Red Lake Chippewa Discover Enbridge Tar Sands Pipelines Through Nation-Owned Land Have No Easement Contracts

NoTrespassingFor over two weeks now, Nizhawendaamin Inaakiminaan (We Love Our Land) has been occupying land directly above four pipelines across an easement that Enbridge has claimed since 1949 when the company, then called Lakehead Pipe Line Company, installed the first of four pipelines across land owned by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa despite not having an easement from the Red Lake Chippewa Nation. These pipes carry toxic tar sands, Bakken oil, as well as Canadian crude. By threatening the local lakes, these pipes endanger the lives and economic livelihood of Red Lake Band members.

The grassroots group of Red Lake Chippewa and Anishinaabe Indians is joined by blockaders and solidarity activists determined to shut down the pipelines, hold Enbridge to account for stealing land, and protest Enbridge’s proposed expansion of the nearby Alberta Clipper toxic tar sands pipeline.

Located in Northern Minnesota near the town of Leonard, the occupation of the Red Lake land began Thursday, February 28. Requests to Enbridge regarding internal safety regulations related to above-ground activity over their pipelines resulted in a spokesperson claiming that activity such as fires and the construction of permanent structures like fences and houses would result in a pipeline needing to be shut down as documented in this viral video:

Similar encampments, like the Unist’ot’en Camp, have been springing up across the continent to fight the fossil fuel industry and stop the destruction of sacred lands in the pursuit of ever-more dangerous and destructive fossil fuel resources. Indeed, the pipeline industry would be hard pressed to imagine a tougher time in which to be doing business.

Indigenous resistance to tar sands pipelines in the region dates back to 2009 when Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper tar sands line was run through Leech Lake and Fond du Lac Anishinaabe reservations. The pipeline was only saved by technicalities in tribal law that led a judge to dismiss the case against the decision by elected officials to contract with Enbridge.

Enbridge is currently in the process of seeking approval to nearly double the capacity of the nearby Alberta Clipper toxic tar sands pipeline from its current 440,000 barrels per day up to 800,000 bpd. Not only will the Red Lake action take four pipelines offline, it is also setting precedent that pipeline expansion will not be tolerated! Not only that, but shutting down the illegal Enbridge pipelines may prevent millions of barrels of dirty tar sands from reaching market.

Now, with a decisively bold move and the backing of large constituencies of Red Lake Band members due to years of local community self-education, Nizhawendaamin Inaakiminaan might well set the first example of a tar sands line being forced to shut down permanently due to protest after it has been operational!

“When I was informed about the illegal trespassing of the company Enbridge on my homeland, I knew there was something I could do. I started calling as many Red Lakers as I could to try and make them aware,” said Angie Palacio who initiated the encampment with the support of the Indigenous Environmental Network.


Support for their efforts has been pouring in from many nations and groups:

Tom Poorbear, vice president of the Ogalala Sioux Nation declared, “We fully support the Red Lake Nation and its members who are opposing the Enbridge pipeline to stop the flow and remove the illegal pipeline from their land.”

Bill McKibben, founder of has stated, “I imagine everyone involved in the planetwide resistance to fossil fuel is watching them with thanks.”

Chief Bill Erasmus of the Dene First Nation stated, “We fully support and are inspired by the Red Lake members and their resistance as it is stated in the Mother Earth Accord; affirming our responsibility to protect and preserve for our descendents, the inherent sovereign rights of our indigenous nations, the rights of property owners, and all inherent human rights.”

Enbridge, of course, is a major player in the toxic tar sands pipeline saga being responsible for the costliest onshore petrochemical spill in US history. On July 25, 2010 a tar sands/diluted bitumen spill from Enbridge’s 6B pipeline near Marshall, Michigan that resulted in the release of over a million gallons of toxic tar sands/diluted bitumen and a permanently contaminated 40-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River along well as several tributaries. There have been hundreds of health problems associated with exposure to the tar sands chemicals and since the spill several deaths have been attributed to the sudden exposure. These chemicals immediately begin evaporating upon release and are heavier than air, forming a toxic cloud at ground-level that is practically inescapable.

Clear after the spill was the complete lack of understanding Enbridge and US Federal oil spill response teams had in how to clean up a tar sands/diluted bitumen spill. Diluted bitumen is not crude oil and therefore does not behave like crude oil upon release. There are still no established cleanup protocols and emergency first responders in regions like Texas and Oklahoma, where the 750,000 barrels per day Keystone XL pipeline is proposed to traverse by the end of 2013, have never been informed or warned as to how to manage the extremely toxic diluted bitumen spills common to the tar sands industry.

Communities in the immediate vicinity of the devastating spill are still reeling and are showing little to no signs of recovery – biological or economic.

Nizhawendaamin Inaakiminaan is well aware of these happenings and has taken one of the most exciting steps to rid their territory of the threat to community health and safety that tar sands pipelines pose.

