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Meet the Lakota Tribe Grandmother Teaching Thousands How to Get Arrested to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline April 13, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canada petroleum, Environment, First Nations.
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Debra White Plume has galvanized an international coalition of grassroots activists.

 

April 11, 2014  |

 Evelyn Nieves, http://www.alternet.org
dwhiteplumePhoto Credit: Kent Lebsock; Screenshot / YouTube.com

On March 29, a caravan of more than 100 cars plodded along the wide open roads of the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, stopped at a forlorn former corn field and prepared for battle.

Leaders from eight tribes in South Dakota and Minnesota pitched their flags. Participants erected nine tipis, a prayer lodge and a cook shack, surrounding their camp with a wall of 1,500-pound hay bales. Elders said they would camp out indefinitely. Speakers said they were willing to die for their cause.

This spirit camp at the Sicangu Lakota Rosebud reservation was the most visible recent action in Indian Country over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. But it was hardly the first … or the last.

On the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Debra White Plume, an activist and community organizer involved in Oglala Lakota cultural preservation for more than 40 years, has been leading marches, civil disobedience training camps and educational forums on the Keystone XL since the pipeline was proposed in 2008.

White Plume, founder of the activists groups Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way), the International Justice Project and Moccasins on the Ground, has crisscrossed the country, marched on Washington and testified at the United Nations against the environmental devastation of tar sands oil mining and transport. Now, perhaps only weeks before President Obama is set to announce whether to allow a private oil company, TransCanada, to plow through the heartland to transport tar sand crude from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries for export, White Plume is busier than ever.

White Plume is leading a galvanized, international coalition of grassroots environmental activists, the largest and most diverse in decades, in the last fight against the Keystone XL. The coalition is planning massive actions against the Keystone XL in Washington, D.C. and in local communities from April 22 (Earth Day) through April 27. In what is a first in decades, indigenous tribes from the heartland will be joined with farmers and ranchers along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route in the actions. The “Cowboy and Indian Alliance” is inviting everyone in the country to their tipi camp on the National Mall in the hopes that a show of strength will steel President Obama’s resolve to be the “environmental President.”

Since the State Department implicitly signed off on the Keystone XL pipeline in February by announcing that its environmental impact statement had found no “significant” impacts to worry about, White Plume and other environmental leaders concerned about the Keystone XL’s impact on climate change have also stepped up their plans for direct, non-violence civil disobedience. Those plans are under wraps, but blockades will surely be a major weapon in their arsenal.

White Plume talked about why the Keystone XL pipeline has become such a firestorm.

* * *

Evelyn Nieves: Why is it so important that the Keystone XL pipeline NOT become a reality?

Debra White Plume: The tar sands bitumen inside the KXL pipeline is hazardous, flammable, a carcinogen — and deadly. When it gets into our drinking water and surface water, it cannot be cleaned up. These pipelines further the development of the tar sands sacrifice area in Alberta.

EN: Who is involved in the activism surrounding the opposition to the pipeline? Stories talk about this as a women’s movement, an elders movement and a youth movement. That means it’s pretty much everyone’s movement except for middle-aged men.

DWP: That might be true elsewhere, but all of our people are engaged to protect sacred water. I can’t speak for any middle-aged American men, but I know there are hundreds of American ranchers and farmers in South Dakota and Nebraska ready to defend their rights. Our Lakota warriors are opposing the KXL — this includes men and women.

EN: What sorts of direct action are you willing to take and what kind of support are you receiving from Indian Country in general?

DWP: We will blockade TransCanada’s KXL to protect our lands and waters if we have to. Many tribal governments and Red Nations people have committed to blockade. Our Oglala Lakota Tribal Council is meeting soon to discuss declaring war on the KXL, as is the Rosebud Lakota Tribal Council.

EN:What kind of support are you receiving from outside of Indian Country?

DWP: We have support from all over the big land (so-called U.S.A.) and so-called Canada. We do not recognize these manmade borders. Our people were here from time immemorial, this is our ancestral land, people to the north and south are our relatives. We are connected through prophecy.

EN:Where is the state of South Dakota on this?

DWP: The South Dakota state government wants the pipeline, the state government is pro-mining. They see Mother Earth as a warehouse of resources they can extract. They have no respect. The citizens are divided. The ranchers and farmers along the corridor have had their lands taken by eminent domain in South Dakota. They don’t like that. We have made allies with the S.D. citizens who want to protect sacred water. Many have come to our Lakota ceremonies.

EN: What about non-Indian border towns?

DWP:People who live in the border towns are divided about the KXL. Some hope to get a job, some hope it never comes here, many are working in alliance with us to stop it.

EN: Why is the blockade at Rosebud? 

DWP: The camp at Rosebud is not a blockade camp. The camp is on their own tribal land and no one can make them leave. It is near the location of a proposed man camp. We do not want any part of the KXL, including the badman camps.

EN:Is it because that’s the direct path on the pipeline route?

