Pipe­line push­back

First Na­tions lead­ers ex­plain their op­po­si­tion to mas­sive 1,600 kilo­me­tre, $7.5-bil­lion project

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - THE GREEN PAGE -

EN­BRIDGE’S $7.5-bil­lion pipe­line re­place­ment project is a flash­point for en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and in­dige­nous-rights ad­vo­cates who op­pose ex­tract­ing Alberta’s bi­tu­men, let alone send­ing it through a pipe across half a con­ti­nent. When they do speak up, they usu­ally cite el­ders, cul­tural teach­ings and tra­di­tional knowl­edge as the rea­sons why. En­bridge’s Line 3 pipe­line, one of the long­est in the coun­try, stretches from north­ern Alberta to Wis­con­sin, pass­ing through Saskatchewan, Man­i­toba and 49 First Na­tions along the 1,600-kilo­me­tre route. De­spite the con­sti­tu­tional duty to con­sult and ac­com­mo­date First Na­tions in all mat­ters of re­source de­vel­op­ment, it’s been nearly im­pos­si­ble to bring First Na­tions to­gether with project pro­po­nents or the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. Ear­lier this month, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Na­tional En­ergy Board, the fed­eral pipe­line reg­u­la­tor, made a stop in Win­nipeg as part of a tour to con­duct hear­ings. At first, the NEB lim­ited tes­ti­mony it would hear from in­dige­nous el­ders, then changed the rules and al­lowed the el­ders to say what they wanted about the broader im­pli­ca­tions of the project. El­ders re­sponded by invit­ing NEB and En­bridge of­fi­cials to hear their per­spec­tive separately from the hear­ings. Dakota, Cree and Ojib­way tra­di­tional-knowl­edge keep­ers held a day of cer­e­mony and in­vited the reg­u­la­tory and oil pro­po­nents to the Tur­tle Lodge off High­way 11, 145 kilo­me­tres north of Win­nipeg on the Sag­keeng First Na­tion. Two in­dige­nous el­ders spoke with Free Press colum­nist Dan Lett and re­porter Alexandra Paul about tra­di­tional knowl­edge and the en­vi­ron­ment at a re­cent Win­nipeg Free Press News Café event. The in­ter­view was with Pine Falls-area Sag­keeng Anishin­abe el­der Dave Courch­ene and tra­di­tional-knowl­edge keeper Kather­ine White­cloud from Wi­pa­zoka Wakpa Dakota Na­tion in Sioux Val­ley, about 30 kilo­me­tres west of Bran­don. Free Press: There is a very im­por­tant hear­ing process be­ing un­der­taken right now to study an ap­pli­ca­tion from En­bridge to re­build and ex­pand an oil pipe­line. It’s al­ready run­ning through Man­i­toba. They would be re­plac­ing it and ex­pand­ing it dra­mat­i­cally. The Pub­lic In­ter­est Law Cen­tre is work­ing with the el­ders to pro­vide some tra­di­tional knowl­edge to the Na­tional En­ergy Board. Why it is im­por­tant for First Na­tion el­ders to be heard in this le­gal­is­tic reg­u­la­tory process? Courch­ene: Global warm­ing has raised the bar of con­cern for all of us and giv­ing our state­ment was a way to show our con­cern and our will­ing­ness to par­tic­i­pate in the chal­lenges global warm­ing brings. We’ve been asked many times (if) we op­pose the pipe­line go­ing across our land. FP: Can you de­fine what is meant by tra­di­tional knowl­edge? What does it really de­scribe? White­cloud: Tra­di­tional knowl­edge is what our old peo­ple call in our lan­guages, blood knowl­edge. It’s ge­netic knowl­edge that we, as in­dige­nous peo­ple have, and it’s tied to the land. It’s tied to who we are as peo­ple and it’s tied to our lan­guages, to all those things we learn as chil­dren and as hu­man beings. Cli­mate change has cre­ated cli­mate cri­sis for ev­ery­one around the world and it’s not be­ing ad­dressed. We as adults have per­pet­u­ated a sit­u­a­tion where our chil­dren and those yet un­born, they’re not go­ing to have a world to live in if we don’t do some­thing about it now. FP: A couple of days be­fore the NEB hear­ings, there was a spe­cial event held at Sag­keeng for mem­bers of the board. Could you de­scribe the sig­nif­i­cance of that event held at the Tur­tle Lodge? Courch­ene: This was a op­por­tu­nity to high­light our lead­er­ship within our home­land. We’ve been de­nied for the long­est time... We took that op­por­tu­nity to share with the rest of the world that we have a lead­er­ship that is needed in to­day’s world. It was to show that, as a peo­ple, we do not move for­ward with­out in­vok­ing the spirit. We showed who we really are as a peo­ple, spir­i­tu­ally. FP: As I understand it, the meet­ing was a day of cer­e­mony, where mem­bers of the Na­tional En­ergy Board, not those sit­ting and hear­ing this ap­pli­ca­tion, but mem­bers of the board and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of En­bridge, came to meet with you in your lodge at Sag­keeng. Courch­ene: We hoped our po­si­tion would cre­ate a spirit of in­spi­ra­tion. The po­si­tion we were tak­ing as el­ders was to re­mind them that we be­lieve there is one law cre­ated for all of us. We re­fer to it as the great bind­ing law of the cre­ator. (It speaks to the con­cept) that we are all united and we are all con­nected and that ev­ery liv­ing en­tity that was given life was given orig­i­nal in­struc­tions on how to be. Cer­tainly the nat­u­ral world has fol­lowed the orig­i­nal in­struc­tions. Some­how we as hu­man beings have strayed so far from the orig­i­nal in­struc­tions. All that we tried to share was to in­spire ev­ery­body to re­gain the mem­ory of the orig­i­nal in­struc­tions on how to be a hu­man be­ing. FP: The pipe­line un­der con­sid­er­a­tion lit­er­ally passes through dozens of First Na­tions from Alberta to Saskatchewan and down Man­i­toba through to the United States. Is there also a con­cern among the el­ders


Free Press colum­nist Dan Lett (left) and writer Alexandra Paul talk with el­ders Dave Courch­ene and Kather­ine White­cloud about tra­di­tional knowl­edge and the en­vi­ron­ment at a re­cent event.


De­ci­sions by En­bridge have trig­gered protests across the coun­try.

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