They are accepting donations to assist in the purchase of building and life-sustaining materials here:

Please donate if you can.

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From Texas to Appalachia, Putting Our Bodies on the Line

Check out this article about our visit with the folks at Stop the Tennessee Pipeline

From Texas to Appalachia, Putting Our Bodies on the Line
Originally posted on Wed, 03/13/2013 – 13:18
By Eric Moll

View from the Appalachian Trail showing the clear-cut Tennessee Gas Pipeline easement.

View from the Appalachian Trail showing the clear-cut Tennessee Gas Pipeline easement.

The directions take us just outside the New York City sprawl-zone: up through the hills and bare forests of late winter, the houses and yards getting bigger until they disappear altogether and suddenly we’re nearing the highest point in New Jersey and one of the more strenuous parts of the Appalachian Trail.

We’re here to check on the last stand of trees to be cleared for Loop 323 of the proposed Tennessee Pipeline, which would run through the heart of the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, opening new areas to fracking and fueling the proposed Newark Generating Station.

My friend and I have been working with a group called Tar Sands Blockade to oppose the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in Texas. We came east to offer our support to locals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania who have been locking themselves to trees and blockading access roads in order to stop the Tennessee Pipeline since mid-February.

We arrived too late – the day’s standoff with workers and police was already over. Matt Smith and Jerome Wagner had locked themselves to trees along the pipeline’s right-of-way, stopping work. Eventually the police came with tools to cut the locking device apart. An observer from the Ramapough Lenape nation helped negotiate with police so that the two protesters could unlock, leave without being arrested, and keep the device intact.

Long before dirty energy companies began to frack Pennsylvania, the Ramapough Lunape were suffering from buried poison leaching into their groundwater. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Ford Motor Company dumped waste into abandoned mine shafts on their land. The Ringwood Mines landfill site is now a Superfund site. Seven hundred of the 3,500 people in the tribe have documented health impacts; one-fourth of homes has at least one person with cancer.

The Ramapough Lenape do not want the pipeline on their land. The observer was there to document violations by the construction crew and ensure that culturally and archaeologically important sites weren’t being destroyed.

At the same time the anti-fracking activists were halting work at the New Jersey construction site, roughly 150 angry citizens were refusing to comply with the designated “public comment period” at the Delaware River Basin Commission’s public meeting. They were calling out representatives of the commissioners, President Obama and governors Jack Markell of Delaware, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania and Mario Cuomo of New York, for refusing to exercise their regulatory powers over the Tennessee Pipeline, or any of the other fracked gas pipelines which would cross the Delaware River.

The citizens were there because the fracking infrastructure – from the drilling pads to the pipelines to the power plants – is tearing up the land they’ve hiked, hunted and fished on for years. Companies have seized property through eminent domain – we met one man who will soon have to deal with Kinder Morgan digging a trench through his septic line – making their water dangerous to drink.

Similar compressed gas lines have caused deadly explosions in the past. Even if everything operates as designed, several compressor stations along the route will vent bad-smelling and potentially toxic impurities into the local air. The people here have long memories of being told to suffer for someone else’s gold rush – to sacrifice their health or land to development projects ostensibly for the “public good.”

For example, the pipeline will cut across George and Marsha Feigner’s property. George, 86, has had to fight to keep his home since the late 1950s, when the proposed Tocks Island Dam would have put his entire community at the bottom of a 40-mile lake. The Delaware River Gap National Recreation Area exists today because the community won that struggle. There were riots, and the police tear-gassed people out of their homes, but the dam was never built.

After introducing us to the New Jersey residents who spent the morning locked to trees, their first direct action, Alex Lotorto of Stop the Tennessee Pipeline shows us where the pipeline will cross the Appalachian trail. Alex and his father, who made his own voice heard at that morning’s commission meeting, have fought the fracking industry since 2008, when it first threatened the hills and streams where they have hunted and fished for decades. Alex has walked on to construction sites, locked himself to access gates, and climbed trees in the path of the Tennessee Pipeline.

As we hike in, Alex explains that we are checking on the last stand of trees left in the path of the pipeline. He says he hopes the oaks will still be standing. Alex or someone else could climb one of those trees and stall construction, delaying the project enough to raise awareness – and possibly to make Kinder Morgan and their investors nervous.

But all around, the trees are dead. They lie in piles alongside the pipeline easement. The clearing crews move fast. We’ve seen just how fast in Texas where the same contractors, Northern Tree Clearing and Michel’s, are clear-cutting for Keystone XL.

We stand on the ridge, a short walk from the highest point in New Jersey, and look at the wide scar that runs as far as we can see, marked by a long line of surveyor ribbons flying like the pennants of an invading army. The view would be impeccable otherwise: rolling hills of pristine, snow-fringed hardwood forest.