DWP: No, it is not in the KXL pipeline corridor. It is there because it is near to where TransCanada wants to put a badman camp. We refer to those camps as badman camps because of the horrendous experience the Mandan, Hidtatsa, and Arkikara Nation (in western North Dakota, where tracking reigns) is enduring because of the thousands of strangers among them, committing many crimes against women and children, and by the nature of their work, destroying Mother Earth for tar sands mining — which has to exit the sacrifice zone through the black snake of the KXL and other pipelines proposed by corporations.

EN: What are your next steps?

DWP: We continue to provide NVDA (non-violent direct action) training to communities in Indian Country that request for us to come. This is our Moccasins on the Ground Tour of Resistance that we have been doing for three years now.

EN: What do you hope to achieve with your large gathering later this month?

DWP: We will provide training to communities who are sending their people, increase opposition to the kxl, expand our network, strengthen alliances, teach people about the sacredness of water. Allies are coming from all over to help us train community people, and other folks who are coming from all over the big land. We have many more Moccasins on the Ground Tour of Resistance training camps scheduled. We will keep training until the decision is made. We hope President Obama will be green. Revolutionary green, and say no to the KXL and all other tar sands pipelines. Who wants to live over a snake pit?

Evelyn Nieves is a senior contributing writer and editor at AlterNet, living in San Francisco. She has been a reporter for both the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The One (Dreadful) Thing They Don’t Call Themselves February 3, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Racism, Sports.
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1.31.14 – 3:04 PM

by Abby Zimet

Just in time for the Super Bowl, the National Congress of American Indians has releasedProud To Be, a powerful new ad that seeks to explain why the Washington Redskins name – which never gets mentioned – is a racist horror that needs to be changed. With a fascinating history of the word, from its reportedly “benign” origins to its use in 1860s bounty notices – “$200 for every red-skin sent to purgatory” – to the decades-long fight to change a name that ignorant rich people like owner Dan Snyder, all of whom should know better but somehow don’t, continue to insist is “a badge of honor.” Tell them it’s not. It’s time they join this century.

 

 

Wynne ruins Xmas in Grassy Narrows, logging plan approved December 27, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Ontario.
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Roger’s note: Let’s here it for Liberal governments.

GN_FB_ProfileBIMMEDIATE RELEASE Dec. 23, 2013

Grassy Narrows – Today the Wynne government approved plans for another decade of clearcut logging in Grassy Narrows Territory against the will of this Indigenous community. The decision has ruined Christmas in a community already struggling with the long term health impacts of mercury poisoning. The Whiskey Jack Forest Management Plan 2012-2022 plans for dozens of large clearcuts on Grassy Narrows Territory, some nearly the size of pre-amalgamation Toronto.

 

“Premier Wynne, it is within your power to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated at the expense of another generation of Grassy Narrows children,” said Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister. “I call on you to intervene to repeal this hurtful plan and to ensure that never again will Ontario attempt to force decisions on our people and our lands.”

Download the plan here.

Speak out against the plan here.

The plan sets out a schedule to clearcut much of what little mature forest remains on Grassy Narrows Territory after decades of large scale industrial logging. Clearcut logging elevates mercury levels in fish – deepening the tragedy caused when 20,000 lbs of mercury poison were dumped into Grassy Narrows’ river by a paper mill upstream in the 1960′s.

This logging will further erode the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of the community which depends on the forest to sustain their families and to practice their culture through fishing, hunting, trapping, medicine harvesting, ceremony and healing for all generations.

“Ontario has ignored our voices, and has added insult to injury by delivering this bitter blow during Christmas,” said Joseph Fobister. “My heart sinks because I know that clearcut logging has devastating consequences for our people. We cannot allow this.”

Premier Wynne visited Grassy Narrows in the summer of 2012 as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, saying that she wanted to rebuild Ontario’s relationship with Grassy Narrows to “get it right.” Instead Ontario has unilaterally pursued this clear-cut logging plan against the will of the community and without consent

We were not properly consulted and we do not accept any application of this plan to our traditional lands. The Chief and Council along with community Elders stand united on this issue and are determined to protect the community’s way of life; Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear Grassy Narrows’ case against Ontario in May, with a decision following by six months or more. The legal action argues that Ontario does not have the right to unilaterally permit logging on Grassy Narrows land due to promises made by Canada in Treaty 3.
The new logging plan takes effect in April.

Grassy Narrows is the site of the longest running native logging blockade in Canadian history – an ongoing grassroots action which recently celebrated its 11th anniversary. Grassy Narrows youth, elders, women, and land-users put their bodies on the line to stop logging trucks from passing.

CONTACT: Chief Simon Fobister (807) 407 0170
JB Fobister (807) 407 2745

High res photos and b-roll available: riverrun2010@gmail.com.

- See more at: http://freegrassy.net/2013/12/23/wynne-ruins-xmas-in-grassy-narrows-logging-plan-approved/#sthash.VW4IajJa.dpuf

Stuck in the Smoke Hole of Our Tipi December 26, 2013

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MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE REAL AMERICANS

 

Feathers Versus Guns: The Throne Speech and Canada’s War With Mi’kmaw Nation October 19, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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As I write this blog, Canada is at war with the Mi’kmaw Nation — again — this time in Elsipogtog (Big Cove First Nation) in New Brunswick. The Mi’kmaw have spoken out against hydro-fracking on their territory for many months now. They have tried to get the attention of governments to no avail. Now the Mi’kmaware in a battle of drums and feathers versus tanks and assault rifles — not the rosy picture painted by Canada to the international community.

