By Winona LaDuke
In July of 2013, Ramsey County charged Mike Allen with agreeing to hire and engage in prostitution in a public place. Mike Allen is a Canadian. At that time, Allen was an MLA, a Member of the Legislative Assembly. Allen represented Fort McMurray, the Tar Sands Capital of the Petro State of Canada. Legal documents say Allen contacted an undercover officer posing as a prostitute on July 15, 2013, took a limo to her address, and agreed to pay $200 for sex.
That’s the way it goes in Fort McMurray. I often think of Fort McMurray as Bedzin, the small town next to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The tars sands are the Ecological Auschwitz. Always a good time in Fort McMurray, just like it was in Bedzin. Just let those trains go on by.
MLA Mike Allen was in St. Paul formally for a conference on governance in 2013. He was also there to help Enbridge, the Canadian pipeline giant. Enbridge was pushing for its last big tar sands pipeline. That pipeline was called the Alberta Clipper, and allowed Enbridge to ship 800,000 barrels a day of oil across the waters and land of northern Minnesota. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) would approve that pipeline too. A year later Allen was back in political leadership.
In April 2019, that political party – now known as the United Conservative Party – celebrated an overwhelming victory in its region, winning 63 of 87 seats. The party leader-elect, Jason Kenney, delivered his victory speech to an audience that chanted, “Build that pipe,” which referred to building a pipeline to sell the area’s oil leadership. Kenney corrected their chant. “It’s build those pipes. Today, we Albertans begin to fight back.”
That’s just how it’s done. Business as usual. Oil, sex, corruption and male privilege. Not this time. Not anymore.
Alberta and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
In Ft. McMurray, the phone book features 10 pages of escorts, including low-cost lovers promising cut-rate service within 20 minutes. There are almost 10,000 men living in man camps. They do 10-week shifts or so, and then get turned loose for a bit. Sometimes they blow their money in Ft. McMurray, and then some go home. It’s always the same with boom towns and oil. With almost 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) in Canada, searching for a way to feel safe is a daily reality and something that has been elusive for many indigenous women.
Canadian oil fields are not the only place to get murdered. The Canada Brand report found incidents involving 28 Canadian mining companies, 44 deaths, 30 of which were classified as targeted. The report also found 403 injuries, of which 363 occurred during protests. The report spanned 13 countries. (https://justice-project.org/the-canada-brand-violence-and-canadian-mining-companies-in-latin-america).
Polymet is a Canadian Corporation. So is Enbridge. I swear we need a border to the north. And Minnesota doesn’t do so well in the protection of Native women either And it’s about to get worse if Enbridge and the PUC get their way.
The Urban Indian Health Institute recorded 5,712 cases of murdered or missing indigenous women or girls nationally in 2016, only 116 of which were logged in a Department of Justice database. That doesn’t include Jeremy Jourdain, or other Native men who disappeared. Citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute said murder is the third-leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaskan Native women.
Minnesota has the ninth-most murdered or missing indigenous women/girls cases, according to the Urban Indian Health Institute. Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, DFL-New Brighton, has introduced a bill which would establish a task force to examine the causes of that violence, ways to collect data on it, and how to prevent it and lessen the damage it causes.
“Five hundred years we’ve been waiting for this,” said Mysti Babineau, a Red Lake Nation member who said she was raped for the first time when she was nine years old, watched her grandmother’s murder at 12, and at 20, escaped a kidnapping. “My sisters, my people, have gone missing since European settlers set (foot) on Turtle Island. It’s time for justice. It’s time for healing.”
North Dakota just passed similar legislation, introduced by first year Representative Ruth Anna Buffalo, it creates a data base to track missing and murdered persons, not just Native people.
That’s right, North Dakota did it first. No time like the present to catch up. But how about stopping the problem? That’s even better.
Meanwhile, the national bill, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was reauthorized by the US House of Representatives. One Democrat voted against the bill, Minnesota’s own Colin Peterson. He was more concerned about the gun rights than protecting women.
A Thousand Miles of Man Camps
This is known. A thousand miles of Man Camps. Think of it that way. Maybe just for a moment. A pipeline looks like a thousand miles of man camps. Straight out of Fort McMurray. It looks like that to the predator, and it looks like that to the prey. It’s daunting.
