PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. – A Manitoba indigenous chief says there’s a desire for action — which could include blockades of Canadian pipelines and railways — in support of a protest against a North Dakota pipeline project.
Grand Chief Terry Nelson of the Southern Chiefs Organization says chiefs and others attended a meeting Saturday at the Dakota Tipi First Nation near Portage la Prairie to discuss how to react if the U.S. government clears demonstrators from a camp occupied by the Dakota Access pipeline protesters.
Nelson says one option includes blocking access to pumping stations along a pipeline operated by Enbridge, which has plans to acquire a stake in the U.S. pipeline project.
After the meeting, Dakota Tipi members held a pipe ceremony on the Trans-Canada Highway near Portage la Prairie, Man., temporarily blocking a lane of traffic.
The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to close an area where demonstrators have been camping for months.
Some of the protests have resulted in violent confrontations, including one earlier this week that left one woman with a serious arm injury.
“Everything is on the table. And no question the commitment is there. And it will snowball across the rest of the country,” Nelson said in an interview after the meeting on Saturday.
“The people were very clear they don’t want to sit back and allow these things to happen. There was a lot of anger expressed there today.”
The protesters in North Dakota believe the pipeline could harm drinking water and Native American cultural sites. Some Canadians have participated in the protests or have shown support through demonstrations in Canada.
Nelson said there are a number of Enbridge pumping stations that protesters could target. He said if crews can’t reach them, the pipeline has to be shut down.
Rail lines that carry bitumen could also be blocked, he said.
“If Enbridge is part of the killing of Dakota people down stateside, then they could become a target,” Nelson said.
“These are Dakota people. Those are our relatives in Standing Rock.”
Enbridge said late last month that it is not yet an owner of the pipeline system which includes the Dakota Access project, but that it is monitoring the situation in North Dakota. It noted its planned investment for a minority equity ownership does not include construction or management of the project.
Standing Rock Sioux tribal leader Dave Archambault said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has informed him that federal lands, including those where protesters have been camping, will be closed to public access Dec. 5 for “safety concerns.”
Nelson said Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak was also at Saturday’s meeting.
He said Saturday’s pipe ceremony on the highway was short and that RCMP were notified.