The failure by the federal and provincial governments, as well as the Houston-based fracking company, Southwestern Energy, to consult with the Mi’kmaw and obtain their consent is what led to the protests all summer. According to their web page: “In March 2010, the company announced that the Department of Energy and Mines of the Province of New Brunswick, Canada accepted its bids for exclusive licenses to search and conduct an exploration program covering 2,518,518 net acres in the province in order to test new hydrocarbon basins.”

In response, the Mi’kmaw have led peaceful protests at hydro-fracking sites to demonstrate their opposition and protect their lands and resources. They have always asserted their sovereignty, ownership and jurisdiction over their territory. There has been relatively little coverage of their actions, but they have been active for months now. More recently, the company obtained an injunction to stop the protest and it was served on protesters today.

It is more than coincidental timing — it was obviously strategically calculated with the completion of the Governor General’s speech from the throne and the end of the United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya’s visit to Canada. Yesterday morning, we awoke to reports from the Mi’kmaw of swarms of RCMP dispatched to Elsipogtog to enforce Harper’s aggressive natural resource agenda. He has effectively declared war on the Mi’kmaw.

This is not the first time Canada has declared war on the Mi’kmaw. In 1981, law enforcement led an attack on the Mi’kmaw at Restigouche to stop them from controlling their own Aboriginal fishery. During this attack, Mi’kmaw suffered multiple injuries, some severe and numerous arrests.

In 1998, the government intervened in Listuguj because the traditional Mi’kmaw government shut down the logging company that was stealing timber from Mi’kmaw lands and because the Mi’kmaw started to harvest their own timber.

Between 1999 and 2001, Canada once again declared war on the Mi’kmaw Nation at Esgenoopitij (Burnt Church First Nation) in NB to stop them from fishing lobster. This was despite the fact the Mi’kmaw had proven their treaty right to fish lobster at the Supreme Court of Canada. Law enforcement rammed Mi’kmaw fishing boats, injured fisherman and issued numerous arrests.

All of these actions were done in violation of the numerous treaties between the Mi’kmaw and the Crown which were peace and friendship treaties intended to once and for all end hostilities and work together as Nation to Nation partners. Given that our treaties are constitutionally protected, Canada’s actions are not only tyrannical and oppressive, but also illegal.

Today, in 2013, the government has once again decided that brute force is the way to handle The Mi’kmaw women, elders, and children drumming and singing in peaceful protest against hydro-fracking at Elsipogtog. Media reports 200 RCMP officers were dispatched, some of them from the riot squad, armed with shields, assault rifles, batons, tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and snipers. Some of the RCMP, in full camo, hid in the woods, while the others formed a large barricade on the highway blocking any movement by protesters.

The Chief and Council were arrested, as well as numerous other protesters all while scrambling cell phone signals, cutting live video feeds and blocking media access to the site. Reports of RCMP pointing their assault rifles at elders and snipers aiming their scopes at children led to the burning of several RCMP cruisers. Yet, so far, the mainstream media has focused on the burning cars and not the acts of violation and intimidation by RCMP on the Mi’kmaw.

This heavy-handed deployment of heavily armed RCMP cops against women and children shows Canada’s complete disregard for our fundamental human rights and freedoms, and their ongoing disdain for Indigenous peoples. One RCMP officer’s comments summarized government position perfectly: “Crown land belongs to government, not to fucking natives.” The RCMP have it wrong — Mi’kmaw treaties never surrendered our lands and we are still the rightful owners.

Of course, this sounds eerily similar to the words of former Ontario Premier Mike Harris who was reported to have said of the protest at Ipperwash “I want the fucking Indians out of the park.”

And we all know what happened there — law enforcement killed a peaceful unarmed protester named Dudley George. One might wonder if history is going to repeat itself. If we look to the speech from the throne as any indication, Harper has sent Canada on a direct collision course with First Nations — all in the name of resource development.

Contrary to the Governor General’s introductory comments about Canada using its military force sparingly and that Canada responds “swiftly and resiliently to aid those in need”, the strategic wording indicates a much more ominous plan. Canada’s position vis-à-vis First Nations and natural resources is laid out as follows:

- First Nations are incapable of managing their own affairs and Canada will control them and make them accountable via legislation;

- Canada owns the natural resources and will sell them;

- Canada will make major investments in infrastructure to protect these natural resources;

- Canada will increase military strength to protect Canadian sovereignty; and

- Increased military will protect Canada’s economy from terrorism.

In other words, Canada does not recognize the ownership or rights of First Nations to their lands, waters and natural resources and will expend billions to ensure that no First Nations prevent the extraction of those resources. Canada and its military have referred to First Nations as terrorists before, and will no doubt be labeled as such when they defend their right to say no to mines or hydro-fracking, like in Elsipogtog for example.

