“Pipelines Can’t Pass Through an Indiegnous Wall of Opposition”:Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion

Political organizing in hopes of saving the environment is a major focus within contemporary Indigenous communities. The oil industry in the North American hemisphere has been the driving force behind the formation of alliances among Indigenous groups of people within Canada and United States.  Pipeline activism within Indigenous communities are focused on preserving the environment. This year on September 22nd, on Musqueam land in Vancouver, and Mohawk territory in Montreal,  Indigenous communities signed a treaty stating their disapproval to pipeline and tanker projects. The opposing industries to Indigenous activism “include TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, and Enbridge Northern Gateway” (McDonald). Communities are beginning to realize their hereditary rights over the land and have made it their duty to conserve what it is left of their traditional territory. Contemporary Indigenous politics are taking a stance by unifying in hopes of combatting the ongoing impacts of settler colonialism.

It is evident that the expansion of tar sands is one of the primary climate changing factors Canada has been battling since the early 1990’s (treatyalliance.org). Economics often influence the decision-making process, and the industries argue that oil pipelines are the “safest and most environmentally friendly way to move oil and gas” (McDonald). Whereas in contrast, Indigenous communities are recognizing the potential threats to their land, water, and people. The state has a long history of ignoring Indigenous rights, and this treaty highlights the number of Nations who will continue to resist state-led projects that only focus on economic prosperity rather than cultural and ecological preservation. The expansion of the tar sands in Alberta has the potential to affect many water sources of different Indigenous communities, leading to environmental damage which will impact traditional food harvesting practices, sacred burial grounds, and many more important cultural aspects that revolve around the usage of land and water. This issue is widespread, and therefore, a collective agreement between several Indigenous governments is one of the most empowering methods of resistance.

Indigenous communities will continue to fight for the ecological health of Turtle Island (North America). Unity among nations has proven to be an effective approach when trying to grab the government’s attention.  In Canada e most clearly saw these alliances during the IDLE NO MORE movement where Indigenous communities across provinces expressed their disapproval towards the threatening project. The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sand Expansions document that was signed on the Musqueam territory is a perfect example of how contemporary Indigenous communities have learned from past environmental protests such as Idle No More. Coming together and using their gained knowledge to create a document that represents fifty Nations in British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Washington states is groundbreaking.  Each nation who signs this treaty is making a commitment “to mobilize their communities against any pipeline development that allows the tar sands to be expanded, even those thousands of kilometers away from their territory” (Cox). This collective decision makes a huge statement to the colonial enforcements and reestablishes the right to protect the ancestral land masses of all nations. Indigenous people are urging the government to create plans that outline more sustainable options of producing energy. Several nations have even developed projects in their own territories for renewable energy (treatyalliance.org) which would be great models to follow.

Works Cited

Cox, Ethan. “Indigenous Tar Sands Treaty Could Be Trudeau’s Worst Nightmare | Ricochet.” Ricochet. N.p., 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <https://ricochet.media/en/1420/indigenous-tar-sands-treaty-could-be-trudeaus-worst-nightmare&gt;.

McDonald, Nicole. “OBA.org – Review of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion.” CBA-ON. Ontario Bar Association, 04 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 Nov. 2016. <https://www.oba.org/Sections/Aboriginal-Law/Articles/Articles-2016/October-2016/Review-of-the-Treaty-Alliance-Against-Tar-Sands-Ex&gt;.

Lescarbeau, Eric. “Treaty Alliance, Tar Sands Resistance and Settler Solidarity.” Socialist.ca. International Socialists, 29 Sept. 2016. Web. 15 Nov. 2016. <http://www.socialist.ca/node/3182&gt;.

“TREATY ALLIANCE AGAINST TAR SANDS EXPANSION.” Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2016. http://www.treatyalliance.org/treaty/

McShreffrey, Elizabeth. “First Nations across North America Sign Treaty Alliance against the Oilsands.” National Observer. N.p., 23 Sept. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/09/22/news/first-nations-across-north-america-sign-treaty-alliance-against-oilsands&gt;.

Posted by Ubcic 0sc on September 22, 2016. “First Nations and Tribes Sign New Treaty Joining Forces To Stop All Tar Sands Pipelines.” UBCIC. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <http://www.ubcic.bc.ca/tarsandstreaty&gt;.


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