American tribes oppose Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion in B.C.

National Energy Board hearing in Chilliwack considers views of U.S. tribes opposed to the Edmonton-to-Burnaby oil sands pipeline expansion pipeline

Deborah Parker councilwoman Tulalip tribe Washington state - Chilliwack BC
American Deborah Parker, a councilwoman from the Tulalip tribe in the U.S. state of Washington, speaking on the banks of the Fraser River in Chilliwack, B.C. on Wednesday - photo by Mychaylo Prystupa

With an eagle soaring overhead, American and Canadian Coast Salish people gathered on the banks of the Fraser River in Chilliwack, B.C. to do prayers in advance of their presentations to oppose the $5.4-billion Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion at the National Energy Board hearings.

“We can’t sustain the continued destruction,” said American Deborah Parker, a councilwoman of the Tulalip tribe from the U.S. state of Washington on Wednesday.

“This is heaven!  Right here.  This is heaven.  And if we take care of that heaven.  Then she will take care of us.”

Texas-headquartered Kinder Morgan is proposing to triple the flow of Alberta oilsands bitumen to B.C’s coast, by crossing rivers and territories considered sacred to indigenous people on both sides of the 49th parallel.

The project would also multiple oil tankers from 60 per year to more than 400, according to the company.

The Canadian federal government, via the National Energy Board, is now entertaining Aboriginal views on the pipeline – including those of Native Americans south of the border. 

Four U.S. tribes are presenting their views against the project -- the Swinomish, Tulalip, Suquamish, and Lummi Indian Nations.

“[The pipeline] is something that we do not need,” said Brian Cladoosby, President of the National Congress for American Indians, representing 566 U.S. tribes.

The high-profile American Indian politician - who just happens to live near the Seattle-area Swinomish Tribe - said the ecology of the so-called Coast Salish Sea – a network of waterways from the southwestern tip of B.C. to the northwestern tip of Washington state –would be threatened by Kinder Morgan’s pipeline proposal. 

“In the last 100 years, we’ve lived with a pollution based economy.  So industry was able to create mega resources….on the ones you’d call the men who built this country, on the release of a lot of pollution being released into the environment.”

Kinder Morgan said it is factoring U.S. native views.

“We understand U.S. Tribes have interests about the project. The Aboriginal Oral Hearings are an essential part of the regulatory review process and provide a way for Aboriginal groups and US Tribes to share traditional knowledge and experience.”

“We will continue to be committed to minimizing impact and protecting the marine environment,” wrote Gary Youngman, lead Aboriginal Engagement with the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. 

Canadian Coast Salish elder Ray Harris with the Stz’uminus First Nation First Nation on Vancouver Island poured water on the banks of the Fraser, in sacred tribute to the waterway. 

“Pollution doesn’t know boundaries.  So if we had an [oil spill] accident on this side or their side, it would affect the whole Salish Sea,” said Harris.

The U.S. Tulapip gave a power point presentation at the NEB outlining their profound cultural and spiritual connection to the surrounding salt water sea, as well as how important the waters are to their fishing practices.

The NEB hearings continue until Friday in Chilliwack.

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