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Local Native Americans defend lucrative Minn. pipeline, claim most of the protesters are white

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Emboldened by the shutdown of the Keystone XL Pipeline, on June 7, hundreds of national activists, including celebrities Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener, allegedly descended upon Line 3, — a 1,000-mile oil-sands pipeline carrying oil from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. 

Native American business owner Matt Gordon, a White Earth Nation tribe member, is vice president of his family-owned Gordon Construction in Mahnomen, Minnesota. Gordon Construction is contracted to work on the Line 3 project but instead was forced to confront environmental protesters, claiming to speak for Native Americans – vandalizing his equipment. 

“They destroyed contractor equipment, broke into construction trailers, damaged environmental safeguards intended to control erosion, and attempted to trap workers while occupying the site,” Gordon said.

“I’m a contractor for excavation and all of my equipment on site was vandalized,” Matt Gordon said in an interview with Fox News.

Gordon Construction is one of the many small businesses among the 500 Native Americans workforce that depends on the contracts to construct Line 3.

According to The Washington Post, the $4 billion Line 3 project replaces an aging pipeline with an estimated 60% of the 350-mile Minnesota portion completed.

Enbridge estimates that the project will significantly benefit Native American-owned small businesses with approximately 5,200 well-paying construction jobs. Mahnomen County, located in central Minnesota, currently has a 7.2 percent unemployment rate, according to TCPalm.com.

“For the most part, a majority of the people are for the pipeline. Everybody enjoys gasoline and plastic products,” Gordon said.

“The opponents are shielding themselves with Native Americans.” Gordon observed. Saying that “Most of the protesters were White,” and pointing out that “Line 3 has brought back millions of dollars to the reservations.” 

On June 8, a day after the property damage, speaking in support of the project, Gordon joined Native business leaders representing the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The Boise Forte Band of Chippewa and Leech Lake band Ojibwe also voiced support of the project –as did the White Earth Nation tribes. 

“This not only created a hardship for our workers, it created additional challenges for our companies,” Native American business representatives said. Furthermore, “Protests that disrupt work, damage property, and threaten our employees while claiming to be on behalf of our Native people is creating additional tension and consequences within our tribal communities.” 

The leaders believed in these actions, “They also intentionally create a false narrative that there is no Native American support for this project and the economic impacts and opportunities it brings to our people.”

Isaac Orr, a policy fellow in energy issues for Minnesota, think tank Center of the American Experiment, observed to Fox News that the Native Americans have a complex and intricate culture. You cannot make this a classic story of stealing their land to put a pipeline in,” 

 “Enbridge has committed to making sure the Native Americans were included,” Orr said.

Regardless, there is vehement opposition from national environmental and anti-fossil fuel groups such as Fossil Free Media.

The Washington Post reports that Tara Houska, a former adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and member of the Couchiching First Nation, spear-headed the anti-Line 3 push for seven years organized the protests.

Highlighting national involvement and directing the narrative are climate organizations such as Bill McKibben’s 350.org, who insist on the organization’s website that the Keystone XL Pipeline defeated –Minnesota’s Line 3 must be the next to go in the movement to end all fossil fuels.

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