Environment | Opinion

Winona LaDuke: Energy company hasn't been listening to tribes

Ojibwe men harvesting wild rice, ca. 1925. Photo from Minnesota Historical Society

Activist Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth wonders why Enbridge Energy continues to push the $2.6 billion Sandpiper crude oil pipeline over the objections of tribes in Minnesota and Wisconsin:
It was a socially awkward gathering. Let’s be honest. The Enbridge Company’s Linda Coady, Senior Vice President of Sustainability had come out from Calgary to have a “ Listening Session” with the Native community. She was hosted by R. Jay Brunkaw, who is on contract with Enbridge to liason with tribal communities. He is affectionately known in Minnesota as “ the Indian Whisperer” a not too glamorous job in a volatile environment. Linda is known as the “Indian Listener”.

I have to hand it to Enbridge, coming face to face with the community, in a small, two hour listening session was, a good thing to do, especially if you’ve got about 2.2 million barrels of relatively new oil pipeline proposals you plan on putting through their territory.

It was clearly stated that the meeting did not constitute “consultation” which is what most projects require, and Enbridge has said it will do with the Native community. But what Linda Coady heard was perhaps something new. First, there were four tribal governments who sent natural resources people to visit with Enbridge, Leech Lake, Fond du Lac, Bad River and Red Cliff. No elected officials were present. Three of those governments already had pipelines through their territory, and their concerns were about the maintenance and problems with the present line. Levi Brown from Leech Lake explained, “There are six lines running through 46 miles of the reservation, and no emergency response equipment within the 46 mile corridor. That doesn’t seem like much of a commitment to tribal needs or concerns.” he said, referring to all the Enbridge Lines- including Line 3 , which the company proposes to abandon within the reservation because of structural problems.

Get the Story:
Winona LaDuke: The Oil Pipeline's 'Indian Listener' (Indian Country Today 6/7)

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