Let’s put it this way. Enbridge is required to address sex trafficking and has a paper about their plan. According to its submissions to the PUC, the company anticipates more than 4000 construction workers stretching over 300 miles of northern Minnesota, right next to Red Lake, White Earth, Leech Lake, and Mille Lacs Reservations, and through the middle of the Fond du Lac Reservation. Those workers will be supported by a heavy militarized security force. At least that’s what we saw at Enbridge’s last pipeline project – the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. Enbridge owned about a third interest in the pipeline, and the militarization of North Dakota for oil companies cost $38 million. That doesn’t sound good for the Natives.
The man camps and the consistent violence against Native women which occurs at the hands of the fossil fuels industry is a huge issue, and it’s also the metaphor.
“Let me shove this pipeline down your throat”. That’s basically what the MN PUC just said to Native people, with the approval of the permits for Enbridge’s Line 3. That’s what $11 million worth of lobbying will buy you in Minnesota. The rape of the north and the rape of Native women. How much more graphic than “let me shove this down your throat…” do I have to be?
Consent is consent. Consent is about sex and consent is about pipelines and megaprojects. In the old days, the company men and their governments used to just rape and pillage. That was how it went. It’s not supposed to be those days now.
In fact, the Trans Mountain Pipeline in Canada was just stopped dead in its tracks because the Company and the Canadian government had not engaged in consultation with First Nations. The standard for consent is pretty low in Canada, but the government and pipeline company couldn’t even meet that. Imagine if the international standard of the United Nations was applied: Free Prior and Informed Consent. That means, not coerced consent, and not rape. Raping Mother Earth is still rape.
Podein’s bill would establish a task force to examine the causes of that violence, ways to collect data on it, plus how to prevent it and lessen the damage it causes. I’m all about preventing the next predators, and the next MLAs from Alberta.
What I hate is all the decisions the patriarchy has made: the destruction, the entitlement, and the abuse. What I hate is the patronizing mansplaining on fossil fuels and genetically modified organisms. 1% of the population controls way too much wealth, CEOs make 214 times more than their average worker. Almost half the lakes are unswimmable, scientists estimate we’ve lost 75% of the flying insects, and we’ve got about 12 years to stop ourselves from being baked by climate change. The paradigm which created the problem cannot solve it. Einstein said that.
We can’t say those decisions were made by women because they were not. Consider Fortune Magazine’s 2017 study of the top management of 16 Fortune 500 companies. Eighty percent of the top management is male, of those 72% are white males. And over three quarters of the Congress is white men.
That’s why the Sunrise Movement, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and the Green New Deal are so exciting. That’s what the leadership of women looks like. And Women of Color at that. That’s when we begin to have jobs which matter for the quality of life of women and the environment.
Birthing the Next Economy
I want to be a Doula in the Next Economy. It will take many of us to bring on the birth but it’s time. Time to rematriate our world, our Mother Earth. That’s how beautiful change is made.
The next economy needs to be restorative and regenerative. It needs to not poison people and land. No more “cides” on the food and in the water. And it needs to be compassionate and maternal – looking out for relatives whether they have hands, paws, roots, claws or fins.
The next economy has efficiency, local organic food, electric trains, restorative justice, renewable energy, and high quality support for women and children. That’s the economy I want. And I want infrastructure for people, not Canadian Corporations.
That economy has to have less fossil fuels in it. Fossil fuels are bad for the planet, and carbon needs to stay in the ground, not in the air.
The Rights of Women and the Earth need to be valued over the rights of corporations.
At Standing Rock, we saw what $38 million worth of repression for a Texas pipeline corporation looks like. We are about to see what Enbridge financed repression looks like in Minnesota. There are two ways to stop that pipeline, the State and Federal Courts (that’s where the rest of the pipelines are stuck); or the people and the state.
On December 31, 2018, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe approved the Rights of Wild Rice as a part of tribal regulatory authority. We believe in our water, our wild rice and our Mother Earth. I believe in the restoration of the Matriarchy, Mother Earth and all of us. I have to believe that women are more interested in survival than conquest. It’s more than consent, it’s love and birth.