TRIBAL LAWSUIT EXPANDS IN ALBERTA CLIPPER PIPELINE CASE
IS ENBRIDGE IGNORING ‘HUGE’ FINANCIAL RISK
Contact Information: Marty Cobenais
Indigenous Environmental Network
(218) 760-0284 (cell)
On Thursday, October 8, 2009, Leech Lake Tribal Members known as IN ZHA WEN DUN AKI, leading the resistance against the Alberta Clipper and Southern Diluents Pipelines, filed a motion in Leech Lake Tribal Court to include the Leech Lake Reservation Business Committee (RBC) and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.
We believe this will go before tribal court with the next month. “We believe at that time the Leech Lake Tribal Court will rule against all the named parties, recognizing that a grave injustice has been done and allow the valid petitions and a referendum vote to be admitted," said Marty Cobenais, Indigenous Environmental Network's Pipeline Organizer.
Should the court agree with the plaintiffs, Enbridge will have to stop construction of the entire route, as the FEIS, PUC ruling, and the Presidential Permit would no longer be valid. It would have to remove any new pipes within the Leech Lake Reservation boundaries that were placed in the ground at their own cost.
“Enbridge arrogantly believes that their money and legal power will allow them to bypass the tribe's sovereignty; but they are taking a huge financial risk by continuing to work within the boundaries of the reservation at this time, as the lawsuit was started and was heard in the Leech Lake Tribal Court prior to the starting of construction of the pipelines," Cobenais continued.
The tribal members are still opposing the construction of the Alberta Clipper and Southern Diluent pipelines that are currently being constructed within the boundaries of the Leech Lake Reservation. According to the Treaty of 1855, that formed the Leech Lake Reservation, and as defined by the U.S. Congress “Indian Country” runs from boundary to boundary regardless of who actually owns the land.
Background: On September 18, 2009, the Leech Lake RBC denied to certify the 693 signatures on petitions that sought for the Leech Lake RBC to rescind and a second petition calling for a referendum vote to be allowed for the Leech Lake tribal members to decide on Resolution 2009-170. The resolution that was enacted on May 14, 2009, is the agreement between the Leech Lake RBC and Enbridge Energy L.P. that allows the two pipelines to be built and a right-of-way extension of the 4 current pipelines for another 20 years. The oldest of these pipes were put in the ground in 1949, which have laid on the bottom of Cass Lake for 60 years.
The RBC vote was split with two members voting for the denial of the petitions, and two other members abstaining from voting on the matter. District One Representative Robbie Howe stated in the meeting “I don’t know what the findings are, and I didn’t get a copy of the petitions."
Leech Lake District 3 Representative Eugene “Ribs” Whitebird made the motion to deny the certification of the petitions, seconded by District 2 Representative Lyman Losh. Their decision was based on a memo, dated September 17, 2009, from Nancy Whitebird, Enrollment Department Coordinator, and aunt to Eugene Whitebird. In Ms. Whitebird’s review of the 2 petitions she cited 15 irregularities; the majority of them were arbitrary in nature and were contrary to the MCT Constitution residency requirement. According to the MCT Constitution, the requirements for a valid petition are eligible voting tribal membership and residency within the boundaries of the Leech Lake Reservation.
The tribal members dispute the findings of the Leech Lake RBC and the certification process. They discovered during this process that there are no policies or procedures in the MCT Constitution that outlines how the referendum petition is suppose to work. There are rules and guidelines for a recall petition for the removal of a tribal official, but they didn’t apply to this situation.
The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe is comprised of 6 tribal governments that include the following northern Minnesota reservations: Leech Lake, Bois Forte, Mille Lacs, White Earth, Grand Portage, and Fond-du-Lac. All of these reservations are currently required to follow the Constitution and By-laws of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.