In these early apocalyptic days, it is probably a good time to take stock of what’s going on here. As we see Indians hopping on the pipeline bandwagon, has humanity lost its best hope?
Our elders and the prophets of old had warned that we have to treat the earth with respect or there would be consequences, though “civilization” thought it knew better.
Decades ago, climatologists and scientists started warning that if we didn’t control our emissions, extreme weather events would be unleashed. Big Oil countered with denial.
Today, floods, storms, drought and fires have become all too familiar. Dead birds and whales are washing up on our beaches in ever-increasing numbers, while plant life is too slow to adapt.
In the face of the obvious, ridicule and denial of climate change is now becoming the lonely domain of Trump’s America and the Fraser Institute.
We know that oil is central to most of the modern monetary systems. We also know that the combustion of oil has been the big source of greenhouse gasses that threaten all the norms. So how does the movement of oil have anything to do with Indians?
In the Peruvian Amazon, an American oil company was intent on building a pipeline from jungle to coast. The Awajun and Wambis saw this project as a violation of the lands that have given them life. In 2009, hundreds of indigenous people were gunned down during a heroic attempt to stop the pipeline.
In North Dakota in 2016, a pipeline company led a brutal military-style assault with guns tear gas, attack dogs and all, forcing its way through unarmed Indigenous people and supporters who stood to protect water in Standing Rock.
In 2019 in Canada, Wet’suwet’en land defenders were overrun by a jack-booted, military-style police force intent on pushing a gas pipeline through.
Still, in recent times, the National Energy Board decided that, even though supertanker traffic off B.C.’s coast will cause significant harm to the already-imperilled southern resident killer whale and Indigenous cultures, they should be allowed anyway because of the “considerable benefits.” This is par for the course that brings us to the troubles of today — and today, in fact, the Trudeau government announced that the Trans Mountain pipeline will go ahead.
Indeed, Canada’s economy, like most others in the corporate world order, depends on spoiling the earth. As the natural world has been abused and impoverished, Indigenous people have shared the same fate. We know the sorry truth and well-practised attempts to break a people, but here we will focus on regaining of influence and why the corporate order would bother to even deal with the Indians.
About 40 years ago, a thousand Indigenous people took the “Constitution Express’’ to Ottawa and through this and subsequent years’ worth of concerted efforts managed to enshrine the otherwise forgotten Aboriginal Rights in Canada’s Constitution. Our people then had a legal context for the noble stands taken to protect the forests and oceans. A myriad of successful cases ensued, including against the forest and mining industries, Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, as well as Canada’s flawed environmental review process. This all happened in the face of governments, industry, chambers of commerce and business councils testifying that the sky will fall and we would descend into chaos should the courts rule in our favour. For anyone who was paying attention, these cases exposed the corporate control of Canada’s resource policies and, in fact, its governments.
Through the years of legal battles and a very measured examination of Aboriginal issues, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has given well-considered definition to Rights and Aboriginal Title in the context of Canada in the modern world.
Aboriginal Rights are a far-reaching right of the collective, held not only for the present generation but for all succeeding generations. The rights also include an economic component coupled with a very deliberate and appropriate “inherent limit,” which requires that the land “not be used in a way that is irreconcilable with the attachment an Aboriginal group has with the land” nor shall it be encumbered in ways “that would substantially deprive future generations of the benefit of the land.” This is, in fact, a limit that, if applied to all, could go a long way in looking after the earth.
In difficult times, our people stood to look after our land and restore our rights leaving us a solid legal base from which we can uphold our responsibilities. This changed the legal and political dynamic requiring governments and industries not only to consult, but to make accommodations, while the Supreme Court also called out for “reconciliation.”
And so it began: out of the sacrifice and efforts of our champions to look after the lands came the attention of Corporate Oil, with the tried solution of simply buying its way.
Regardless of owner or name, a pipeline and all that comes with it crosses the “inherent limit” and certainly does not carry any Aboriginal Rights. There is none amongst us of any colour or creed that can claim a right to disregard the neighbour downstream, or who can claim a right to neglect life. There is none amongst us with the right to harm the great killer whale or the little barnacle.
An Indian pipeline would be a business venture as any other and is not “reconciliation”; rather, an infringement and a threat.
Be certain that the apparatus killing this planet is a nasty one and it seems intent on finishing the dirty deed. It gains strength through violence with the jack-booted obedient servants at its beck and call. It is commanding enough to recruit our cousins if not you and me. Though it is tough as hell, it’s not that smart.
Left to its own devices this Juggernaut will continue killing our planet, and without intervention our fate is sealed and we may as well prepare a dignified exit, but that would be irresponsible.
While it must be stopped, don’t wait for the Indigenous people to lead. The Indians are few in number, battle-weary, and, along with the multitudes, distracted by the ballgames and trying to pay the bills. We are too easy to imprison, too easy to kill, and as you see, as fallible as any.
Be assured, however, that on the front lines the Indigenous people are already standing up for the health of the planet, already standing for basic clean air and water. Most of us love this planet and respect life before money.
Children all over the world are calling out for us to stop this careless behaviour and fix this disorder. The grown-ups still ignore the symptoms and avoid the cure.
Reach out across the chasms to your fellow earthlings, devote some time to figuring this thing out. In each of us is some measure of good and understanding of truth, and somewhere in there is the solution. There is no need to put anyone in harm’s way.
We, the multitudes, allowed it to come to this. We, the creators of the Juggernaut, have got to fix it together.
Guujaaw is known as Hereditary Chief Gidansta of the Haida Nation. He is also an advisor to the Coastal First Nations.