This aggressive display of power and intimidation in Elsipogtog was not met with an equal display of violence. Instead, the women, elders and children continued to drum and chant and pray for the health and safety of their peoples, their Nation and the lands and waters for all Canadians. Instead of scaring people away, this unconstitutional show of force is being met with solidarity blockades all over Canada and the United States.

Listuguj in Quebec has blocked a bridge; Six Nations in Ontario has shut down a highway, there are protests outside Canadian embassies in New York City and Washington; and hundreds of rallies, marches, protests and blockades planned for later today and tomorrow. The horrific images of police violence at Elsipogtog inspired First Nations peoples all over Canada to collect supplies, send warriors and advocate for justice. Harper has inspired Indigenous resistance and action on the ground. There will be more First Nation protests and blockades in the coming days as well.

The Idle No More flame that he lit last year has never faded — it was just waiting to be fanned once again. The solution has always been there:

1. Respect the Nation to Nation relationship (our sovereignty and jurisdiction over our governments, lands and peoples);

2. Address the current injustices (crises in housing, education, food, water, child and family services, murdered and missing Indigenous women); and

3. Share the benefits and responsibility to protect the lands, water and natural resources like the treaties envisioned.

It’s Harper’s move now — more tanks and RCMP violence or a negotiating table?

Pamela Palmater

Dr. Pamela D. Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She teaches Indigenous law, politics and governance at Ryerson University and heads their Centre for Indigenous Governance.

 

 

 

Protests Sweep Canada Following Paramilitary Assault on Indigenous Fracking Blockade

 

‘Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation are on the frontlines of defending water and the land for everyone’

 

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Police raid on New Brunswick fracking blockade (Photo: APTN reporter Ossie Michelin, via Twitter)

Protests are sweeping Canada following Thursday’s assault by paramilitary-style police on members of indigenous Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq First Nation and local residents as they blockaded a New Brunswick fracking exploration site.

The group had barricaded a road near the town of Rexton in rural New Brunswick since September 30 to block shale gas exploration by SWN Resources Canada, a subsidiary of the Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co, that is moving forward without the community’s consent or consultation.

Thursday morning, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stormed the protest, donning camouflage uniforms, wielding rifles, and bringing police dogs to the site. Kathleen Martens with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network reports, “[a]t least four RCMP cruisers were burned” in the events following the raid.

The RCMP announced that 40 people had been arrested, citing a court injunction against the protest.

“The RCMP is coming in here with their tear gas – they even had dogs on us,” Susan Levi-Peters, the former chief of the nearby Elsipogtog aboriginal reserve, told Reuters. “They were acting like we’re standing there with weapons, while we are standing there, as women, with drums and eagle feathers. This is crazy.” The media is reporting that some protesters threw molotov cocktails at the police, who reportedly tear gassed the crowd.

In the immediate aftermath of the violence, people across Canada mobilized to show solidarity for the besieged blockade, with APTN reporting that First Nations people across the country are putting a call out for an immediate show of support for the Elsipogtog members.

APTN reports that solidarity activists blocked a bridge in Listuguj, and supporters from Six Nations blocked part of a highway near Caledonia on Thursday. Organizers with IdleNoMore in Lethbridge, Alberta held a march through the city immediately following the raid. Solidarity demonstrations also took place in Washington, DC and New York on the doorstep of the Canadian consulates.

PowerShift.ca lists over two dozen actions across the country, including solidarity flash mobs and mass marches.

“Protesters in Rexton are standing up to a Texas company that wants to profit on the backs of New Brunswickers while placing the water and the environment at risk,” stated Emma Lui, water campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation are on the frontlines of defending water and the land for everyone, and this should not be criminalized.”

As events continue to unfold, people are using Twitter to post news updates, photos and commentary:

* * *

# # #

Aboriginal women exploited in Great Lakes sex trade August 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, First Nations, Women.
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U.S. reports outline how native women and girls are trafficked to Great Lakes sailors, possibly through Thunder Bay.



On the docks of Duluth, Minn., it’s called “working the boats.”

It means working as a prostitute, sometimes shuffling from bunk to bunk, selling sex to sailors on ships working the Great Lakes.

Some prostitutes are as young as 10, fleeing broken homes in the U.S. and Canada. The average age of entry into the sex trade is 14, according to a 2011 report titled Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota. And a disproportionate number of Great Lakes sex slaves are impoverished First Nations women and girls.

Co-author Christine Stark recently told the CBC that on this issue, “there is a very strong link between Thunder Bay and Duluth.”

The report describes hearing of “Native women being trafficked to and from reservations and urban areas” and goes on to say that “92 per cent of women interviewed wanted to escape prostitution.”

The Canadian Women’s Foundation is working on providing that way out, through an ongoing task force on the trafficking of women and children in Canada.

Project director Diane Redsky explains that there are “specific vulnerabilities for aboriginal women and girls.”

“They are definitely targeted by traffickers,” she says of First Nations women. “It’s not surprising that Thunder Bay would be a city (portrayed) in that way.”

