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Protesters Move In Path of Pipeline

Darren Bernhardt

Red Pheasant Chief Sheldon Wuttunee was among the protesters, as Native leaders set up camp on the Enbridge Pipelines Inc. pipeline near Kerrobert to make it known they want a share in the construction and revenues. (Photograph by : Richard Marjan/The StarPhoenix)

KERROBERT, Saskatchewan - Led by two men on horseback, roughly 60 First Nations people carried placards and marched through Kerrobert on Monday as part of a demonstration over the construction of a 1,590-kilometre oil pipeline known as the "Alberta Clipper" through traditional Treaty 6 territory.

The protesters say they haven't been consulted and are demanding a share of the revenues.

"We want to put out a message that we've had enough, that we're going to stand together as Indian people to make sure we get our fair share of the resources that come from our traditional lands," said Red Pheasant First Nation Chief Sheldon Wuttunee, who led the procession through town wearing a ceremonial headdress.

The march concluded with a pass through the yard of the Kerrobert headquarters of Enbridge Pipelines Inc., the company behind the Alberta Clipper.

Construction will take place about 80 kilometres from the Red Pheasant reserve northeast of Saskatoon. Topsoil has been removed along several kilometres of land to prepare for trenching as the project edges closer.

Wuttunee and his band members, along with supporters from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) and First Nation bands in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C., set up a campsite Monday adjacent to the pipeline path just south of Luseland.

Four teepees have been erected, including one directly on top of the pipeline path.

"We're not out to tar and feather anybody. This is a peaceful demonstration seeking dialogue with the company and the government to make sure Indian people get their fair and equitable share," FSIN Chief Lawrence Joseph said during a press conference at the campsite prior to the march.

When the treaties were signed 134 years ago, the First Nations in Treaty 6 -- which spans Alberta, Saskatchewan and a portion of Manitoba -- allowed European settlement in return for certain guarantees from the government.

"We did not agree to live in poverty," said Joseph. "We want a piece of the action."

"We want what's rightfully ours as per treaty," added Wuttunee.

Other speakers seemed less concerned with revenues than with the environmental impacts of oil development. Chief Allan Paul of the Alexander First Nation, northwest of Edmonton near the Fort McMurray oilsands, said the water is becoming poisoned and causing deformities in fish and killing ducks.

The cancer rate has also spiked in his people.

"It has to stop somewhere," he said. "It hurts to see what is happening."

Joseph said there has to be a balance between economic development and the desecration of the earth. First Nations people are stewards of the land, protecting it for future generations, he said.

But at the same time, the resources "given to us by the Creator" must be mined to provide economic security, he said.

Enbridge spokesperson Gina Jordan said the company has had public consultations with 40 First Nations and Metis groups during the past two years and is "looking forward to continuing discussions with Red Pheasant and other First Nations. We want to make sure they have participation (in the pipeline project)."

She added several First Nations people are employed in the construction, contracting and security fields regarding the pipeline.

Senior management from Enbridge, Jordan said, are intending to meet with Wuttunee and other First Nations officials as soon as possible, but she did not know when that might happen.

Wuttunee has said the camp will remain set up "until we are dealt with."

According to Paul, the various pipelines that presently cut through Treaty 6 territory from Fort McMurray generate $65 billion in activity annually.

"And what are they going to give you? Nothing, not even a royalty. A few token jobs, maybe," said Chief Terrance Nelson of the Roseau River Anishinabe (Manitoba) First Nation.

"Good for you to stand up and say, 'Enough is enough. We own that land. We're sure as hell not going to give it up to everyone else.' "

Earlier this month, Wuttunee warned action was being considered to halt construction of the pipeline until First Nations feel their issues have been addressed.

It began Sunday east of Regina, where protesters representing Treaty 4 First Nations brought traffic on Highway 1 to a crawl and barricaded the road leading into the Waschuk Pipeline construction compound.


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