Tribe Blockades 'Megaload' of Tar Sands Equipment
Nez Perce leader: 'We need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land.'
Calling tar sands development a project of "total destruction," members of the Nez Perce tribe placed their bodies before a 'megaload' of extraction equipment for the second night in a row Tuesday, temporarily halting the convoy as it makes its way along Idaho's Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.
Roughly 50 protesters from the Nez Perce tribe, Idle No More, Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other environmental groups halted for over an hour the 255-foot long, two-lane-wide shipment—the bulk of which was a 322-ton water purification unit being pulled by a big rig.
The Spokesman-Review reports:
After gathering at a river access point a quarter mile from where the megaload truck stopped before dawn Tuesday, protesters began hiking westward along Highway 12 to a ramp where the roadway splits from Highway 95. At around 10:30 p.m., the Omega Morgan truck that had sat idle began to rumble to life, and a fleet of Nez Perce Tribal Police, County Sheriff, and Idaho State Police vehicles began moving toward a crowd of protesters blocking the roadway.
Law enforcement officers gave protesters 15 minutes to speak out unimpeded. At one point, tribal members were informed they were creating a public nuisance by officers. To which one protester responded, 'We’re protecting our sovereignty.'
In an action the previous evening, a group over 250 activists linked arms in a human chain across the roadway, successfully holding up the parade of vehicles for three hours. According to Wild Idaho Rising Tide, the blockade was the longest lasting "since the first tar sands extraction modules rolled from Lewiston area ports on February 1, 2011."
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The blockade broke after a police car drove straight through the group of people, Earth First! Newswire reports. "Police used the usual tactics to break up the blockade, threatening people with mace, pushing activists, separating parents from children, and so on," they add.
Nineteen individuals, including all members of the Nez Perce executive committee, were arrested Monday evening and released on bail Tuesday.
One of those arrested, Tribal Council member and Vice-Chair of the Nez Perce Nation (Nimiipuu Nation), Brooklyn Baptiste, told indigenous independent media site Last Real Indians that the action was taken because of tribal opposition to the economic and long-term environmental impact of the shipments—namely the development of tar sands oil which he described as "total destruction."
"As leaders, elected or not, we need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land. This is about our inherent sovereignty. We are sovereign because of this land, this water, the animals. What is sovereignty without them? We’re all waking up."
According to Reuters, the load is one of two planned shipments by Oregon hauling company Omega Morgan.
A video of Monday's blockade shows protesters chanting and banging drums in a face-off with police and the 'megaload.'