Native Activist Winona LaDuke: Pipeline Company Enbridge Has No Right to Destroy Our Future

StoryAugust 23, 2016
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Winona LaDuke

Native American activist and executive director of the group Honor the Earth. She lives and works on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota.

In North Dakota, more than a thousand indigenous activists from different tribes have converged at the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp, where protesters are blocking construction of the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. Protesters say the pipeline would threaten to contaminate the Missouri River, which provides water not only for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, but for millions of people downstream. For more, we are joined by Winona LaDuke, Native American activist and executive director of the group Honor the Earth. She lives and works on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue to look at the growing indigenous protest against the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which they say would threaten to contaminate the Missouri River. We’re joined now by Winona LaDuke, Native American activist, executiv director of the group Honor the Earth. She lives and works on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. She was also the Green Party vice-presidential nominee in 1996 and 2000.

Winona, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about why, from the White Earth Reservation, where you live, you’ve gotten involved with this battle against the Dakota Access pipeline?

WINONA LADUKE: Well, good morning, first, Amy and Dave. Yeah, our reservation in northern Minnesota is the proposed site, our territory, for the Sandpiper. For the past four years, I’ve been fighting the Enbridge company. Enbridge company is proposing three new lines through our territory. One of them is the Sandpiper, and that would cross, affecting—basically, by the time they’re done, five of our reservations would be affected by these pipelines, which would go by the Mississippi River and through the heart of our wild rice beds.

Enbridge has been pushing for a brand-new corridor, because they have this old corridor. They say it’s got, you know, six pipelines in them, all about 50 years old, kind of falling-apart pipelines, and so they want to, instead of cleaning up their old mess, they want to make a whole new mess. So, for four years, we’ve been fighting them and telling them they cannot do that. And the courts, you know, had ruled in our favor, and now a full EIS is required. And the tribes are demanding that the process include them and the tribes should have some say in it.

So, I was really surprised, because Enbridge told us all that the only thing that they could do, it was so important to them, the only way they could get their oil to market was to run it through northern Minnesota. And then, one day I wake up, and they forgot all about us, and they move out there to North Dakota. Seemed very disingenuine to me.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, you went—

WINONA LADUKE: I came out—came out to North Dakota, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what you found there.

WINONA LADUKE: Well, what I found out in North Dakota is that, you know, the state of North Dakota has been bending over backwards for the oil companies, although the fact is, is that there are now more lawsuits than active drilling rigs out there, you know, because there was such a big push to develop all this oil in the Bakken, basically bust up the bedrock of Mother Earth, put all those chemicals in it, look the other way and pretend like things are going swimmingly out in North Dakota. So, North Dakota has got this landlocked oil. They’re taking a beating on it right now. There is an 85 percent drop in active drilling rigs in the Bakken. Fact is, is that they don’t even have it going on out there, but they are bound and determined to get whatever oil out of there they can, and so they decided to throw this pipeline through them. You know, North Dakota’s regulators are, I would suggest, really in—you know, I would say, in bed with the oil industry, and they have looked the other way. And so, they have pushed these pipelines through, you know, really, really fast, without any tribal consultation and without a full environmental impact statement.

And that’s what needs to happen. You need a full environmental impact statement on this. And, you know, I say—what we say is that you should have a well-to-wheels impact. In other words, it’s not just hauling the oil. It’s not just endangering all those, you know, watersheds. It’s not just the fact that, you know, former editor of Scientific American Trudy Bell says 57 percent chance of a catastrophic leak. It’s not even just that. It’s what about all that carbon? We’re sitting here, you know, in this world, where there’s been no rain in Syria for five years. There’s catastrophic storms everywhere. And this pipeline is going to bring about 250,000-per-day tons of carbon into the atmosphere. That’s what this Dakota Access pipeline is. And that’s wrong. You know, a private corporation doesn’t get to destroy things—a Canadian corporation, at that. Enbridge isn’t even a U.S. corporation; you know, Enbridge is a Canadian corporation. And they have no right to destroy our water, no right to compromise our future.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk a little more about Enbridge? You recently wrote that Enbridge looks a lot like Enron. Explain.

