Rally Against Pipeline Expansion

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rally against pipeline expansion.jpgOn June 6, more than 5,000 colorful,

committed marchers snaked through the streets of downtown St. Paul

from the banks of the Mississippi River to the State Capital, the

first shrouded in morning mist, the second shrouded in construction

scaffolding. Marchers were rallying to say no to expansion of the

matrix of pipelines that cuts through northern Minnesota carrying

Alberta tar sands oil and fracked Bakken crude, potentially

endangering the freshwater heart of Minnesota’s native land.

Aztec drums and conch musicians led the

march. At the capital, Greg Grey Cloud offered a welcome song and

later there was a performance by Frank Waln, Sicangu Lakota hip hop

artist, among other musicians.

Many native speakers led the rally in

front of the capital building, as Native communities are directly

faced with the impacts of pipeline expansion and are leading the

charge against them. Winona LaDuke (White Earth Anishinabe), founder

of Honor the Earth, and Tom Goldtooth (Dine/Dakota), executive

director of Indigenous Environmental Network, have organized for

decades to call attention to better ways to manage our planet than

tearing out its natural resources and are leaders in the effort

opposing pipeline expansion.

LaDuke asked the crowd to support, “us

and tribal governments tribal leadership” who are in saying “no”

to pipelines crossing reservation and treaty lands. “[They] cannot

poison us,” she declared, telling the audience, “you have a

choice between water and oil. Make the right choice.” She told a

story that, at a protest in in Washington, D.C. a year ago, she

walked from her tipi to a ride in an all-electric car. “That’s

what the future looks like,” she said,” from a tipi to a Tesla.”

Melissa Daniels (Athabasca Chipewyan

First Nation) spoke on behalf of the estimated 23,000 Aboriginal

people who live in the devastated area of Alberta’s oil sands

development – 18 First Nations and six Métis Settlements located

in the region. She testified to the dramatic local impacts of tar

sands development and the robust resistance of native communities and

allies across Canada to pipeline expansion.

How bad is tar sands oil extraction in

Alberta? A google search for photos of Alberta tar sands turned up

this from an article in Business Insider: “These Pictures May Give

you Nightmares about The Canada Oil Sands.” And this: “We’re not

saying the project is good or bad. We’re just saying the scale and

severity of what’s happening in Alberta will make your spine tingle.”

And this from Wikipedia: Or read this selection from Wikipedia: “The

Athabasca River is the largest freshwater delta in the world but with

Suncor and Syncrude leaking tail ponds the amount of polluted water

will exceed 1 billion cubic meters by 2020.”

According to information from the

Indigenous Environmental Network, “In 2006, unexpectedly high rate

of rare cancers were reported in the community of Fort Chipewyan. In

2008, Alberta Health confirmed a 30% rise in the number of cancers

between 1995-2006. However, the study lacks appropriate data and is

considered a conservative estimate by many residents. 

Caribou

populations have been severely impacted by tar sands extraction. The

Beaver Lake Cree First Nation has experienced a 74% decline of the

Cold Lake herd since 1998 and a 71% decline of the Athabasca River

herd since 1996. Today, just 175 – 275 caribou remain. By 2025, the

total population is expected to be less than 50 and locally extinct

by 2040.”rally against pipeline expansion-2.jpg

With signs and activism, the marchers

in St. Paul said, “this IS bad!”

Participants also heard from Bill

McKibben, a pioneering climate journalist and distinguished scholar

at Middlebury College in Vermont. McKibben wrote the first book on

the climate crisis 26 years ago, “The End of Nature,” and founded

350.org in 2008 as a grass roots climate advocacy organization. The

number 350 refers to parts per million (ppm) carbon dioxide, the

number many scientists believe is the maximum carbon dioxide

concentration in the atmosphere before climate tips significantly

away from historic norms.

The current concentration, according to

NOAA data, is 402 ppm, rising about 2ppm a year. McKibben told the

crowd that Minnesota is “ground zero” for stopping oil pipeline

expansion and climate change, and complemented the marchers for their

organized energy and activism.

A surprise powerhouse speaker was

Alilah Sanders-Reed, a student at Macalaster College in St. Paul, who

roused the crowd with a plea for her generation who faces the brunt

of the climate crisis.

The rally peacefully dispersed under

cloudy St. Paul skies. But the battle against destructive fossil fuel

development continues at the Public Utilities Commission, the

Legislature, across northern Minnesota, in Alberta and around the

earth. On June 14, more than 100 scientists delivered a statement to

the Canadian government, saying “expanding tar sands will be

catastrophic for the climate and environment.”