“For Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the People of the Inlet, it is our sacred obligation to protect the water,” the tribe said in a statement ahead of Saturday’s protest. And while they said they will continue their legal battle against the pipeline company in the court, they added, “In our opposition to Kinder Morgan, we are many people paddling in the same direction.” (Photo: ProtecttheInlet.ca)
Disregarding an injunction won by the pipeline company a day before the planned protest, thousands of people marched in Burnaby, British Columbia on Saturday to protest the expansion of a Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline and export terminal that First Nations and climate justice campaigners say would threaten local waterways, erode Indigenous rights, and increase planet-warming carbon emissions.
The modern rendition of the American Dream can be traced back to 1774, when Virginia’s governor, John Murray, the fourth earl of Dunmore, wrote that even if Americans “attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west.”
The actual term “American Dream” was popularized in 1931 by the businessman and historian James Truslow Adams. For him, its realization depended on not just being able to better oneself but also, through movement and human interaction, seeing your neighbors bettered as well.
The first peoples to come to the Americas also came in search of a better life. That happened 14,000 years ago in the last Ice Age when nomadic pioneers, ancestors to modern Native Americans and First Nations, arrived from the Asian continent and roamed freely throughout what now comprises Canada, the United States and Mexico. Chasing mammoth, ancient bison and the elephant-like Gomphothere, they moved constantly to secure the health of their communities.
When the northern migrants arrived to this hot stretch of land around the then-nonexistent U.S.-Mexico frontier, Hohokam religious and political life was controlled by a handful of elites. Social mechanisms restricting the accumulation of power by individuals had slowly broken down.
For decades after their arrival, migrants and locals interacted. From that exchange, a Hohokam cultural revolution grew. Together, the two communities created a commoners’ religious social movement that archaeologists call Salado, which featured a feasting practice that invited all village members to participate.
As ever more communities adopted this equitable tradition, political power – which at the time was embedded in religious power – became more equally spread through society. Elites lost their control and, eventually, abandoned their temples.
America’s egalitarian mound-builders
The Hohokam tale unearths another vaunted American ideal that originates in indigenous history: equality. Long before it was codified in the Declaration of Independence,, equality was enacted through the building of large mounds.
But great power isn’t always top-down. Poverty Point, in the lower Mississippi River Valley of what’s now Louisiana, is a good example. This massive site, which consists of five mounds, six concentric semi-elliptical ridges and a central plaza, was built some 4,000 years ago by hunter-fisher-gatherers with little entrenched hierarchy.
Originally, archaeologists believed that such societies without the inequality and authoritarianism that defined the ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Aztec empires could not have constructed something so significant – and, if so, only over decades or centuries.
But excavations in the last 20 years have revealed that large sections of Poverty Point were actually constructed in only a few months. These Native Americans organized in groups to undertake massive projects as a communal cooperative, leaving a built legacy of equality across America’s landscape.
The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, offer a more modern example of such consensus-based decision-making practices.
These peoples – who’ve lived on both sides of the St. Lawrence river in modern-day Ontario and the U.S. Great Lakes states for hundreds, if not thousands, of years – built their society on collective labor arrangements.
They ostracized people who exhibited “selfish” behavior, and women and men often worked together in large groups. Everyone lived together in communal longhouses. Power was also shifted constantly to prevent hierarchy from forming, and decisions were made by coalitions of kin groups and communities. Many of these participatory political practices continue to this day.
The Haudenosaunee sided with the British during the 1776 American Revolution and were largely driven off their land after the war. Like many native populations, the Haudenosaunee Dream turned into a nightmare of invasion, plague and genocide as European migrants pursued their American Dream that excluded others.
But the ideals of freedom and equality – and the right that Americans can move across this vast continent to seek it out – survive through the millennia. Societies based on those values have prospered here.
“As Kinder Morgan tries to force through a pipeline without our consent—risking polluting the land and poisoning our rivers—we are rising up to create a resistance rooted in family, community, and hope.”
Greenpeace Canada helped build the first of 10 tiny houses in the path of the pipeline, which will cross through hundreds of miles of First Nations territory. (Photo: Ian Willms/Greenpeace Canada)
First Nations and allies in British Columbia, Canada, are protesting an expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline by building 10 tiny houses in its proposed path, which runs through more than 300 miles of Secwepemcul’ecw, unceded tribal territory.