WINONA LADUKE: Yeah, I mean, Enbridge is not doing so well. You know, I’ve been writing letters. I kind of feel like that Roger & Me thing. I write letters to Al Monaco, the president of Enbridge. I say, "Hey, it’s Winona down here on White Earth, wondering about a few things." They had, you know, a few catastrophic blow-ups last year. And then, this year, first of all, June 30th, they lost this big pipeline. You know, Enbridge is in the pipeline business. The Northern Gateway pipeline, $7.9 billion proposal, they thought they had it with the Harper administration. You know, that was looking pretty good up in Canada, Stephen Harper. Trudeau gets in. Every tribe along the way, every First Nation along the way and the province of British Columbia is opposing this pipeline, which would take it to Port Kitimat, you know, really pristine area with all these fjords. Anyway, what happens is the Canadian Federal Appeals Court rules that all of the permits are void, that, in fact, Enbridge and the government have to go all the way back and talk to the First Nations, tribal consultation. That had to really hurt Enbridge quite a bit, $7.9 billion pipeline. You know, we got them on the ropes there in Minnesota. They’re now in the EIS process, although they would have liked to kind of like skirt around that. But the citizens of Minnesota and the tribes have forced that process.

And then you add this little problem that’s called the faulty pipes scandal. What happened is, is that in July, it was announced in a National Observer National Energy Board leak that Enbridge and this other company called Kinder Morgan had purchased these pipes from a—called Cana Oil, Canada Oil, and it’s a Thailand-based company, discount pipes. They purchased all these pipes and valves that are faulty. And the National Energy Board of Canada, Canadian government says, "Emergency situation. Where are those pipes, Enbridge?" Enbridge’s lawyers have said they need time to disclose where exactly all those pipes are. Now, I’m sitting here, and in northern Minnesota we’ve got six lines crossing through our really good ecosystem. I’m wondering if some of those pipes are there. Or maybe they’re over in a pile by Lake George, next to my reservation. We would like a full disclosure as to where the faulty pipes are that Enbridge has. You know, look at that, and then they got a 40 percent—their shares are down now, a 40 percent drop in their shares, you know, from two years ago. So I feel like Enbridge is not looking so good, not looking so good to their shareholders. And they’ve got a lot of liability they are putting on us, on Americans, on Native people, and trying to force it down the throat of the Standing Rock people. And I feel like that that company is not a reliable corporation.

AMY GOODMAN: Last month, Winona, the Laborers’ International Union of North America endorsed the Dakota Access pipeline. Terry O’Sullivan, general president of LIUNA, said in a statement, quote, "The men and women of LIUNA applaud the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its fair and thorough review of the Dakota Access Pipeline. ... For the highly skilled and trained men and women of LIUNA, projects like the Dakota Access are more than just pipelines. They are crucial lifelines to family-supporting jobs," they said. Laborers Local 563 business agent Cory Bryson said, quote, "We’ve been inundated with calls from all over the country from people wanting to work on this pipeline project. Mainline pipeline projects like Dakota Access provide excellent working opportunities for our members and tremendous wages." Your response, Winona LaDuke?

WINONA LADUKE: My response is that the United States has a D in infrastructure. That’s why bridges collapse. That’s why Flint, Michigan, has a problem. That’s why everything is eroding in this country. And what we need is those skilled laborers to be put to work, pipelines for people. I’m saying take those pipes that are sitting there in northern Minnesota, and send them to Flint, Michigan. They need billions of dollars’ worth of pipe infrastructure out there. We don’t need any pipes in northern Minnesota. I say that most of our Indian reservations don’t have adequate infrastructure. We’d like a little help with our water and sewer systems there. I am all for organized labor, but what I want is I want pipelines, I want infrastructure, for people, not for fossil fuels, not for oil companies. So I am all for that. There are plenty of people that could be put to work. And it’s five times as many jobs doing infrastructure for communities, doing for people, than one shot throw a pipe down and hope it works out for you. So I’m asking American labor to stand with us and to say we want pipelines, we want infrastructure, that goes for people, that goes for communities, and not for oil companies that are going to destroy our environment and cause more climate change destruction to our planet.

AMY GOODMAN: Winona LaDuke, we want to thank you for being with us, Native American activist, executive director of the group Honor the Earth. She lives and works on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota.

This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we go to Tulsa and to North Carolina. stay with us.

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