Hundreds of Native American protesters and environmentalists created a human barrier on Tuesday, meant to block shipments of oil extraction equipment on its way through tribal lands to the tar sands in Alberta, Canada. Police cleared passage for the trucks by arresting 20 protesters.
The Nez Perce Tribe owns the land in northern Idaho through which the 255-foot long, 644,000 pound “megaload” of two water purification units passed. It is “a federally designated Wild and Scenic River corridor,” which means that the government has pledged to maintain its wildness and conserve the undeveloped shorelines there.
But the Nez Perce fear that the pristine area will be marred by increasing shipments of dirty energy equipment up to the tar sands, leading to “the conversion of this wild and scenic area into a high and wide industrial corridor,” and effectively making its protected status moot.
Native Tribes are already often bearing the brunt of dirty energy practices. A massive spill in the Alberta tar sands in June killed every plant and tree that it touched in the wetlands where members of the Dene Tha First Nation hunt and trap. During the BP oil spill in 2010, oil overtook the marshes in the Bayou where the 700-person Pointe Aux Chenes tribe was living. Alaska natives fear the increased oil drilling there, too, and what a major spill might do to their land.
And when tribes’ lands aren’t threatened by dirty energy production, they still see their way of life threatened by coastal erosion and droughts.