One of the goals of the task force is to help them escape violent, exploitative situations, she says, adding that housing and education opportunities can go a long way toward fighting trafficking.

But it’s a tough battle. Great Lakes sex traffic between Canada and the U.S. has gone on for generations and has its roots in poverty and discrimination, according to the Garden of Truth report, which draws from interviews with 105 aboriginal women conducted by the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition and Prostitution Research & Education.

Though noting the paucity of statistics, the report says up to 10 women and girls were prostituted by three traffickers on ships out of the port of Duluth in 2002 alone. The women may disappear onto the lakes for months at a time.

“Intergenerational harms persist, in that some girls whose mothers were prostituted on the boats were conceived during prostitution,” it says.

More than two-thirds of the women interviewed had family members who attended native residential schools, now notorious for abuse and neglect, and 77 per cent of the women interviewed had used homeless shelters.

It’s hard to know how widespread the Great Lakes sex trade is because victims are often reluctant to report crimes, says Sgt. Shelley Garr, of the Ontario Provincial Police headquarters in Thunder Bay.

“Human trafficking victims are often from extremely vulnerable populations,” Garr says, adding the OPP tries to work with the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency to combat human trafficking. Still, it’s a trade that often flies under the radar.

Chris Adams, a spokesperson for the Thunder Bay police department, said he was unaware of sex traffic on ships between his city and Duluth.

The Garden of Truth findings are troubling but not surprising to Canadians who have studied abuse and prostitution in First Nations communities.

That report supports a 2008 study by the Minnesota legislature that suggested Duluth has become a major hub for human trafficking because of the presence of a sizeable First Nations population and an international port.

A 2010 Duluth police report also describes the city as “a destination for trafficking victims who are brought on board ships for exploitation by the crew.”

A 2011 study for the economics department at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, found the average age of prostitutes entering the sex trade was 14, although some girls began as young as 10.

Prostitutes can generate $280,000 each in annual profits for pimps, Redsky says. “The financial gain is to the trafficker.”

She wonders: “Who is on these ships in the first place, and why is this allowed to happen for generations?”

According to the Garden of Truth report, organized crime groups, on and off aboriginal lands, play “a significant role” in trafficking native women. “Youth gangs in Indian country are proliferating.”

Homelessness and a lack of educational options help explain why some First Nations women are drawn into prostitution, said Kezia Picard, director of policy and research at the Ontario Native Women’s Association.

She notes that some 600 Canadian First Nations women are missing, many of them thought to have been murdered, including some who worked in the sex trade.

It’s not surprising the Minnesota report mentions a sex trade involving the Port of Thunder Bay, Picard said.

“It’s always transportation hubs where these things are more visible.”

Tribe Blockades ‘Megaload’ of Tar Sands Equipment August 7, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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Nez Perce leader: ‘We need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land.’

 

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Over 250 protesters faced down police and a ‘megaload’ of tar sands equipment Monday evening on Idaho’s Highway 12. (Photo: Steve Hanks/ Lewiston Tribune, AP)

Calling tar sands development a project of “total destruction,” members of the Nez Perce tribe placed their bodies before a ‘megaload’ of extraction equipment for the second night in a row Tuesday, temporarily halting the convoy as it makes its way along Idaho’s Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.

Roughly 50 protesters from the Nez Perce tribe, Idle No More, Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other environmental groups halted for over an hour the 255-foot long, two-lane-wide shipment—the bulk of which was a 322-ton water purification unit being pulled by a big rig.

The Spokesman-Review reports:

After gathering at a river access point a quarter mile from where the megaload truck stopped before dawn Tuesday, protesters began hiking westward along Highway 12 to a ramp where the roadway splits from Highway 95. At around 10:30 p.m., the Omega Morgan truck that had sat idle began to rumble to life, and a fleet of Nez Perce Tribal Police, County Sheriff, and Idaho State Police vehicles began moving toward a crowd of protesters blocking the roadway.

Law enforcement officers gave protesters 15 minutes to speak out unimpeded. At one point, tribal members were informed they were creating a public nuisance by officers. To which one protester responded, ‘We’re protecting our sovereignty.’

In an action the previous evening, a group over 250 activists linked arms in a human chain across the roadway, successfully holding up the parade of vehicles for three hours. According to Wild Idaho Rising Tide, the blockade was the longest lasting “since the first tar sands extraction modules rolled from Lewiston area ports on February 1, 2011.”

The blockade broke after a police car drove straight through the group of people, Earth First! Newswire reports. “Police used the usual tactics to break up the blockade, threatening people with mace, pushing activists, separating parents from children, and so on,” they add.

Nineteen individuals, including all members of the Nez Perce executive committee, were arrested Monday evening and released on bail Tuesday.

One of those arrested, Tribal Council member and Vice-Chair of the Nez Perce Nation (Nimiipuu Nation), Brooklyn Baptiste, told indigenous independent media site Last Real Indians that the action was taken because of tribal opposition to the economic and long-term environmental impact of the shipments—namely the development of tar sands oil which he described as “total destruction.”

“As leaders, elected or not, we need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land. This is about our inherent sovereignty. We are sovereign because of this land, this water, the animals. What is sovereignty without them? We’re all waking up.”

