Selling Out Resistance

by Amelia Meister

Behind closed doors, shortly before COP21 in Paris, the Alberta NDP government met with the leaders of four major tar sands oil producers and four major Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) that oppose them. What came out of this meeting was a pathetic agreement between all parties that touts “sustainable development” of the tar sands.

The NGOs represented were Equiterre, ForestEthics, the Pembina Institute and Environmental Defence. If you don’t know about these NGOs then let me put them into perspective. ForestEthics, in 2014, spent 1.5 million dollars on their anti-tarsands campaigns, the most of any of their campaigns. In 2012, major social justice lawyer Clayton Ruby joined the organization to push it into the limelight for the good work that it was doing against the tar sands. In short, these are major NGOs with significant resources and support bases. These NGOs have been one of many vocal thorns in the side of tarsands development reaching a wide audience through radio and print ads that more grassroots groups couldn’t afford.

However, what was once direct opposition to any development of the tar sands has become a support for a new agreement with oil conglomerates. The agreement between the Alberta NDPs and the oil companies, supported by these four NGOs is a cap on emissions and development. However, the cap is forty percent greater than current development and emissions. This is hardly a revolutionary deal. Anti-pipeline and anti-tarsands activism, including actions from these four NGOs, has slowed down investment and development in the tar sands and their affiliated pipelines. I wonder, with this new endorsement of “sustainable development”, how these NGOs will continue to be a voice of opposition to the tar sands. If all opposition continued to present a united resistance, development could have been slowed even further, instead of capped at something greater than it is now.

It is jeopardizing to the anti-­tarsands and anti-pipeline movement when the more mainstream view of what is possible consists of “sustainable development” and creating relationships with oil companies for “workable solutions”. Resistance to the tar sands cannot coincide with collaborating with oil companies. There is no such thing as sustainable development of the tar sands. The only sustainable option is for them to cease to exist, something that these NGOs have apparently forgotten. Any development of the tar sands is destructive not only to the delicate boreal forest ecosystem but to the indigenous nations affected by the pollution and deforestation. There was no consultation in this agreement with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. These NGOs claim some sort of solidarity with Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island and yet have no problem negotiating a secret deal with oil corporations and government without any consultation. This is yet another perpetuation of the broken colonial systems that allow the tar sands to continue. While it is not surprising that this happened, the non-profit industrial complex continues to perpetuate the patterns of capitalistic and colonial ecological destruction. We must, then, continue direct action, in solidarity with Indigenous peoples, to apply the pressure that these NGOs have ceased to offer.


 

Amelia Meister
Amelia Meister is a poet, healer and radical single mother. She believes in working hard, loving fiercely and grieving deeply. Her writing appears in a monthly column in the Guelph Mercury and her words have been shared on many stages across Canada.

A Letter to Governor Dayton

by Winona LaDuke

The year is 2015, but colonialism is alive and well in the Great Lakes region, and so is Anishinaabe resistance. In addition to the state’s profound mismanagement of our natural resources, we now face multiple new crude oil pipelines and non-ferrous metal mines proposed in the heart of our territory, endangering our sacred waters, our manoomin (wild rice), and our survival. But our movement to protect our Mother Earth is powerful and growing fast. One arm of the resistance is an effort to affirm our federally-protected hunting and gathering rights in ceded territory. In August, Anishinaabe ricers took to the lakes en masse to harvest without permits, exercising rights guaranteed in the 1855 Treaty, but consistently violated.   

September 3rd, 2015

Dear Governor Dayton

We would like to eat. Our people have been jailed for snaring rabbits, hunting and lost our boats and nets. It is time to evolve our relationship with the state. This last week, your Department of Natural Resources (DNR) decided to issue some citations to Ojibwe people for ricing on Hole-in-the-Day Lake. That is, after the cameras were gone.The officers went out to track down Morningstar and Harvey Goodsky citing them for harvesting wild rice off the reservation, without state permission. Sort of like “poaching wild rice.” This is out of line. Let me do my best to explain why.

When my ancestors signed the treaty of 1855, Anishinaabe Akiing, our land, was in good shape. We could all drink the water from these lakes; wild rice was throughout our territory; fish, moose and wolves were abundant; and the maple trees were in their glory. That treaty was with the US government, and somehow you are now managing the assets of the 1855 treaty, or most of them. You are failing to care for what we love.

