The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission has joined the growing chorus of official Native opposition to the transportation of mega-loads bearing equipment bound for the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, through Nez Perce and other tribal territories.
“The development, transportation, and use of Canada tar sands oil will have long-lasting negative effects and pose significant threats to the Columbia River Basin, its natural resources and the people who reside there,” states a resolution passed on August 23 on behalf of the commission treaty members affected by the mega-loads—the Umatilla, Yakama, Warm Springs and Nez Perce tribes.
Protests have been under way for three years against the practice of trucking humongous pieces of equipment and supplies, some as large as football fields, through the Nez Perce Reservation along the Clearwater Wild and Scenic Corridor of Route 12, a federally protected highway.
Last month 30 people were arrested, including Nez Perce Tribal Council President Silas Whitman as well as other council members, while protesting the midnight shipment of such a piece by the shipping company Omega Morgan. The company ignored U.S. Forest Service regulations to trundle a truckload through the reservation, just 50 feet from the Nez Perce creation site.
The football-field-sized chunks of equipment and supplies are being trucked from the U.S. West Coast to the oil sands that generate viscous crude known as bitumen. The crude represents one of the world’s largest oil deposits, and Canada’s Conservative government is anxious to extract it and sell it to the U.S., Asia and worldwide. It is the source of the oil that would gush through the 800,000-barrel-per-day Keystone XL pipeline, which is also under contention.
Part of the reason for the mega-load protest on the part of the Nez Perce was to express solidarity with northern aboriginals in Canada who are affected by Alberta oil sands development, Whitman said at the time.
The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission echoed those sentiments in passing the resolution.
“We will not sit idly by while our treaty reserved natural resources are put at risk or one of our member tribes is ignored,” said Paul Lumley, the commission’s executive director, in a September 6 statement from the group. “The U.S. Forest Service must uphold its mandatory duties to protect tribal rights and interests. The United States has a trust responsibility to ensure that proper analysis and consultation is completed before agency decisions regarding the resources in this basin are made. There are substantial cumulative impacts to the Columbia River Treaty Tribes and the Columbia River Basin that cannot be disregarded.”