Can a First Nations-led Movement Stop Big Oil?

Thousands of people turned up to voice their opposition to the Enbridge pipeline Joint Review Panel last year in Vancouver, British Columbia last year. The demonstration, organized by Rising Tide and endorsed by 50 groups, marched from Victory Square to the hotel where the closed-door meeting of the government panel was taking place. (Photo: Caelie_Frampton/flickr/cc)

Thousands of people turned up to voice their opposition to the Enbridge pipeline Joint Review Panel last year in Vancouver, British Columbia last year. The demonstration, organized by Rising Tide and endorsed by 50 groups, marched from Victory Square to the hotel where the closed-door meeting of the government panel was taking place. (Photo: Caelie_Frampton/flickr/cc)

 

By Andrea Paldraman, Common Dreams

Can a First Nations-led, people-driven movement really have the power to stop Big Oil?

The folks behind the Pull Together campaign think so. The Pull Together initiative supports First Nations in B.C. who are taking to the courts to stop Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project.

Led by the Gitxaala, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nadleh Whut’en, Nak’azdli and Haida — nations united in their fierce opposition to tar sands oil endangering their traditional territories — Pull Together’s involvement synchronized with a very active movement against tar sands pipelines in B.C. and community-based opposition Enbridge in particular. The campaign is using a new model of online fundraising that, combined with real-world, grassroots organizing, is delivering solid results.

It’s a model where Indigenous leadership combines with cutting-edge organizing strategies — online, on the land and on the streets. Through a unique blend of real-world events and online fundraising, Pull Together has raised an astonishing $250,000, and is looking forward to realizing a goal of $300,000 by the end of 2014.

B.C.’s opposition to Enbridge is strong and growing. While the company is delaying the project, and investors are growing uneasy, according to RAVEN’s Susan Smitten, “Stopping the project will take a court-ordered resolution, because Enbridge has no intention of giving up on the project.”

While First Nation’s constitutional rights can be a powerful tool to ensure affected communities have a stake in projects in their traditional territories, Smitten points out, “First Nations stand as a last and inviolable line of defense against environmental destruction — if and only if the nations can afford to uphold those rights in court.”

“I know First Nations have an incredible amount of power on that legal side of things,” says Jess Housty, of the Heilsuk First Nation council. “But… I know what tribal government’s resources are and I know what our responsibilities are. And they are really broad! We’re responsible for virtually every aspect of the welfare and the development of our community.”

“The thought of a lawsuit added on top of that is such a huge capacity strain. I have a huge amount of admiration for my community, and for many other communities, that never hesitated to take on court challenges. But I wondered where and how and when the support would come.”

The support Housty and other First Nations leaders are enjoying has been building, with involvement by many people and groups over many years.

Pull Together has tapped into a powerful anti-tankers and pipelines movement that represents the majority of British Columbians who don’t want the Enbridge project to proceed. The campaign has motivated organizers, businesses, and community groups who understand the power, and principle, of standing with First Nations opposed to oil and gas development on our west coast.

“The Pull Together campaign is driven by people who care and are politically astute,” said kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin, President of the Haida Nation. “They can see how the future of the country is shaping up and want to be part of it.”

From Haida Gwaii to Nelson, Kitsilano to Kitgaatla, B.C’s creative, tough, and committed culture is coming out in full force to fight Enbridge. Alliance building between NGOs — Sierra Club B.C. and RAVEN have joined forces on the campaign– offers a way forward for an environmental movement that has suffered from fragmentation in the past.

Who knew stopping a pipeline could be so much fun?

While the goal of stopping a pipeline is deadly serious, the means to that end are less of a struggle, and more of a celebration.

With over 40 events, 100 online fundraisers and 30 businesses involved, Pull Together is lighting up B.C. The campaign got its start with a spaghetti dinner hosted by Friends of Morice-Bulkley Valley in Smithers.

From that original $2,000 fundraiser, the campaign gained steam with an Island All-Stars gala on Pender Island, featuring Daniel Lapp, Mae Moore and Lester Quitzau that brought in $8,000. Salt Spring Island’s “Only Planet Cabaret” brought in $5,000 over three sold-out shows in Victoria and on the islands, while tickets to the Pull Together show at St. Barnabas in Victoria, featuring headliners Compassion Gorilla and Art Napoleon, sold fast.

Says Sierra Club B.C. campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon, “It’s incredible to think that Pull Together began in the summer with a community group in Terrace raising $2,000, and now we have raised a hundred times that!”

The campaign has inspired artists, from Kitgaatla nurse and photographer Paulina Otylia, who donated family portrait sessions for the campaign, to Franke James of “Banned on the Hill” fame who has contributed limited edition prints. At last weekends’ East Side Culture Crawl, Shannon Harvey’s Monkey 100 studio is featuring “Wish You Were Here” woodcut postcards with proceeds to Pull Together.

Businesses are pulling too: Salt Spring Coffee held a “Lattes for the Coast” fundraiser this week, while the B.C. Kayak Guide Association has assembled an online fundraising team comprised of kayak guides and outfitters. Moksha Yoga B.C. have raised nearly $10,000 for the campaign by holding fundraising karma yoga classes and in-studio film screenings. Led by Eric Mathias, Moksha have extended their reach to include 25 yoga studios all across B.C. who have pledged to “Stretch Across B.C.” and fundraise for Pull Together.

