Indigenous groups on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border are speaking up about the Keystone XL pipeline, which has recently been given a green light by the Trump administration.
The 2,735-kilometre pipeline project by Calgary-based TransCanada would carry roughly 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Indigenous territories in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
While some vow to stop it, others want to ensure development doesn’t trample Indigenous rights.
“This is an important moment to remind Canadians that First Nations hold inherent rights and treaty rights recognized in Canada’s Constitution,” reads a statement from Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, issued shortly after the pipeline’s approval.
“This includes the right to free, prior and informed consent over any activities that could affect our lands, our lives or our futures.”
Fears for environment
The Assembly of First Nations recently wrapped up its second National Energy Forum in Ottawa, where the theme was “inclusive prosperity in our energy future” and where much of the discussion was about getting a seat at the development table.
But in northern Alberta, the source of much of the oil the pipeline could carry, there’s fear for what Keystone XL’s approval means for the environment.
“It says to me they’re going to pollute the rivers,” said Francois Paulette, a Dene elder and environmental activist from Smith’s Landing First Nation. “Have a bigger impact on the air, the rivers we live along down the Mackenzie River.”
“That’s where the biggest impact will be felt by the Indigenous people.”
Fight ‘begins anew’
Keystone XL has faced multiple delays since it was first pitched in 2008. When it was blocked by President Barack Obama in 2015, many…