Red Lake: Back to Square One with Enbridge Pipeline Trespass

(From Wikimedia Commons)

For many years, large corporations have run crude oil pipelines across a small piece of land owned by the Red Lake Nation, in effect trespassing on reservation property.

Red Lake and the pipelines’ current owner, Enbridge, had been in negotiations over a cash-and-land deal and reached a tentative deal in 2015. That just fell through. The Red Lake Tribal Council voted 5-3 last week to rescind the deal, according to news reports. (The 2015 deal had included an $18.5 million payment to Red Lake, but that payment was not made.)

The Tribal Council vote was the result of the tireless efforts of Red Lake member Marty Cobenais, who has opposed crude oil pipelines through the state and opposed efforts to sell tribal lands.

It’s not clear yet how Red Lake’s decision will affect Enbridge and the pipelines that cross that tract of land. (On a separate front, Enbridge is trying to push through a deal to expand and reroute one of its pipelines, Line 3, which is a whole separate controversy, and written about elsewhere on this blog.)

On Martin Luther King Day, I would like to explore a different question: How did this trespass on Red Lake land happen in the first place? It’s symbolic of how easy it has been historically (and today) to ignore and take advantage of Native rights.

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Michigan Episcopal Diocese Calls Crude Oil Pipeline Immoral, and Other Weekend Reading

A large West Michigan diocese is calling on Gov. Rick Snyder to scale back oil transportation through the controversial Enbridge Line 5 pipeline, according to a story posted on mlive.com: Pumping oil through Enbridge’s Line 5 is immoral, diocese says

In a resolution signed Feb. 18, the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan implored Snyder to use his executive power to protect the “integrity of creation.”

“We fellow stewards of the gift of creation, strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth,” the resolution, signed by Bishop Whayne M. Hougland Jr., reads. “By sustaining the life of the earth, we work toward justice and peace among all people.”

That’s leadership. Continue for more articles.

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Weekend Reading: The True Story of Pocahontas; Federal Bill Introduced on Native Children’s Trauma; Tribes Backing Gorsuch; and More

Here is this week’s offerings:

  • The ugly truth about the Pocahontas story.
  • U.S. Sen. Al Franken joins two other Midwest Senators to author a bill to heal the trauma suffered by Native children.
  • Tribes are supporting Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for U.S. Supreme Court, because he has shown he understands Indian law.
  • Star Tribune oil pipeline story misses key local angle.

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When Simply Wearing “Water is Life” Becomes a Threatening Protest

Little cardboard hats in the shape of canoes lay on the floor near the security screening area at a recent public meeting on tar sands oil pipelines in Bemidji. Officials have not provided an explanation about why children were not allowed to wear them inside. (Photo by Frank Bibeau.)

When did a cardboard canoe hat made by a child with the words “Water is Life” become a protest, something that needs to be suppressed for the public well being?

Quick background: On March 7, the U.S. State Department held a public meeting in Bemidji to consider a border crossing for a Canadian oil tar sands pipeline. There was a strong turnout and over-the-top security. I wrote a blog for the Sierra Club critical of the event. What I didn’t know at that time was Sanford Center security in Bemidji did not allow young children to wear their handmade cardboard canoe hats inside.

Frank Bibeau, an attorney for Honor the Earth, attended the Bemidji event and brought the issue to my attention. In an email exchange, Bibeau wrote:

I noticed that there was a table with confiscated items. On the floor was a bunch of canoe hats kids had made to wear at the public meeting. But the hats were taken from the kids and the security told them it was because they were signs. …

It is apparent that not all of the canoe hats had written words. Some of it is simply kid art on the side … The question is, what lesson are the kids learning?

In a related incident, Indian Country Media Network (ICMN) reports that the National Museum of the American Indian staff recently asked Native American women to remove jackets for a similar reason. The women were in Washington, D.C. for the Native Nations Rise March, and their jackets “were adorned with patches and pins supporting water protectors and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.” Some of the patches simply said: “Mni Wiconi: Water is Life.”

The Smithsonian has acknowledged its error. The State Department and Sanford Center security have not. Continue reading

U.S. State Department an Embarrassment at Tar Sands Meeting; Other News Updates

The U.S. State Department hosted a public meeting in Bemidji Tuesday to get public comments on a permit to increase the amount of tar sands oil piped through northern Minnesota. Instead of putting its best foot forward, the State Department offered a deadly mix of fear and indifference to Native voices and those from the environmental community.

Reflecting a state of fear and mistrust, the State Department used a security screening process that forced people to stand outside in the cold too long before they could get into the meeting. In a show of indifference, its public meeting process failed to effectively engage the public in conversation or include key federal decision makers.

I traveled with a busload of people from the Twin Cities to Bemidji for the meeting. Here is a link to a blog I wrote for the Sierra Club’s North Star Chapter: U.S. State Department Complete Embarrassment at Tar Sands Public Meeting. Continue reading

FBI Investigates DAPL Protestors as Terrorists, Sen. Franken Asks Why; and More Updates

Minnesota U.S. Senator Al Franken is asking the FBI to explain why its terrorism unit is investigating Dakota Access Pipeline protestors.

Honor the Earth is asking state residents to join efforts to stop the expansion of Enbridge’s tar sands pipelines through northern Minnesota.

The Apache Nation in Arizona is trying to come to terms with the federal government’s use of toxic chemicals on tribal lands decades ago.

These stories are nothing new. Indian nations have suffered broken treaties and environmental damage to lands in and around their reservations.

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As DAPL Construction is on Fast Track, Minnesota and Texas Also Face Pipeline Threats

“Energy Transfer Partners has finished drilling under Lake Oahe and will soon be laying pipe under the Missouri River reservoir,” according to a story by Minnesota Public Radio. As legal challenges to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) linger in court, the oil could start flowing in two weeks.

Meanwhile, Native peoples in West Texas are trying to stop an Energy Transfer Partners natural gas pipeline project that crosses under the Rio Grande. Minnesotans are gearing up to stop a proposed pipeline expansion that would increase the flow of high-polluting tar sands through the state.

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