The anti-pipeline standoff underway in North Dakota has rallied people in Kamloops to bring to light similar issues closer to home with the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Members of the Secwepemc First Nation and Kamloops community members identifying as “water protectors” met on Nov. 2 to hear from community members who have gone to Standing Rock, N.D. In a press release, the organizers said that the protection of the waters of the Missouri River from pipelines reflects identical issues in Kamloops with the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.
Water protector is the name used by those who are against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) due to the concern on the project’s impact on the local water supply of the Missouri River.
Chief Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh nation near North Vancouver spoke at an event on the Tk’emlups reserve. He went to Standing Rock, met with Kinder Morgan executives and took part in an Indigenous-led environmental assessment that concluded in opposing the energy company’s expansion of its Westridge Marine Terminal in the Burrard Inlet.
George criticized the government’s influence by oil companies. He also said that the First Nation’s laws should precede any Canadian laws in the land where Kinder Morgan is expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline. This is because it is unceded territory that has not been signed off in a treaty.
Several members of the Secwepemc nation have been to Standing Rock, including Evelyn Camille, Jody Leon, Henry Saul, Keenan Phillip, Art Manuel and Gwa.
Last month Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, the local area of the Secwepemc nation, accepted $3 million in a mutual benefit agreement given by Kinder Morgan in order to expand the pipeline through their territory.
According to George, former Conservative finance minister Joe Oliver once asked why don’t First Nations take the money being offered by energy companies?
“We don’t need it more than the reciprocal relationships between us, the land and the water,” George said.
“Standing Rock is a good idea.”
Social work sessional faculty member and Tk’emlups community member Jeffrey McNeil-Seymour was the master of ceremonies. In a later interview, McNeil-Seymour said that the event had a good turnout and that its intent was to call upon Indigenous and settler allies from both sides of the river.
He also said that it is profound that Secwepemc people are on the front lines at Standing Rock opposing DAPL construction.
McNeil-Seymour agreed with everything said by George at the event, and is “appalled” at the lack of consultation before the agreement between Kinder Morgan and Tk’emlups was finalized.
McNeil-Seymour said that while the decisions themselves should be held accountable, the decision-makers are not inherently bad people, adding that they are community members and family, and that they are loved.
“Collectively, we can do things different. The blame doesn’t have to be placed squarely on their shoulders,” McNeil-Seymour said.
“We can carry it together.”
With Kamloops being a resource-based community, McNeil-Seymour said that the work is in raising consciousness on the environmental issues and encouraging “yucamin’min,” which is protecting the earth and its people.
“This is really about coming together,” McNeil-Seymour said.
Standing Rock is a Sioux native American reservation that is on the route of the Dakota Access pipeline. The pipeline, in which Calgary-based Enbridge owns a stake, would carry oil from the state of North Dakota to Illinois. Protesters have been in action since the summer blocking the construction route and demonstrating against the project.
Indigenous groups from across the United States and Canada have rallied in protest of the pipeline. They fear the project’s environmental risks and future impact.