Manitoba First Nation appeals to Chávez in pipeline fight

Terrance Nelson, chief of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation in Manitoba, has sent a letter to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez asking for a $1 million donation or loan to hire lawyers to force two energy companies to share revenues from new pipelines to be built through the band’s traditional territory. In the three-page letter, dated April 14, Nelson calls Chávez a “beacon of hope for poor and oppressed people everywhere” and asks him to turn an “international spotlight upon human rights violations against indigenous peoples currently taking place in Canada.”

The letter charges: “The Canadian government has ignored the law and steadfastly refused to enter into negotiations with First Nations on the issue of pipeline right of way access… The purpose of the $1 million is to help us finance legal action to ensure our First Nation is recognized for its legal right to be consulted, accommodated and to enjoy a reasonable share of benefits from this use of our lands and resources.”

Nelson said he was optimistic, given the subsidized heating oil deals Chávez has struck with Native communities in North America, now totaling nearly $1 billion for almost 40 tribes across the US.

TransCanada’s Keystone and Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper will each run pipelines through southern Manitoba on their way from Alberta to the US Midwest. Neither are to pass through the Roseau River reserve land, but Nelson asserts the lines will cross the band’s “traditional territory.”

The public appeal to Chávez is part of a larger campaign called “Wake Up America!” which Nelson hopes will persuade US citizens to support the First Nation in its fight over revenues from natural resources. (CBC, April 17)

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