It’s a rare, desolate moment. For the three of us, bundled against the dry cold winds sweeping through the newly exposed slopes, a sense of loss pervades the skeletal March landscape. We know that Stop the Tennessee Pipeline’s struggle will continue – somewhat changed now that fewer opportunities for tree-sits exist.

But meanwhile, the increasingly desperate dirty energy barons are plumbing poisons across the continent, tearing up whoever or whatever gets in the way. Communities are being poisoned by mines, by fracking wells, by catastrophic pipeline failures, and by the carcinogenic refineries and power plants at the end of the line. All for a buck: for the distractions and addictions that money can buy.

I felt a similar ennui when I came across a newly ravaged KXL easement in Texas. I am often struck by the intersectionality of different anti-extraction struggles; not just against pipelines like the Tennessee and Keystone XL, but against oil-driven deforestation of indigenous land in the rainforests of Central and South America, and against the demolition of Appalachian mountains for the sake of expanding a coal-fired generating grid that already kills 25,000 people every year in the United States.

The same few people are responsible: the investors who don’t care where their profits come from, the dirty energy executives, the politicians whose regimes are maintained by oil-lobby contributions, and the corporate media hacks who blithely focus their reports around the issue of “job creation” as we face the greatest ecological disaster in history.

Contrary to popular portrayals of the anti-extraction movement as some kind of youth fad, I see resistance seething among people of all ages wherever I go. Scars run deep, and people like Chief Vincent Mann of the Ramapough Lenape remember a lifetime of exploitation by toxic industry. His people’s past-and-present struggles against Ford and Kinder Morgan echo dozens of similar histories of abuse from the last century.

In Texas, I have heard many of these stories — stories of greed and corruption and rank old crimes, half buried beneath the red trampled earth. In Winona, Texas, anti-Keystone XL Tar Sands Blockaders who halted construction by climbing inside the pipeline itself took photos of visible holes in the welding of the pipeline that will carry tar sands — one of the dirtiest, hardest to clean, most carcinogenic and teratogenic of the poisons which constitute the lifeblood of the fossil fuel industry.

The pipe segment with those holes was laid in the ground – uninspected and unrepaired – dozens of feet from homes in a predominantly African-American community in Winona, Texas. In a mostly white county, it’s no coincidence that Keystone XL was routed through this community. The petrochemical industry has a long history of building its dangerous, toxic infrastructure through low income communities and communities of color because these communities have less political access and a limited ability to pay for legal opposition.

Despite the obstacles, Winona received national attention in the mid 90s when a group called MOSES (Mothers Organizing to Stop Environmental Sins) successful shut down the Texas wing of the American Ecology Corporation, which had been secretly dumping toxic waste in their neighborhood.

Now, people have signaled they have had enough, in a movement that will not stop with petitions and orderly rallies outside government buildings. “They’re the third largest energy company in the country, but they’re still not allowed to kill a human being,” says Alex. Alex, and others like him who put their bodies in the path of the machines, are proving that the anti-extraction fight is about much more than asking a few privileged leaders to do the right thing.

The anti-extraction movement is about traditionally marginalized people standing up to build a better future: people like the Appalachia Resist! activists who shut down a fracking waste facility in Ohio on February 18; like the members of the Red Lake tribe currently blocking an Enbridge tar sands pipeline through their land in northern Minnesota; like Debra White Plume and others from the Oglala nation who started blockading Keystone XL machinery in early 2012 and inspired an ongoing campaign of direct actions against the project.

At its heart, this struggle is about community resistance and resilience. It’s about stopping these insane projects and doing it together in a way that works toward a more just, liberated world for all people; that strengthens our communities and prepares us for the coming storms and struggles of the twenty-first century.

There will be many more setbacks like the loss of those old Hemlocks along the Appalachian trail. But the movement will carry on. Alex, for one, isn’t going anywhere. This is his home. He’s as determined as ever to save what’s left of it.

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Over 100 Hold a “Funeral For Our Future” at TransCanada Office Outside Boston

Our friends at Tar Sands Action in Massachusetts are at it again! This “Funeral For Our Future” comes just after a successful action on Jan 7th in which eight students were arrested for locking down in the TransCanada Westborough office outside Boston. Below is press release they sent out this morning. You can follow more on their website . Today’s action helps kick off an upcoming Week of Action to Stop Tar Sands Profiteers, March 16-23.


Update 7:40pm (EST) — arrestees are being released from jail!

Support these brave people by contributing for legal expenses! Better yet, support these people (and the rest of the planet) by getting involved! The first is needed, but the latter is priceless.

Update 6:43pm (EST) — check out this short video highlighting today’s no-KXL civil disobedience action!

Update 12:20pm (EST) — Protestors raise their fists in solidarity as arrestees are escorted out of the building and in to paddy wagons.

