Native American, First Nations Tribes Join Forces in Pipeline Fight

More than 50 indigenous nations have joined forces in a coordinated attempt to fight the construction of massive oil pipelines that would extend through Canada and part of the United States. The collaboration highlights a growing level of coordination between the nations.

A coalition of indigenous tribes from the United States and Canada is displaying solidarity on a key issue: the environment.

Last week, more than 50 indigenous nations—including Native American tribes and Canadian First Nations communities—signed a treaty speaking out against the expansion of pipelines spanning from the Canadian province of Alberta throughout Canada and into the United States. (One of those pipelines is the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been a subject of much dispute in the U.S.)

The environmental opposition to the pipelines is nothing new for many of these organizations. What is new is the strongly coordinated nature of their work, reflected in the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion.

But it isn’t just the treaty at play. Last week, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe gathered for a broad protest in North Dakota against another major project: the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“We are in a time of unprecedented unity amongst Indigenous people working together for a better future for everyone,” stated Reuben George, of the Tsleil-Waututh Sacred Trust Initiative, in comments reported by Common Dreams.

In comments on the treaty, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, representing the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, argued that it is imperative that tribal groups sign on.

“Based on our sovereign, inherent right to self-determination, we have collectively decided that we will pick up our sacred responsibilities to the land, waters, and people,” he stated, according to the National Observer. “We will come together in unity and solidarity to protect our territory from the predations of big oil interests, industry, and everything that represents.”

On the other side of the debate, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, which represents the companies the treaty is targeting, stated it would listen to indigenous concerns but emphasized the value of the association members’ work.

“The fact remains there is a critical need for pipelines in Canada,” the association said in a statement to Reuters.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, shown signing the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion last week. (Ben Nelms/Reuters)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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