The stories of frontline indigenous communities in the fight against Big Oil pipelines took center stage on Saturday, as more than 200 Great Lakes Indians led a crowd of nearly 3,000 (mostly white) people to the steps of the Minnesota state capitol in what is being called the largest anti-tar sands demonstration in Midwest history.
The smell of burning sage sweetened the city air as war cries and thundering drums boomed down skyscraper streets. Spiritual songs mixed with protest chants. Tribal dancers, followed by raucous college students, kept the pace.
“The fossil fuel industry thinks it is powerful, but it is the water and the people that are powerful,” said Sharon Day, an Ojibwe leader with theIndigenous People’s Taskforce. “These waterways are our lifeblood. If you want your grandchildren’s grandchildren to have life and clean water, then we must all do what we can.”
Tribal groups, like the Ojibwe on the White Earth Nation reservation in northern Minnesota, say tar sands and Bakken oil pipelines — such as the proposed Alberta Clipper expansion and Enbridge Sandpiper — threaten the wild rice fields of their ancestral territory.
“We are fighting four different pipeline proposals by Enbridge Energy and the Koch brothers,” said Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth.
Indigenous leaders came all the way from Canada, from the very heart of tar sands oil production, and their stories invoked a broad climate justice narrative that also addressed the intersections between colonialism and violence against women, people and the land.
“In Canada, we have more than 1,200 missing or murdered women,” said Melissa Daniels of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “They are using an oppressive, genocidal policy to continue this exploitive capitalist system, destroy our water and destroy our people.”
Read more at NationofChange.