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Update 12:10pm (EST) — Protestors continue funeral procession out front of the TransCanada offices.

“We will lay down our bodies, we will lay down our souls, no, we won’t stand by and watch while they dig us a hole.”

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Update 12pm (EST) — all 26 who remained in the building have been arrested.

Arrestees at the "Funeral for Our Future" Tar Sands Action chanting while waiting on the first floor of the TransCanada office building to be processed.

Arrestees at the “Funeral for Our Future” Tar Sands Action chanting while waiting on the first floor of the TransCanada office building to be processed.

Update 11:17am (EST) — police have asked the protestors to leave. Most leave the building and continue chanting outside but 26 have handcuffed themselves to eachother and remain sitting. 

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Update 11:06am (EST) — police are gathered at the office lobby just beneath the protestors who are in front of TransCanada’s office on the third floor. Rue, from the Tar Sands Blockade, encourages protestors to stand their ground. Rue is wearing photographs of the children of Manchester in Houston’s toxic East End who will breathe the cancerous emissions of the tar sands.


“As international corporations like TransCanada organize violent businesses around us, we must also organize effective and escalated campaigns of resistance in solidarity with frontline communities, from the indigenous communities at the point of tar sands extraction, to low income communities of color in Houston and Port Author where the tar sands will be refined. 

It is not enough to denounce this continuation of colonization and environmental racism. We must understand who propagates this and who benefits. We must think critically and ask ourselves why violence and deception are a constant, especially against indigenous communities and low income communities of color who have been systematically silenced by 500 plus years of colonization and genocide!”

Update 11am (EST) — police arriving at the TransCanada office building. Protestors are chanting “They are digging us a hole” and presenting a symbolic coffin carrying “Our Future”.

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Westborough, MA — Monday, March 11, 2013, 10:54am (EST) – over 100 students and community members have just marched into TransCanada’s Westborough office and held a funeral mourning the loss of their future at the hands of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport the tar sands that climate scientists say will lock us into irreversible global warming. More than 25 protesters are risking arrest for refusing to leave the office in an act of civil disobedience.

Carrying a coffin emblazoned with the words “Our Future,” the protesters held flowers and sang an elegy as they marched in procession. Massachusetts Methodist clergy members and a group of mothers holding photographs of their children joined the youth in protest.

The action marked a sharp escalation of the protests in New England against the Keystone XL pipeline. In January, eight students locked and glued themselves at the same TransCanada office. Nationwide, the pipeline has already prompted civil disobedience outside the White House, direct blockades of construction, and the largest climate rally in US history. Todays action kicks off a week of solidarity actions being called for by our allies at the Tar Sands Blockade.  During the Stop Tar Sands Profiteers Week of Action, March 16th-24th protestors from across the country will target the offices of TransCanada and its investors.

Streaming live video by Ustream

The protesters staged the funeral a week after the US State Department released a widely criticized Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL pipeline. While admitting that rejecting the pipeline would have little effect on jobs, the document minimizes claims about the pipeline’s impact on climate change and on communities who would be at risk for devastating pipeline spills like the 2010 Kalamazoo spill, from which the affected communities are still recovering. The impact assessment also makes the assumption that the Alberta tar sands will be developed regardless of whether Keystone XL goes forward—an assumption not shared by today’s protesters and refuted by indigenous communities whose treaties the Canadian government is violating by allowing development of the tar sands.

“If the tar sands are extracted and burned, it will wipe out my future and the future of my entire generation,” said Will Pearl, a Tufts University freshman arrested in the action. “If President Obama will not reject the Keystone XL pipeline, we will stop it ourselves. We will rise up and resist—from the backwoods of Texas, to corporate offices in Massachusetts, to the steps of the White House.”

“The stakes couldn’t be higher,” said Isobel Arthen, a junior at Mount Holyoke who participated in Monday’s action. “The total carbon contained in Canada’s tar sands exceeds all the oil burned in human history. If we develop these incredibly dirty fossil fuels, my future will be marked by superstorms, untold numbers of climate refugees and climate-related deaths, and ultimately an uninhabitable planet. The planet is already the hottest it’s been in 4000 years. How hot will it be when the Keystone pipeline delivers over 800,000 barrels of tar sands a day? We must stop it. We will stop it.”

“President Obama and Secretary Kerry may not be able to stop climate change, but they have the opportunity to reject the pipeline that would make that change inevitable,” said Rachel Bishop, a senior at Brown University. “They have the power to stop investment in dirty fossil fuels and commit to developing clean and renewable energy sources as real alternatives, securing a legacy not of destruction, but of innovation and real leadership.” “I am standing with these courageous young people and with parents everywhere who are losing hope for their children’s futures,” said Susan Redlich, one of the mothers present at the action. “We are determined to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and preserve a livable future for all children.”

Contact: [email protected], 617-470-0371

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