This is what I see. Some ninety percent of the wetlands have been drained. The western third of Minnesota, including the 1855 treaty territory, was once covered with wetlands. Today, even though Minnesota is spending millions of dollars annually, the state is still losing more than it restores. Fish: Well, these days a pregnant woman or a child can eat only one meal a month of a walleye (under two feet), bass, catfish or northern, none of the larger ones. Coal fired generation causes that. The rest of us can eat once a week, before we have to worry about methyl mercury poisoning. Wow.

Now your fisheries department has managed to crash the Mille Lacs fishery. Let me remind you that the Mille Lacs band did not do that, and has volunteered to forgo tribal harvest for next year. This crash resulted from the folly of your politics and the 2006 decision to increase the limit, despite scientific and tribal expertise which set the limit at 350 000 pounds. Minnesota fishery staff secured a legislative approval for 550 000 pounds. Nice work. The walleye population in 2014 was its lowest in thirty years. And, many of your lakes are dying from agricultural runoff and invasive species.

Anishinaabeg people have always lived with the moose and the wolf. You have allowed their destruction by corporate and special interests driven myopic management policies. Let me be clear: In July of 2015, the Center for Biological Diversity and Honor the Earth filed a request to list the Moose as endangered. In just ten years time, moose numbers in Minnesota have dropped from nearly 9 000 to as few as 3 500. Why? Habitat destruction caused by mining and logging industries and over harvesting. Now, scientists agree that the greatest threat which could virtually eliminate moose from Minnesota within five years stems from climate change. Yet the state continues to forward a fossil fuels based energy policy, from dirty oil pipelines, to a “clean energy plan” which uses coal gasification as a centerpiece of stupidity.

Frankly, your forest management policies alone could have almost wiped out the moose. A 2006 study found that six of the twelve known wildlife corridors in the Mesabi Iron Range will likely become isolated,fragmented, or lost completely, and almost 9 000 acres of habitat will likely be destroyed. That’s what new logging and mining projects will do to the moose.

Minnesota has made a mockery of stewardship and respect by failing to understand the nature of the wolf in the north and the centrality of the wolf to Anishinaabeg people. In 2014, DNR announced an increase in wolf hunting permits: 3 800 hunting and trapping licenses available for the coming season, up from 3 500 last year, allowing up to 250 wolves to be killed before the season closed. This forced federal court action, but also forced the Ojibwe tribes to declare wolf sanctuaries on our reservations and push for the same in our treaty territories.

You have cost us many of our trees. Our chief Wabunoquod spoke of how the great pines had been stolen from our people, and cried at the loss, as they were our ancestors. The maple basswood forest system is in serious decline, and many of our most productive maple sugarbush areas in the 1855 treaty territory have been cut, without regard for us. This leaves families without food and sugar.

Now you come for the wild rice. You have cost us fifty percent of the manoomin in the north. Let us be clear, this is the only grain indigenous to North America and is far more nutritious than GMO crops. Yet dam projects destroy our precious food, and now the state intends to weaken sulfate standards which protect our waters and wild rice so that you can open up mining in the north for Canadian, Chinese and other foreign interests.

Then there’s the baffling pipelines – four of them – through our best wild rice territories, all pushing through the entirely dysfunctional system of the Department of Commerce and Public Utilities Commission which will not even speak formally with tribal governments.Please explain to me again, why our people should be arrested for harvesting wild rice? The state has shown no regard for the north. We would like to eat and continue the life we were given by the Creator.

Winona LaDuke

Executive Director of Honor the Earth

www.honorearth.org


 

Winona Laduke
Winona LaDuke is an internationally renowned Anishinaabe author, orator and activist working on issues of renewable energy, food sovereignty, indigenous economics, and human rights.  She lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, and is a two-time US Vice Presidential candidate. She is the founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, one of the largest reservation based nonprofit organizations in the country, and has received a long

list of awards and accolades, including membership in the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the Reebok Human Rights Award, and the International Slow Food Award for Biodiversity. In her current role as Executive Director of Honor the Earth, she works nationally and internationally on issues of environmental justice in indigenous communities and a graceful transition to a just, green, post-fossil fuel economy.