Red Lake Nation Votes to Evict Enbridge Pipelines; Native Youth to Visit Pope, Ask Him to Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery

The Red Lake Tribal Council voted last week to evict Enbridge crude oil pipelines from sovereign tribal lands. Enbridge, a major Canadian crude oil pipeline company, has four lines that cross 8 acres of Red Lake land; they were built decades ago, apparently without proper land title search.

According to the March 16 story:

The land in question was originally ceded by the Red Lake band to the federal government in 1889. But it was never sold, so in 1945, the U.S. Department of the Interior restored the land to the tribe.

In the 1980s, the BIA discovered that Enbridge’s pipelines appeared to be in trespass on Red Lake land.

The federal government never resolved the problem. Red Lake started pushing the issue back in 2007. Red Lake and Enbridge had negotiated a land swap and $18.5 million cash deal, but Red Lake pulled out of that deal earlier this year and now is taking the next step to tell Enbridge to remove its pipelines.

Pipeline opposition is sweeping through Indian Country. Red Lake and other Native nations opposed construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near Standing Rock in 2016. Red Lake strongly opposes the construction of a new Enbridge Line 3 across northern Minnesota.

Rerouting the four existing pipelines off of Red Lake land would cost Enbridge $10 million, the story said. (That’s less than the $18.5 million Enbridge had on the table, but that amount included back pay for the decades of trespass on Red Lake lands. That issue remains unresolved.)

Red Lake member Marty Cobenais pushed for the measure to force Enbridge to remove all of its existing pipelines from Red Lake lands.

In a related story, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recently approved the final environmental impact statement for the new Line 3, a larger version of the old and failing Line 3. The new Line 3 would also be rerouted to avoid all reservation lands. However, the new route would cross the Mississippi headwaters and pass by or through numerous wild rice waters.

Indigenous and environmental groups have opposed the pipeline because of the impact on climate change, the potential spills in environmentally sensitive areas, and the violation of treaty rights. (In addition, the Minnesota Department of Commerce said the project is not needed.)

A final vote on that pipeline is due in early June.

Connecting Line 3 to the Doctrine of Discovery

The Star Tribune also ran a piece today headlined: American Indian teens head to Vatican, hoping to overturn historic papal decrees. It talks about how Mitch Walking Elk and a local Native American group of teens and parents are heading to the Vatican to ask the Pope to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery.

This old story is intimately connected with the new Line 3 story. It is the latest example of how for-profit extraction industries such as tar sand mining dismiss Native American treaty rights and their spiritual connection to the land.

Quick background: The Doctrine of Discovery is the forerunner to Manifest Destiny. It refers to the religious and legal justification used by Europe’s colonial powers to claim lands occupied by indigenous peoples. The Doctrine has its roots in 15th century papal edicts granting Spain and Portugal permission to seize foreign lands as long as no baptized Christians had a prior claim. The “Discovery Doctrine” was later put into U.S. law through a series of 19th Century U.S. Supreme Court decisions. It still applies today.

Nolan and Nina Berglund are two of the indigenous youth who hope to travel to the Vatican later this spring to talk to the Pope about the Doctrine of Discovery. They also are members of the Line 3 “Youth Climate Intervenors.” This is a group of young people who were recognized to be official intervenors before the PUC as it makes its final decision on Line 3. As intervenors, the group gets to participate in the semi-judicial process, including filing their own legal briefs and cross examine witnesses. The youth were allowed to participate because the PUC recognized that as young people, they would bear the brunt of any of Line 3’s climate change impacts.

According to the Star Tribune story: “Although a group of national Indian elders met Vatican leaders in 2016 to ask that the decrees be rescinded, Walking Elk’s teens and parents are expected to be the first such youthful delegation.”

The story also acknowledges the work of Jim Bear Jacobs and Healing Minnesota Stories to raise awareness about the Doctrine of Discovery through such things as our Sacred Sites tours.

One thought on “Red Lake Nation Votes to Evict Enbridge Pipelines; Native Youth to Visit Pope, Ask Him to Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery

  1. […] This one-day Pow Wow will celebrate recent decisions by Red Lake to demand that Enbridge remove crude oil pipelines running through its sovereign lands. It turns out for decades, several Enbridge crude oil pipelines have trespassed on a portion of Red Lake lands in Leonard. It resulted from confusing land titles. The federal government knew about the problem for years but never took action to correct it. (See our earlier blog: Red Lake Nation Votes to Evict Enbridge Pipelines.) […]


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