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When Drones Guard the Pipeline: Militarizing Fossil Fuels in the East

Winona LaDuke
7/2/13

Someone needs to explain to me why wanting clean drinking water makes you an activist, and why proposing to destroy water with chemical warfare doesn’t make a corporation a terrorist.

I’m in South Dakota today, sort of a ground zero for the Keystone XL Pipeline, that pipeline, owned by a Canadian Corporation which will export tar sands oil to the rest of the world. This is the heart of the North American continent here. Bwaan Akiing is what we call this land-Land of the Lakota. There are no pipelines across it, and beneath it is the Oglalla Aquifer wherein lies the vast majority of the water for this region. The Lakota understand that water is life, and that there is no new water. It turns out, tar sands carrying pipelines (otherwise called “dilbit”) are 16 times more likely to break than a conventional pipeline, and it seems that some ranchers and Native people, in a new Cowboy and Indian Alliance, are intent upon protecting that water.

This community understands the price of protecting land. And, the use of military force upon a civilian community- carrying an acute memory of the over 133,000 rounds of ammunition fired by the National Guard upon Lakota people forty years ago in the Wounded Knee standoff. That experience is coming home again, this time in Mi’gmaq territory.

Militarization of North American Oil Fields

This past week in New Brunswick, the Canadian military came out to protect oil companies. In this case, seismic testing for potential natural gas reserves by Southwestern Energy Company (SWN), a Texas-based company working in the province. It’s an image of extreme energy, and perhaps the times.

SWN exercised it’s permit to conduct preliminary testing to assess resource potential for shale gas exploitation. Canadian constitutional law requires the consultation with First Nations, and this has not occurred. That’s when Elsipogtog Mi’gmaq warrior chief, John Levi, seized a vehicle containing seismic testing equipment owned by SWN. Their claim is that fracking is illegal without their permission on their traditional territory. About 65 protesters, including women and children, seized the truck at a gas station and surrounded the vehicle so that it couldn’t be removed from the parking lot. Levi says that SWN broke the law when they first started fracking “in our traditional hunting grounds, medicine grounds, contaminating our waters.” according to reporter Jane Mundy in an on-line Lawyers and Settlements publication. This may be just the beginning.

On June 9, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) came out en masse, seemingly to protect SWN seismic exploration crews against peaceful protesters – both native and non-Native, blocking route 126 from seismic thumper trucks. Armed with guns, paddy wagons and twist tie restraints, peaceful protestors were arrested. Four days later the protesting continued, and this time drew the attention of local military personnel. As one Mi’gmag said, “Just who is calling the shots in New Brunswick when the value of the land and water take a backseat to the risks associated with shale gas development?”

The militarization of the energy fields is not new. It’s just more apparent when it’s in a first world country, albeit New Brunswick. New Brunswick is sort of the El Salvador of Canadian provinces, if one looks at the economy, run akin to an oligarchy. New Brunswick’s Irving family empire stretches from oil and gas to media, they are the largest employer in New Brunswick and the primary proponents of the Trans Canada West to East pipeline which will bring tar sands oil to the St. Johns refinery owned by the same family. Irving is the fourth wealthiest family in Canada, the largest employer, land holder and amasses that wealth in the relatively poor province. The Saint John refinery would be a beneficiary of any natural gas fracked in the province. In general, press coverage of Aboriginal issues there is sparse at best.

Fracking proposals have come to their territory with a vengeance, and the perfect political storm has emerged- immense material poverty (seven of the ten poorest postal codes in Canada), a set of starve or sell federal agreements pushed by the Harper administration (onto first nations), and extreme energy drives.

Each fracking well will take up to two-million-gallons of pristine water and transform the water into a toxic soup, full of carcinogens. The subsistence economy has been central to the Wabanaki confederacy since time immemorial, and concerns over SWN’s water contamination have come to the province. A recent Arkansas lawsuit against SWN charges the company with widespread toxic contamination of drinking water from their hydro-fracking.

Canada is the home to 75% of the worlds mining corporations, and they have tended to have relative impunity in the Canadian Courts. Canadian corporations and their international subsidiaries are being protected by military forces elsewhere, and this concerns many. According to a U.K. Guardian story, a Québec court of appeal rejected a suit by citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo against Montreal-based Anvil Mining Limited for allegedly providing logistical support to the DRC army as it carried out a massacre, killing as many as 100 people in the town of Kilwa near the company's silver and copper mine. The Supreme Court of Canada later confirmed that Canadian courts had no jurisdiction over the company's actions in the DRC when it rejected the plaintiffs' request to appeal. Kairos Canada, a faith-based organization, concluded that the Supreme Court's ruling would "have broader implications for other victims of human rights abuses committed by Canadian companies and their chances of bringing similar cases to our courts".

In the meantime, back in New Brunswick, a heavily militarized RCMP came out to protect the exploration crews. Opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has many faces, from ranchers in Nebraska and Texas who reject eminent domain takings of their land for a pipeline right of way, to the Lakota nation which walked out of State Department meetings in May in a show of firm opposition to the pipeline. All of them are facing a pipeline owned by TransCanada, a Canadian Corporation.

