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Houska: Youth Protest Sec. John Kerry's 'Shady Deal' for Tar Sands Oil

On Tuesday, Native American youth and several organizations gathered in Washington, D.C. to protest the expansion of the Alberta Clipper pipeline.
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On Tuesday, a number of environmental organizations and a delegation of Native American youth gathered in Washington, D.C. to protest the expansion of the Alberta Clipper pipeline. Midwest Unrest, a coalition of young people from across the Midwest, traveled to the steps of Secretary of State John Kerry’s front door.

In an agreement that activists call a “backdoor deal,” pressure will be greatly increased in the existing Alberta Clipper pipeline to send more oil through – 800,000 barrels per day. The line currently sends 440,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta, Canada, through North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

A group of protesters stand outside Secretary of State John Kerry's home before the arrests started. The group was protesting the Alberta Clipper pipeline. Photo courtesy Energy Action

The proposed increase equals the output of the controversial Keystone XL project, but the Alberta Clipper will be doing it without any environmental review.

By increasing pressure (and increasing strain) to an existing line that intersects the US-Canadian border, additional environmental oversight and a presidential permit are bypassed. The State Department approved Enbridge’s plan in August 2014.

For over two years, numerous protests, petitions, and outreach to the White House and the State Department have not led to any action regarding the Alberta Clipper line. A coalition of tribal and environmental organizations have sued the State Department for approving the project, and this week, concerned youth took their cause to Secretary of State John Kerry’s personal residence.

With linked arms and songs, as many as 100 young people occupied the sidewalk in front of Kerry’s home in Georgetown. Javier Yanez, Ojibwe, is a 16-year-old involved who took his first plane ride to protect what he views is a threat to preserving traditions and culture.

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“We need blood to live, Mother Nature needs water to live,” Yanez told ICTMN. “[Secretary] Kerry doesn’t see what’s happening to the earth and the damage these pipelines cause.”

Yanez and several other Native youth traveled to the Nation’s Capitol on behalf of Wiconí Wasté, a youth program run by the Little Earth of United Tribes, Inc.

Enbridge is responsible for more than 800 tar sands spills and the worst onshore spill in U.S. history. In 2010, 843,000 gallons of tar sands oil burst into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Cleanup for the spill is ongoing.

The Alberta Clipper project passes through Minnesota, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” and home to the Mississippi River headwaters. The route ends on the shores of Lake Superior, one of the largest freshwater lakes on the planet.

Charlie Thayer, Ojibwe, spoke on behalf of Honor the Earth: “[W]e are requesting that Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken hear our voices. We have been silenced throughout the process – the decision to grant a certificate of need to Enbridge and streamline dirty oil without further consultation with Anishinaabeg people is blatantly disrespectful to tribal nations.”

Thayer was arrested after a few hours of peaceful protest and quickly released. “We respectfully ask that our representatives stand in unity with us in our continued fight for the water of Minnesota. We will not sit back as Secretary Kerry conducts shady deals at the expense of our future.”

Tara Houska. Photo courtesy Josh Daniels.

Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation) is a tribal rights attorney in Washington, D.C., a founding member of, and an all-around rabble rouser. Follow her: @zhaabowekwe.