Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

July 17, 2011

Oil Spill into Cutbank River, Blackfeet Nation Montana

Photo copyright Destini Vaile
Congratulations to Destini Vaile, Blackfeet, who investigated and shared this with Censored News on Sunday. Now, the mainstream media is trying to play down the oil spill.


Article and photo copyright Destini Vaile, Blackfeet, and Reed Perry
Censored News
July 16, 2011

BLACKFEET INDIAN NATION-- A break in an oil collection pipeline on the eastern prairie of the Blackfeet Indian Nation, approximately 5 miles from the town of Cutbank, has led to a flood of crude that has been flowing approximately one mile over land and into the Cutbank River. Blackfeet Nation officials received word of the spill on Tuesday, but it remains unclear when, or why the pipeline, which is managed by FX Drilling, actually began leaking oil.

Photo copyright Destini Vaile
Blackfeet officials confirmed that oil was spotted in the river at least two weeks ago by a kayaker who reported the incident to 911. According to a preliminary investigation by the Blackfoot Environmental Department, FX Drilling attempted to fix the pipeline after the 911 call, but left the break unmended for over a week, claiming they were unable to access the site. Also according to the investigation, FX failed to initiate cleanup on the site after fixing the pipeline. On Wednesday, nearly three weeks after the initial discovery of the spill, absorbent booms were finally placed by Indian Country Environmental Associates (ICEA) on the shore of the Cutbank where the oil merges with the river. ICEA is a company contracted by the tribe to handle cleanup of oil spills on the Blackfeet Nation.

FX Drilling Corporation has claimed that the leak released "two barrels" of oil, or 84 gallons. However, officials with the Blackfeet Environmental Department have estimated the spill to be "several thousand gallons." The volume of oil observed at the site was large enough to seep through a wheat field and down a coulee for approximately one mile where it entered the Cutbank River. It is the second significant release of oil into Montana rivers during the last month.
Photo copyright Destini Vaile
Several questions plague the incident, not the least is FX Drilling's handling of the spillage. Their failure to disclose the event to the press, community, or Tribal authorities has caused suspicion that their conduct was not merely negligent, but indicative of a coverup. According to Mary Clare Weatherwax, an official at the Blackfeet Environmental Department, "There was definitely a lack of communication that would have allowed a proper response." Weatherwax was also concerned that a wetland in the path of the spill had absorbed much of the oil as it traveled downhill.

The authors of this article are Destini Vaile, a writer and member of the Blackfeet Tribe, and Reed Perry, a Montana Ecologist. They became aware of the spill via rumor of a serious accident on the Blackfeet Nation. On Friday, the two traveled to the source of the leak on the edge of a wheat field and began measuring the dimensions of the contamination. They obtained soil and water samples from the shore of the river that are now awaiting analysis at the Blackfeet Community Water Lab.)

Dr. Robert Lame Bull McDonald, M.D., Blackfeet Warbonnet Society, said, "It is a good time to ask ourselves if extracting oil from the heart of our mother earth is in the best interest of the Pikuni Peigan Bloods and the Siksika and all of our relatives both two legged and four as well as the soyatopi underwater spirits.
"Its a good time to ask the tribal council to address the issue of the Blackfeet Nation getting taken advantage of by the oil companies. If we sell any oil at all, We should be getting way more than $2/barrel when today's crude oil price is listed at over $94/barrel.
"If they upset the underwater spirits and threaten the balance of our nations ecosystem, there is no price that we should accept from the oil barons. There is no price that can be paid that would allow me to accept the destruction of our sacred circle of life. The Medicine Wheel can not be destroyed on our sacred land by oil barons. We should escort them and all their workers off the rez immediately and bring in the Crazy Dogs to keep them away from our homelands."

Copyright Censored News: This article may not be reposted or published without permission of the author and photographer. Please share the link.

In the news:
Spill went unreported for a month:​11/07/19/new-mont-spill-we​nt-unreported-for-a-month

Great Falls Tribune story, with Destini's photos: http://www.greatfallstribu​​WS01/107190301/Oil-pipelin​e-leaks-15-20-barrels-near​-Cut-Bank-Creek


Unknown said...

Fine the CEO and Board of Directors for the Clean UP and payment to the tribe and area. Or perhaps the Chinese Management Model is necessary. Public Execution. The Chinese Management Model certainly seems to work, they loan money, American borrows money. aho

Long John said...

Just another example of the Environmental Racism we have to put up with. My band (Prairie Island, MN) has to live next to several thousand tons of spend nuclear reactor fuel rods and no White Community in America has to live anywhere that close to nuclear waste in these amounts.

A MAJOR oil spill on an Indian Reservation and society just yawns and moves on as if it's no big deal since no White farmers or fishermen are harmed