"[Tar sands oil] is not a future issue, it's causing the land to be inhospitable, both on the reservations and for the surrounding area... There's no way we're going to change the surrounding area once it's destroyed." — Naomi Odermann, Media Liaison with Indian People's Action (source)
There are many equally important facets of the Keystone XL and tar sands opposition in which communities are waging non-violent direction actions. These include Honor the Earth's Ride for Mother Earth, last year's cross-movement #ForwardOnClimate Rally in Washington, DC, and the petitions and campaigns urging the public to seize their final opportunity and submit comments to the Secretary of State on the Keystone XL pipeline. One such action is currently taking place in Missoula, Montana, where an Indigenous organization is leading the charge by literally stopping climate chaos and environmental destruction in its tracks.
|Photo source: Kathy Little Leaf, IPA Board Member|
The reason behind IPA's determination to do their part to stop these hauls is that, simply put, megaloads present a mega problem for our future. According to the Tar Sands Solution Network, "If we extract all the known tar sands oil the Earth's temperatures will rise substantially, leading to complete climate catastrophe. [Additionally,] development also pollutes the land, air, and water with dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in northern Alberta and along leak-prone pipeline routes that carry this highly corrosive cargo through communities and waterways across North America." Those communities, including First Nations communities in Canada, are having their rights infringed, their health and well-being jeopardized, and the lands and waters they have relied on for traditional food sources destroyed.
"We are also acting [on] behalf of our Indigenous brothers and sisters in the First Nations communities in Alberta who have been affected most directly and severely from the contamination of their water, air, and wild natural food sources, although we also expressed that all life on Earth is being deeply affected and endangered by this filthy and completely unnecessary business." — George Price, Police Liaison with Indian People's Action
|Photo source: Dan Aguayo via The Oregonion|
IPA and allied groups like Blue Skies Campaign, Northern Rockies Rising Tide, Spokane Rising Tide, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide held a second, larger action on January 24, where Indigenous members numbered roughly 60 of the 70 protestors. During this action, IPA led a round dance that stopped the megaload transport for 12 minutes. This was then followed by a speech by IPA member Charles Walking Child (Anishinabe), which caused further delays. Finally, three elder women allies held up the load by sitting in the street and refusing to be moved. One was arrested, the other two cited.
Each of these tactics—distributing press releases to the media, holding signs, handing out informational leaflets, holding a round dance, giving speeches, the arrests and the citations—played critical roles in delaying the transport, thereby increasing the cost to the company hauling the loads. They also served as a way to increase public awareness of the megaloads and tar sands in general. These direct actions provided an opportunity for IPA and allied groups to focus public attention on climate change and the destructive practices of the extractive industries, while making it clear that Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities alike would stand alongside one another to stop fossil fuel projects where they could.
"During this whole experience...many, mostly young, Native American people, learned much about the issues facing our planet and became first time public activists for the Earth, and they will be back again and again, in greater and greater numbers, as long as all life on Earth cries out against this most grave injustice, corruption, and destruction. That was our primary success in these actions..." — George Price, Police Liaison with Indian People's Action
Indian People's Action continues to keep an eye on and prepare for any future megaloads which plan to travel through Missoula en route to Alberta. We at Women's Earth Alliance encourage our friends and partners to learn as much as you can on this critical issue, including more about the many Indigenous communities in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and elsewhere currently standing on the frontlines of megaload protests, and then go forward and share that information with your friends and partners.
The above article was reviewed by and posted with the permission of Indian People's Action. The Women's Earth Alliance Advocacy Network has allied with Indian People's Action to facilitate advocacy support around their efforts to oppose tar sands oil.