This weekend my wife and I were invited by our Auntie to take a canoe tour of No Name Lake in Cass Lake, Minnesota. In 2002, oil giant, Enbridge, detected a heavy crude oil spill just outside the Enbridge pumping station on the Leech Lake reservation. This 48,000 gallon spill was 28 feet below ground and borders what is now known as No Name Lake. As a result, Enbridge purchased several acres of the contaminated land and has been assessing the damage since then. Remediation remains “ongoing.” Meanwhile, just within walking distance of this spill is No Name Lake. It was a warm and rainy day, but we started our canoe trip by taking off from the eastern shore of the lake just before it crosses the highway and down to the city’s water tower. Being Navajo and Ojibwe women, it is our duty to serve as keepers of the water.
Once off shore, Auntie pulled out her wooden sticks and began to sing a healing song to the water so that we may be ready for our journey down the lake. Running parallel to the train tracks, we canoed through many dead trees that have long since fallen into the water until we reached the western end of the lake. Once banked, we hiked through the brush, past an eagle’s nest and about 50 yards north where Enbridge has already started to dig miles of trenches in order to lay its oil pipelines.
Demarcated with orange mesh and long orange ropes with flags, Enbridge’s red pipelines lay above the ground each stamped “Enbridge - Made in Canada.” These bright red tubes are sprawled across the horizon as far as the eye can see. Ironically, they lay next to the railroad tracks passing through the reservation. Railroad tracks being one of the largest threats posed to Native peoples, meant the ongoing dispersion and threat of impending colonists. Today, it is the pipelines that now pass through Indian Country, but this time they represent the threat of potential water and soil contamination. Miles of red pipe running like a bloodline from Alberta are also accompanied by signs stating “ Topsoil Stockpile – Invasives Present – Enbridge.” No trees lie along the path.
The sad truth is that deforestation must take place in order to dig up the trenches that will satisfy the oil needs of an addicted America. As we were canoeing around the beaver island in the middle of the lake, we all thought of what another spill could mean to the Leech Lake people. As it is, No Name Lake is connected to the tribe’s own fisheries. The implications of the past spill has yet to be understood fully.