According to Reuters, the load is one of two planned shipments by Oregon hauling company Omega Morgan.

 

The ‘megaload’ parked during the day. (Photo via @KXLBlockade/ Twitter)

A video of Monday’s blockade shows protesters chanting and banging drums in a face-off with police and the ‘megaload.’

‘Nobody Understands’ Spills at Alberta Oil Sands Operation July 22, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations.
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Published on Sunday, July 21, 2013 by the Toronto Star

Oil spills at an oil sands operation in Cold Lake, Alberta have been going on for weeks with no end in sight, according to a government scientist.

  by  Emma Pullman and Martin Lukacs

Photos provided by a government scientist show the site of an oil spill in Cold Lake, Alta. The company that runs the operation says it is effectively managing the cleanup.

Oil spills at a major oil sands operation in Alberta have been ongoing for at least six weeks and have cast doubts on the safety of underground extraction methods, according to documents obtained by the Star and a government scientist who has been on site.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has been unable to stop an underground oil blowout that has killed numerous animals and contaminated a lake, forest, and muskeg at its operations in Cold Lake, Alta.

The documents indicate that, since cleanup started in May, some 26,000 barrels of bitumen mixed with surface water have been removed, including more than 4,500 barrels of bitumen.

The scientist said Canadian Natural Resources is not disclosing the scope of spills in four separate sites, which have been off bounds to media and the public because the operations are on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, where there is active weapons testing by the Canadian military.

The company says it is effectively managing and cleaning up the spills.

“The areas have been secured and the emulsion is being managed with clean up, recovery and reclamation activities well underway. The presence of emulsion on the surface does not pose a health or human safety risk. The sites are located in a remote area which has restricted access to the public. The emulsion is being effectively cleaned up with manageable environmental impact,” the company said in a statement.

The documents and photos show dozens of animals, including beavers and loons, have died, and that 30,600 kg of oily vegetation has been cleared from the latest of the four spill zones.

The company’s operations use an “in situ” or underground extraction technology called “cyclic steam stimulation,” which involves injecting thousands of gallons of superhot, high-pressure steam into deep underground reservoirs. This heats and liquefies the hard bitumen and creates cracks through which the bitumen flows and is then pumped to the surface.

The scientist, who asked not to be named for fear of losing their job, said the operation was in chaos.

“Everybody (at the company and in government) is freaking out about this,” said the scientist. “We don’t understand what happened. Nobody really understands how to stop it from leaking, or if they do they haven’t put the measures into place.”

In response to emailed questions from the Star, Canadian Natural Resources said it was co-operating with the regulator.

“We are investigating the likely cause of the occurrence, which we believe to be mechanical,” the company said.

“Canadian Natural has existing groundwater monitoring in place and we are undertaking aquatic and sediment sampling to monitor and mitigate any potential impacts. As part of our wildlife mitigation program, wildlife deterrents have been deployed in the area to protect wildlife.

“We are saddened that unfortunately some animal fatalities occurred between the time of the incident and the deployment of our animal deterrent systems. All of the fatalities have been reported to the Alberta Energy Regulator.”

The company added that it has “taken appropriate steps to ensure no additional impact to wildlife or the environment and that the incident site is reclaimed.”

Canadian Natural Resources did not respond to the charge that they aren’t disclosing the scope of the spills.

Oil companies have said in situ methods are more environmentally friendly than the open-pit mining often associated with the Alberta oil sands, but in situ is more carbon and water-intensive.

“In the course of injecting steam they’ve created fractures from the reservoir to the surface that they didn’t expect,” said the scientist, who is speaking out over concern that neither the company nor Alberta’s regulatory bodies would properly address the situation.

On Thursday, the Alberta Energy Regulator confirmed there were four spills in the last few months, and ordered Canadian Natural Resources to restrict its steam injections and enhance monitoring at the operations in Cold Lake.

Regulator official Bob Curran said the latest spill is spread across 40 hectares.

Canadian Natural Resources disputed that figure Friday. “We have the mapped area impacted to be significantly less than 40 hectares with the area being reduced daily through effective cleanup efforts,” the company said.

Critics say such spills raise questions about the safety and viability of in situ extraction, which by 2020 is expected to account for as much as 40 per cent of Canada’s oil sands production, because many of Alberta’s deposits cannot be mined.

“This is a new kind of oil spill and there is no ‘off button,’ ” said Keith Stewart, an energy analyst with Greenpeace who teaches a course on energy policy and environment at the University of Toronto. “You can’t cap it like a conventional oil well or turn off a valve on a pipeline.

“You are pressurizing the oil bed so hard that it’s no wonder that it blows out. This means that the oil will continue to leak until the well is no longer pressurized,” which means the bitumen could be seeping from the ground for months.

The company said the process is sound and has a good track record over 30 years in Alberta. It said that nevertheless it is reviewing its wellbores “to enhance wellbore integrity and modify steaming strategies to prevent the remote possibility of these events in the future.”

