When Drones Guard the Pipeline: The Militarization of Our Fossil Fuels
June 17, 2013 | Alternet | Winona LaDuke with Frank Molley
The militarization of the energy fields is not new. It’s just more apparent when it’s in a first world country.
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 XL Keystone 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 sixteen 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.
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
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
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 on line Lawyers and
Settlements publication. This may be just the beginning.
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 is
sparse there 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 (on first nations), and extreme energy drives.
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
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.
Canada’s version of El Salvador, twelve people, both native and non
were arrested, some detained and interrogated by investigators by 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.
Video by Charles LeBlanc
Winona LaDuke is the Executive Director of Honor the Earth in White Earth Reservation, MN.