The thunderous pounding of Indigenous drums echoed in the air on Thursday as more than 50 Indigenous nations across North America rallied together to sign a historic, pan-continental treaty alliance against oilsands expansion in their traditional territory.
The collaboration, formalized at simultaneous ceremonies in Quebec and B.C., aims to block all proposed pipeline, tanker, and rail projects affecting First Nations land and water, including TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, and Enbridge Northern Gateway.
At the signing on Musqueam land in Vancouver, the lineup of chiefs waiting to put their names down filled up an entire room. It was a powerful ceremony, and participants clad in the regalia of their nations travelled from across B.C. and northern Washington to be part of the growing movement.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, who also signed the document, said Indigenous people will no longer stand for dangerous projects on their territory that advance the threat of climate change.
“In this time of great challenge we know that other First Nations will sign on,” he said, extending the invitation to Indigenous communities far and wide.
“Based on our sovereign, inherent right to self-determination, we have collectively decided that we will pick up our sacred responsibilities to the land, waters, and people. We will come together in unity and solidarity to protect our territory from the predations of big oil interests, industry, and everything that represents.”
It’s a movement that’s already happening, he added, with no better example than in North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux have forced the federal government to pause Dakota Access pipeline construction.
Meeting the call to climate change duty
The document, called the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, commits its signatories to assist one another when called upon in the battle against oilsands expansion, and to work in partnership to move society towards more sustainable lifestyles. By aligning themselves with other Indigenous nations across Canada and the northern U.S., participants hope to ensure that dangerous projects are not able to “escape” by using alternative routes.