On a worldwide scale communities are concerned about their water. In El Salvador, more than 60% of the population relies on a single source of water. In 2009, this came down to choosing between drinking water and mining. In 2009, after immense public pressure, the country chose water. It established a moratorium on metal mining permits. Polls show that a strong majority of Salvadorans would now like a permanent ban. A testament to how things can change even in a politically challenged environment.

Up in Canada’s version of El Salvador, twelve people, both native and non were arrested, some detained and interrogated by investigators of the RCMP forces on June l4, and after a day of the federal military “making their presence” felt, the people of the region have concerns about how far Canada will go to protect fossil fuels.

Here in Bwaan Akiing, I am hoping that people who want to protect the water are treated with respect. And, I also have to hope that those 7,000-plus American-owned drones aren’t coming home, omaa akiing, from elsewhere to our territories in the name of Canadian oil interests.

Winona LaDuke is the Executive Director of Honor the Earth in White Earth Reservation, Minnesota. Visit their website at HonorEarth.org

 

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chahta ohoyo's picture
winona it is a fact that white man greed for what lies on and beneath our ancestral lands is never ending...they have used that greed for the past 500 years as justification for never-endingly taking those same lands....first comes a 'treaty' with whatever native person/s are available to push a pencil, then comes the steadily advancing encroachment on lands that are supposedly (ours) as long as the grass grows and waters flow...i guarantee this will never stop until the last drop of pure water, the last ounce of oil, the last grams of uranium, gold, silver, etc are gone and all of humanity is standing on the brink of oblivion....unfortunately all of we who are giving our souls to protect our planet will be standing on the brink, sucking in the last oxygen along with all the fools who devastated our world...
chahta ohoyo
smartphoenixnavajo's picture
Well Mrs LaDuke, you will get your chance to ask your question. The federal government has found an Indian to help sell the pipeline to other Indians. Its an old trick, but it still works very well. Nope, he does not have pony tails and a suit, but close. He is no other than Jack Jackson Jr., who feels its so important to Indians that we have the Keystone pipeline, he is abandoning his Arizona Senate position. Though future positions of power in the federal government do not play in his mind, he is doing it out of the goodness of his heart. He is more educated than you, more degrees. Has way more time being a politician, so he can explain to you, that which troubles you at this time. In fact, he is Navajo, most are full blooded Indians out west, so he may even have a better spiritual connection to the earth, unlike, the less than full bloods ;0) On a personal note, we all know, this and other decisions have been made and no matter what, it will go through. The political appointees in the high court have already been informed and have their minds made up, but give it a try and they might throw Indians a small bone, like the Cobell fiasco.
smartphoenixnavajo
rainbow's picture
Winona Laduke wrote: "The Canadian military came out to protect oil companies.".... A Minnesota county newspaper, the Mille Lacs Messenger, recently published a letter of mine about the military-industrial complex's unwarrented influences that endanger are liberties and demoratic processes..... by Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer.... President Dwight Eisenhower wrote, "We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.".... If it goes unchecked it will inevitably lead to a state of constant war, a fascist government and an ideology to pursue total war and absolute world domination. The industries involved, mostly arms and oil corporations, economically profit and also gain political influence from all conflicts and war. The global military-industrial complex and its chief partner, the U.S.A., have this dangerous new ideology, which is termed neo-conservatism..... The philosophy of this ideology is that it is often compulsory for leaders to deceive and manipulate others for their gain, as long as it benefits the state. In constitutional democracies, the leadership power to deceive and manipulate others resides in the "emergency powers." After the Nazis created a state of "emergency" and blamed communist terrorists for it, they were able to unite the German people in opposition to a perceived "enemy". Hitler was thus enabled to gain dictatorial power..... Under the neo-conservatives, the government of the United States has grown larger than ever before. The neo-cons advocate an imperialistic foreign policy. They believe in the concept of pre-emptive war, are strong advocates of an American Empire and that it is necessary to remove many personal liberties to increase and sustain the state's power. They promote a new, inclusive and integrative force, a new ideological tool, a globalization stradegy, to contain and suppress nationalist and oppositional movements around the world..... The neo-conservatives can not maintained their power without help from the media, which is owned by the military-industrial complex. The U.S. media is entirely owned by a few corporations; Time Warner, Disney, News Corporation, General Electric. GE is also a military corporation and it is making high-tech surveillance equipment, both are making it billions of dollars from the "War on Terror," terrorists being the new "enemy," and the emergence of a domestic police state at home..... The anti-Soviet weapon is being replaced by the tool of "free trade." This new phase of capitalist accumulation and colonization is termed "globalization." Neo-cons advocate integration versus fragmentation. Thus again, the world is seen through the prism of the good versus the evil, with globalization representing good, satisfaction of economic needs for the wealthy and removal of trade barriers in pursuit of progress..... The tools of global governance are the global institutions of management of the economy, environment and politics. They include GATT, the World Trade Organization, the Security Council, the World Bank and the IMF. NAFTA, APEC, the EU, and the G-8 are among the regional instruments which are in synchronization with the global institutions. Together, they are touted as the instruments of integration and homogenization which counter the global forces of fragmentation, which include nationalists, Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, Indigenous decolonization movements and ethnic rivalries. This is the neo-cons plan and strategy to usher in a new world order.....
rainbow