Opinion editor’s note: The following commentary was submitted by Canadian First Nations Leaders. Their names are listed below.
To Minnesotans and our indigenous brothers and sisters to the south: We represent many of the First Nations along the Line 3 Replacement Project (L3RP) in Canada, including Blackfoot, Cree, Saulteaux, Dakota, Lakota, Nakota, Ojibwe and Anishinabe. We want to share what we experienced as L3RP was proposed and then built through our traditional and treaty lands.
For many of us, the decision to either oppose or find ways to influence and benefit from the project was not easy, but we did choose to engage with Enbridge. We worked with them and found ways to ensure environmental protections, and ways to secure tangible economic benefits and career development commitments for the indigenous people we represent. Enbridge listened and we believe this project has been a success for our people.
Many indigenous people participated in cultural surveys, cultural walks, held sweat lodges and various traditional ceremonies in accordance with each tribe’s customs and traditions. We helped shape significant environmental and water protection programs. In every instance, Enbridge worked hard to listen and understand. It wasn’t always easy for Enbridge, but they found a way to do the right thing.
These activities and many discussions culminated in a collaborative effort with Enbridge to make construction, route and workspace adjustments that ultimately protected our resources, lands and peoples. We also jointly set a new precedent of having indigenous people serve as monitors during construction to see firsthand that our resources were and will always be protected.
Each Nation along the project route was enriched in different ways. Over 1,100 of the jobs on the project were filled by indigenous people. Workforce development and job training programs brought new people into the construction trades, built capacity and provided lifelong career skills.
Enbridge addressed our concerns and supported our aspirations by investing in our people and working with us to improve our infrastructure and enhance social programs for our peoples. Over 300 million U.S. dollars were spent with First Nation and First Nation citizen-owned businesses. This economic stimulus benefited more than just the workers, it benefited the families and the Nations we represent.
We respect and honor your Nations. As tribal leaders, you must do what you know to be best. Nothing can or should change that. That said, we do want to share our experience and let you know that we were able to secure significant benefits and resources protection through difficult yet respectful talks with the company.
Enbridge’s door is always open and we know that the same holds true in the United States. As the construction of the project is largely concluded in Canada, we are now engaged with Enbridge in long-term operational relationship discussions and are very optimistic about what the future will hold for these opportunities.
While oil is a big part of maintaining the quality of our daily lives, our Nations and Enbridge are looking to the future and find ourselves engaged in innovative discussions around energy efficiency and renewable energy. You’re invited to visit our Nations to learn more about how we participate with and benefit from the industry and from our relationships with Enbridge. We are also committed to attend your tribal lands, by invitation, to personally share our experiences with Enbridge and L3RP.
This commentary was submitted on behalf of Chief Glenn Hudson, Peguis First Nation; Chief Ken Clamers, Birdtail Dakota Sioux Nation; Chief Nathan Pasap, White Bear First Nations; Chief Cadmus Delorme, Cowessess First Nation; Chief Todd Peigan, Pasqua First Nation; Robert Daniels, on behalf of Chief Watson, Mistawasis Nehiyawak First Nation; Chief Kenny Moccasin, Saulteau First Nation; Chief Brad Swiftwolfe, Moosomin First Nation; Lowa Beebe, Piikani First Nation; Guy Lonechild, CEO First Nations Power Authority.