By Winona LaDuke
The Enbridge Company has announced its looking for a new tribal relations specialist for northern Minnesota. They are hiring. This is going to be interesting, particularly since no tribal government or Native organization, or, let’s just say, traditional Native person in the north seems to want this Sandpiper pipeline. Chairwoman Karen Diver of the Fond du Lac Ojibwe wrote a letter this last month, expressing significant concerns about both the pipeline and Enbridge’s safety record, in light of significant tribal harvesting interests. This letter follows resolutions by tribal governments, testimony and legal interventions opposing the Sandpiper, by the White Earth and Mille Lacs band, and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. In short, it’s tricky terrain.
This reminds me of the federal government’s Office of the Nuclear Waste Negotiator in the l980s. This guy was charged with getting communities to consider a no strings attached grant to review nuclear waste options, and then a bigger grant to look at it some more. Now, no one wanted really to hang out with this guy, I’m betting, but l6 of the 20 recipients of the initial money were Indian tribes, so he was working hard to get Native people involved. And, after all a lot of tribes were pretty poor at that time, so it was a good target, besides having all that land. As a matter of fact, there was this great promotional literature, which referred to Native people being really the guardians of Mother Earth, so naturally we would feel really comfortable caring for nuclear waste. Well, as we know, this has not yet worked out. (I did testify at the hearing on the nuclear waste repository potential site called the Headwaters Site, right by the Mississippi Headwaters. At the hearing, I explained that I understood that it was a suppository, not a repository. But that’s last millennium news.)
Enbridge’s proposal is not a lot different. A 60-year-old corporation asks a people who have lived here for 8, 000 years to assume the liability for a pipeline that carries oil through your territory. It is not as if we do not notice that the profit is being made at either end, except for those tax and a minimum benefits we get along with that liability. With 800 spills and counting, and a new proposal to put 400, 000 barrels of tar sands oil in a 50-year-old pipeline with a whole bunch of structural problems, Enbridge is going to need one sweet talking Native. After all, Red Lake, Leech Lake, White Earth and Fond du Lac are all impacted by these pipeline proposals, and those Ojibwe can be, well. Contentious.
Best of luck to you, guys.