The fundraising initiative is rapidly spreading both online and off, as people recognize this is a strategic way to stop Enbridge — and send a powerful message to Ottawa.

“It’s a big undertaking, but we’re not alone,” says Marilyn Slett, elected chief of the Heiltsuk First Nation. “We have people supporting us, really good people from all over the world and from B.C.”

“It’s a good feeling knowing that were standing together united in solidarity with British Columbians at large.”

There’s a saying among B.C. First Nations: many paddles, one canoe. Who knew stopping a pipeline could be so much fun?

How one Pacific Northwest tribe is carving out a resistance to coal — and winning

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Daniel Thornton

By Amber Cortes and Grist staff, Grist, 15 Aug 2014

The Lummi Nation, a Native American tribe in the Pacific Northwest, has taken an uncompromising stand against the largest proposed coal export terminal in the country: the Gateway Pacific Terminal. If completed, it would export 48 million tons of coal mined from Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, and in the process threaten the Lummi’s ancestral fishing grounds and their economic survival. On Aug. 17 the Lummi people launch a totem pole journey — both a monument to protest and a traveling rally that will bring together imperiled locals, citizen groups, and other indigenous tribes for a unified front against Big Coal and Big Oil.

Grist fellow Amber Cortes visited the Lummis in the run-up to the pivotal protest to find out how they’ve been able to push back against the terminal. The result is a rich story about activism, alliances, and small victories that add up to a big resistance.

For the full story experience, click here.

Remembering the 47/Honoring the Earth

 Source: Quinault Indian Nation

 

ABERDEEN,WA (6/26/14)– The Quinault Indian Nation, Citizens for a Clean Harbor, Grays Harbor Audubon Society, Friends of Grays Harbor and other concerned citizens will join together in a rally to “Honor Lac-Mégantic, Honor the Treaties and Honor the Earth” Sunday, July 6 at Aberdeen’s Zelasko Park. The public is invited.

“It’s no secret that we have been opposing the proposals by Westway, Imperium and U.S. Development corporations to build new oil terminals in our region, and the consequent massive increases in oil train and tanker traffic. But this event is intended to honor the 47 men, women and children who lost their lives in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on the first anniversary of their death due to a tragic oil train explosion,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation.

“The Tribe has made its position clear. Treaty-protected fishing rights and oil just do not mix,” said President Sharp. “We have to support sustainability in Grays Harbor, and that means protecting our environment. The fishing industry, tourism and all of the supportive businesses are far too important to let them wither away at the whim of Big Oil.”

The various sponsors of the July 6 rally also concur wholeheartedly that the rally is intended to honor the Earth. “This is what connects all of us here in Grays Harbor County. It’s what connected us with our brothers and sisters in Lac-Mégantic, too, and that’s why we honor their memory,” said President Sharp. “Chief Seattle is credited with saying that all things are connected. It is as true today as it was in his day. We all live on the same Earth, and we have got to work together to protect it for our children, and for future generations.”

The July 6 event will take place at Zelasko Park from noon to 7 pm. At various times during the day, the names of all 47 victims of the Lac-Mégantic oil train explosion will be read, as well as posted. There will also be rally signs, exhibited for the benefit of 4th of July week end traffic, music, food and other festivities. The public is encouraged to come, participate and enjoy.

For more information please email ProtectOurFuture@Quinault.org or “like”

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/QINDefense.

Big Oil sued for destroying wetlands around Gulf of Mexico

John Upton, Grist

Coastal Louisiana would like its wetlands back. It needs them to protect itself from rising seas and raging storms.

The agency charged with protecting New Orleans-area residents from floods is suing Big Oil, claiming it should repair damages that it caused to wetlands that once buffered the region from tidal surges.

The oil companies have recklessly torn out the marshes and plants that ringed the Gulf of Mexico as they laid pipelines and other infrastructure to serve their decades-long oil- and gas-drilling bonanza. From The New York Times:

The lawsuit, to be filed in civil district court in New Orleans by the board of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, argues that the energy companies, including BP and Exxon Mobil, should be held responsible for fixing damage caused by cutting a network of thousands of miles of oil and gas access and pipeline canals through the wetlands. The suit alleges that the network functioned “as a mercilessly efficient, continuously expanding system of ecological destruction,” killing vegetation, eroding soil and allowing salt water to intrude into freshwater areas.

 

“What remains of these coastal lands is so seriously diseased that if nothing is done, it will slip into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of this century, if not sooner,” the filing stated. …

Gladstone N. Jones III, a lawyer for the flood protection authority board, said the plaintiffs were seeking damages equal to “many billions of dollars. Many, many billions of dollars.”

Mr. Jones acknowledges that the government, which has strong protection against lawsuits, might bear some responsibility for loss of wetlands. But, he noted, Washington had spent billions on repairs and strengthening hurricane defenses since the system built by the Army Corps of Engineers failed after Hurricane Katrina. By taking the oil and gas companies to court, he said, “we want them to come and pay their fair share.”

That seems only fair.