A few years ago I saw the powerful indigenous-made documentary Red Power Energy. It highlighted Indian Country’s divergent views on mining and resource management. It featured Native Nations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Some Nations were mining coal and drilling oil as part of their economic development plans. Others rejected resource extraction in favor of sustainable wind farms and solar arrays.
I recalled that film when I read the latest news out of Canada on the controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion. An indigenous-led group called “Project Reconciliation” is proposing to buy a majority stake in the pipeline. They are calling it the “Reconciliation Pipeline,” and using the tagline: “There’s a pipeline to reconciliation. We should take it.” According to its website:
Through majority Indigenous ownership, it [the pipeline] can improve Indigenous lives throughout the West. How? By returning profits made from shipping resources to market to the traditional owners of the land from which those resources came.
What’s more, two other indigenous groups are vying to buy into the pipeline, according to an article by Winona LaDuke in ATPN News: “The ‘Iron Coalition’ from Alberta has invited 47 First Nations and about 60 Métis organizations” to invest. “The Western Indigenous Pipeline Group, comprised of First Nations already along the infrastructure’s route” also apparently is in the mix.
As LaDuke see it, having First Nations buy into the pipeline in the hopes of profits is really an effort to “shackle” them with massive debt on a dangerous and dead-end project.
She cited Rueben George (Tsleil-wauluth First Nation), a pipeline opposition leader, who called such financing plans “a new smallpox blanket.”
“Indigenous people are best in control of our destiny when we control our land and water,” LaDuke wrote.
Let’s review Trans Mountain’s history. Kinder Morgan owned a pipeline that runs from Alberta to British Columbian ports, allowing exports of tar sands crude and refined oil to get to Asia.
Kinder Morgan proposed building a new pipeline, a twin to the first. The project hit strong public opposition and legal roadblocks, In 2018, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stepped in. The Canadian government bought the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline and floundering expansion project for $4.5 billion.
An article in the National Post cited Conservative leader Andrew Scheer who remains skeptical about the project. The announcement “really gets us no closer” to completing the Trans Mountain expansion, he said and expressed a belief that Ottawa would miss the crucial summer construction season, possibly leading to ballooning construction costs.
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