lot of consultation and we do need to have that happen, you can't get around it. The Ho-Chunk Nation has to be consulted," Martin said.

We did reach out to BNSF Railway and it released this statement: "We have not been contacted by the Ho-Chunk Nation. BNSF respects the sovereignty of the Ho-Chunk Nation and we will reach out to them directly to listen and follow up on their concerns."

The Ho-Chunk Nation said the federal permitting process requires that BNSF contacts the tribe legislature. They said there has to be a consultation in order to move forward with the added rail.

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