The Cold Lake operations are on the traditional territory of the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation, which is pursuing a constitutional challenge that argues the cumulative impacts of oil sands industrial development are infringing their treaty rights to hunt, fish and trap.

As well, the First Nation says there are graves alongside the lake in the area affected by the spills, and that band members have been unable to access that area.

© 2013 Toronto Star

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Emma Pullman

Emma Pullman is a Vancouver-based researcher, writer and campaigner. She is a campaigner with Leadnow.ca and campaigns consultant with SumOfUs.org.

Martin Lukacs

Martin Lukacs is a writer and activist, and an editor with the Canadian grassroots newspaper the Dominion

Indigenous Rights are the Best Defense Against Canada’s Resource Rush April 28, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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Roger’s note: Governments in power and political pundits are fond of invoking the “rule of law,” which is supposed to be sacred in a democracy.  However, when it is not in their self interest, the rule of law is ignored with impunity.  The actual operational principle is “might makes right.”  This article shows us how in spite of having the law on its side, the Canadian First Nations Peoples are not considered to be a legitimate force for lack of political clout.  The Idle No More movement is challenging this notion.  In the end, as has become evident to me over the years, it is not law or elections or government that determine social and economic justice, but rather organizing action outside of the electoral and juridical structures.  In the world of capitalism, government’s first loyalty is to the corporations who are in effect the owners of government; only massive social movements, fueled by anger and a sense of justice and human values can override this phenomenon.

First Nations people – and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them – will determine the fate of the planet

In a boardroom in a soaring high-rise on Wall Street, Indigenous activist Arthur Manuel is sitting across from one of the most powerful financial agents in North America.

(Photo: Mark Blinch/Reuters)

It’s 2004, and Manuel is on a typical mission. Part of a line of distinguished Indigenous leaders from western Canada, Manuel is what you might call an economic hit-man for the right cause. A brilliant thinker trained in law, he has devoted himself to fighting Canada’s policies toward Indigenous peoples by assailing the government where it hurts most – in its pocketbook.

Which is why he secured a meeting in New York with a top-ranking official at Standard & Poor’s, the influential credit agency that issues Canada’s top-notch AAA rating. That’s what assures investors that the country has its debts covered, that it is a safe and profitable place to do business.

This coveted credit rating is Manuel’s target. His line of attack is to try to lift the veil on Canada’s dirty business secret: that contrary to the myth that Indigenous peoples leech off the state, resources taken from their lands have in fact been subsidizing the Canadian economy. In their haste to get at that wealth, the government has been flouting their own laws, ignoring Supreme Court decisions calling for the respect of Indigenous and treaty rights over large territories. Canada has become very rich, and Indigenous peoples very poor.

In other words, Canada owes big. Some have even begun calculating how much. According to economist Fred Lazar, First Nations in northern Ontario alone are owed $32 billion for the last century of unfulfilled treaty promises to share revenue from resources. Manuel’s argument is that this unpaid debt – a massive liability of trillions of dollars carried by the Canadian state, which it has deliberately failed to report – should be recognized as a risk to the country’s credit rating.

How did the official who could pull the rug under Canada’s economy respond? Unlike Canadian politicians and media who regularly dismiss the significance of Indigenous rights, he took Manuel seriously. It was evident he knew all the jurisprudence. He followed the political developments. He didn’t contradict any of Manuel’s facts.

He no doubt understood what Manuel was remarkably driving at: under threat of a dented credit rating, Canada might finally feel pressure to deal fairly with Indigenous peoples. But here was the hitch: Standard & Poor’s wouldn’t acknowledge the debt, because the official didn’t think Manuel and First Nations could ever collect it. Why? As author Naomi Klein, who accompanied Manuel at the meeting, remembers, his answer amounted to a realpolitik shoulder shrug.

“Who will able to enforce the debt? You and what army?”

This was his brutal but illuminating admission: Indigenous peoples may have the law on their side, but they don’t have the power. Indeed, while Indigenous peoples’ protests have achieved important environmental victories – mining operations stopped here, forest conservation areas set up there – these have remained sporadic and isolated. Canada’s country-wide policies of ignoring Indigenous land rights have rarely been challenged, and never fundamentally.

Until now. If it’s only a social movement that can change the power equation upholding the official’s stance, then the Idle No More uprising may be it. Triggered initially in late 2012 by opposition to the Conservative government’s roll-back of decades of environmental protection, this Indigenous movement quickly tapped into long-simmering indignation. Through the chilly winter months, Canada witnessed unprecedented mobilizations, with blockades and round-dances springing up in every corner of the country, demanding a basic resetting of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples.

Money is not the main form this justice will take. First Nations desperately need more funding to close the gap that exists between them and Canadians. But if Indigenous peoples hold a key to the Canadian economy, the point is to use this leverage to steer the country in a different direction. “Draw that power back to the people on the land, the grassroots people fighting pipelines and industrial projects,” Manuel says. “That will determine what governments can or cannot do on the land.”