“We, the Secwepemc, have never ceded, surrendered, or given up our sovereign title and rights over the land, waters, and resources within Secwepemcul’ecw,” tribe leaders said in a statement, adding that they “have never provided and will never provide our collective consent to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Project. In fact, we hereby explicitly and irrevocably refuse its passage through our territory.” Continue reading →
2016 saw the emergence of a powerful movement against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, through land vital to Native communities, especially the Standing Rock Sioux. For non-Native people who have not been paying attention to indigenous rights struggles over the past several decades, the #NoDAPL movement may have served as a wake-up call to some of the injustices still confronting these communities.
The angled photograph on the right shows an area he initially circled for the Star and where he believed the barrels were dumped. This circle drawn by Glowacki has been overlaid on an aerial map of the area from 1968. Aerial photo is from 1968. Archives of Ontario ref. RG 1-429-7. (Sources: Mapbox, Ministry of Natural Resources Aerial Photography at the Archives of Ontario, Map by William Davis)
An investigation by environmental volunteers and The Toronto Star has uncovered the “bombshell revelation” that soil surrounding an old paper mill is contaminated with mercury, amounting to what many are calling a “smoking gun” in the ongoing poisoning of the Grassy Narrows First Nation community.
The reporting, published Thursday, said that soil samples collected by volunteers from the organization Earthroots as well as The Star reporters were found to contain “hundreds of times the level of mercury found in a nearby uncontaminated site,” the organization said Friday. Continue reading →
“Just as Indigenous Peoples are showing unwavering strength down at Standing Rock, our peoples are not afraid and are ready to do what needs to be done to stop the pipelines and protect our water and our next generations,” Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, pictured here, said after the Enbridge Line 3 expansion was announced.(Photo: Derek Nepinak/Facebook)
Buoyed by the success of Indigenous resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a coalition of Canadian First Nation chiefs have launched legal action against the Trudeau government for its recent approval of the Enbridge Line 3 expansion.
Derek Nepinak, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, wrote on Facebook Wednesday that the group’s legal team filed an appeal in federal court challenging the approval, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced late last month in tandem with the expansion of Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. Continue reading →
Diesel leaches into tidal pools after a spill in the Great Bear Rainforest last month. (Photo: April Bencze/Heiltsuk Nation)
Canada Transportation Minister Marc Garneau made headlines this weekend when he announced that by the end of the year, a long-promised ban on oil tanker traffic will be put in place off the North Coast of British Columbia—weeks after the government was harshly criticized for its bungled response to a spill in that same region.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to institute such a moratorium before the Liberals won a majority of votes and put Trudeau in office in 2015, but as of a mere three weeks ago Trudeau appeared to be backtracking on that promise, after months of refusing to offer a timeline on the ban. Continue reading →
The toxins discovered in the air include “hydrogen sulphide and carcinogens like benzene,” writes the Canadian Press. “Ozone and sulphur dioxide were ‘frequently’ above long-term health thresholds.” (Photo: Kris Krüg/flickr/cc
Confirming what a First Nations community surrounded by tar sands development has claimed for decades, new research says the reserve in northern Alberta is suffering from air pollution that is sometimes “at levels above what is recommended for human health.”
That’s according to Alberta’s chief health minister, Karen Grimsrud, as reported by theCanadian Press.
The provincial health ministry, industry regulator (which is industry-funded), and the Fort McKay First Nation all cooperated on a study released Thursday that finally confirmed what those in Fort McKay had long asserted: air pollution from nearby tar sands mining and refining has been sickening members of their community.Continue reading →
Canadians protest against Enbridge in May 2014. (Photo: Chris Yakimov/flickr/cc)
Environmentalists and Indigenous rights advocates celebrated on Thursday after a judge struck down the Canadian government’s 2014 approval of a controversial pipeline project in a landmark ruling.
The court found (pdf) that the government had not done enough to consult with First Nations communities that would be impacted by the building of the Northern Gateway pipeline, approved under then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Continue reading →