The Enbridge Company has announced its
looking for a new tribal relations specialist for northern Minnesota.
They are hiring. This is going to be interesting, particularly since
no tribal government or Native organization, or, let’s just say,
traditional Native person in the north seems to want this Sandpiper
Chairwoman Karen Diver of the Fond du
Lac Ojibwe wrote a letter this last month, expressing significant
concerns about both the pipeline and Enbridge’s safety record, in
light of significant tribal harvesting interests. This letter follows
resolutions by tribal governments, testimony and legal interventions
opposing the Sandpiper, by the White Earth and Mille Lacs band and
the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. In short, it’s tricky terrain.
This reminds me of the federal
government’s Office of the Nuclear Waste Negotiator in the 1980s.
This guy was charged with getting communities to consider a no
strings attached grant to review nuclear waste options and then a
bigger grant to look at it some more. Now, no one wanted really to
hang out with this guy, I’m betting, but 16 of the 20 recipients of
the initial money were Indian tribes, so he was working hard to get
Native people involved. And, after all a lot of tribes were pretty
poor at that time, so it was a good target, besides having all that
As a matter of fact, there was this
great promotional literature, which referred to Native people being
really the guardians of Mother Earth, so naturally we would feel
really comfortable caring for nuclear waste. Well, as we know, this
has not yet worked out. (I did testify at the hearing on the nuclear
waste repository potential site called the Headwaters Site, right by
the Mississippi Headwaters. At the hearing, I explained that I
understood that it was a suppository, not a repository. But that’s
last millennium news.)
Enbridge’s proposal is not a lot
different. A 60-year-old corporation asks a people who have lived
here for 8,000 years to assume the liability for a pipeline that
carries oil through your territory. It is not as if we do not notice
that the profit is being made at either end, except for those tax and
a minimum benefits we get along with that liability. With 800 spills
and counting and a new proposal to put 400, 000 barrels of tar sands
oil in a 50-year-old pipeline with a whole bunch of structural
problems, Enbridge is going to need one sweet talking Native.
After all, Red Lake, Leech Lake, White
Earth and Fond du Lac are all impacted by these pipeline proposals
and those Ojibwe can be, well, contentious.
Best of luck to you, guys.