The stakes could not be greater. The movement confronts a Conservative Canadian government aggressively pursuing $600 billion of resource development on or near Indigenous lands. That means the unbridled exploitation of huge hydrocarbon reserves, including the three-fold expansion of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive projects, the Alberta tar sands. Living closest to these lands, Indigenous peoples are the best and last defence against this fossil fuel scramble. In its place, they may yet host the energy alternatives – of wind, water, or solar.

No surprise, then, about the government’s basic approach toward First Nations: “removing obstacles to major economic development.” Hence the movement’s next stage – a call for defiance branded Sovereignty Summer – is to put more obstacles up. The assertion of constitutionally-protected Indigenous and treaty rights – backed up by direct action, legal challenges and massive support from Canadians – is exactly what can create chronic uncertainty for this corporate and government agenda. For those betting on more than a half-trillion in resource investments, that’s a very big warning sign.

Industry has taken notice. A recent report on mining dropped Canada out of the top spot for miners: “while Canadian jurisdictions remain competitive globally, uncertainties with Indigenous consultation and disputed land claims are growing concerns for some.” And if the uncertainty is eventually tagged with a monetary sum, then Canada will, as Manuel warned Standard & Poor’s, face a large and serious credit risk. Trying to ward off such a threat, the government is hoping to lock mainstream Indigenous leaders into endless negotiations, or sway them with promises of a bigger piece of the resource action.

But this bleak outlook intent on a final ransacking of the earth doesn’t stand up to the vision the movement offers Canadians. Implementing Indigenous rights on the ground, starting with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, could tilt the balance of stewardship over a vast geography: giving Indigenous peoples much more control, and corporations much less. Which means that finally honouring Indigenous rights is not simply about paying off Canada’s enormous legal debt to First Nations: it is also our best chance to save entire territories from endless extraction and destruction. In no small way, the actions of Indigenous peoples – and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them – will determine the fate of the planet.

This new understanding is dawning on more Canadians. Thousands are signing onto educational campaigns to become allies to First Nations. Direct action trainings for young people are in full swing. As Chief Allan Adam from the First Nation in the heart of the Alberta oil patch has suggested, it might be “a long, hot summer.”

Sustained action that puts real clout behind Indigenous claims is what will force a reckoning with the true nature of Canada’s economy – and the possibility of a transformed country. That is the promise of a growing mass protest movement, an army of untold power and numbers.

Martin Lukacs

Martin Lukacs is a writer and activist, and an editor with the Canadian grassroots newspaper the Dominion

Tar Sands Resistance Heats Up With Week of Actions From US to Canada March 21, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, First Nations.
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Published on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 by Common Dreams

Week of anti-pipeline actions erupt across the country

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Climate activists on both sides of the U.S. and Canadian border are ratcheting up the fight against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline this week as the U.S. Senate ponders a recently proposed bill that would expedite its approval and “short-circuit” the State Department’s pipeline environmental review.

In the past week over 30 protests have taken place in dozens of U.S. cities as part of a “March 16-23, Week of Action to Stop Tar Sands Profiteers,” which has been coordinated by over 50 grassroots organizations.

So far, thirty-seven protesters have been arrested “for disrupting business as usual at TransCanada and their investors’ offices,” with more actions planned in the coming days.

“Organizers seek to expose green-washed corporations like TD Bank, a top shareholder in TransCanada, and force them to divest from the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline,” Tar Sands Blockade stated Wednesday.

“It’s encouraging to see people around the country taking action to stop tar sands profiteers,” said Ron Seifert, spokesperson for Tar Sands Blockade. “No longer will we allow them to build KXL and invest in toxic projects that endanger the health of low-income and communities of color. We will not allow ‘business as usual’ to continue.”

From the Tar Sands Blockade, below are a few highlights from the week of action so far:

Meanwhile, native leaders from both Canada and the U.S. took to the Canadian Parliament on Wednesday to urge opposition to both the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines—telling lawmakers that an alliance of native groups on both sides of the border are preparing to fight the pipelines in the courts and through unspecified direct action in the coming months.

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said natives are determined to block the pipelines.

“It’s going to be a long, hot summer,” he said at a news conference.

“We have a lot of issues at stake.”

“We’re going to stop these pipelines on way or another,” said Phil Lane Jr. of the American Yankton Sioux.

“If we have to keep going to court, we’ll keep doing that,” said Chief Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation in northern B.C., adding that pipeline opponents will never back down.

“We’re the ones that’s going to save whatever we have left of this Earth,” he said.

“We, as a nation, have to wake up,” said Chief Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation north of Vancouver. “We have to wake up to the crazy decisions that this government’s making to change the world in a negative way.”

More actions are expected throughout the U.S. in the coming days including six more actions against TD Bank in New York City, Washington D.C., Montpellier, Vt., Newark, Del., New Haven, Conn., and Asheville, N.C., Tar Sands Blockade reports.

On Thursday, March 21 in Oklahoma, the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance is planning what is slated to be the largest action of the week. Activists have pledged to “physically stop KXL construction.

Click here for a full list of actions and live updates from around the country. March 18 – Over 40 rally outside Michels Corporation in Kirkland, Washington (Alex Garland) March 19 – Banner Drop in Oklahoma Promotes Week of Action (Tar Sands Blockade)

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