“To members of the Blood Tribe, the Blood Tribe Chief and Council, all levels of government, the media, and the greater public;
My name is Elle-Máijá Apiniskim Tailfeathers and I am Blackfoot from Kainai or the Blood Reserve as well as Sámi from northern Norway. I am 26 years old and a recent University graduate. I am writing this statement with the intention to explain what led us to our actions on September 9, 2011.
On September 9, 2011, we gathered peacefully on the road leading to a newly built Murphy Oil well on the Blood Reserve. After nearly a year of doing everything in our power to stop hydraulic fracturing from occurring on our land, we felt that time was no longer on our side. With the imminent threat of hydraulic fracturing about to begin on Blood Tribe land, we decided that we had to act immediately. Over the last year, we have written letters and created petitions, we have tried to raise awareness both within our community and beyond including founding Kainai Earth Watch and the Protect Blood Land website, we have repeatedly contacted the Blood Tribe Chief and Council, Kainai Resources Incorporated, the gas and oil companies, the media, the Energy Resources Conservation Board, and various levels of government including Indian and Northern Affairs Canada but still our rights were violated. Countless times, we were told that this was a matter between members of the Blood Tribe and the Blood Tribe Chief and Council. But as members of the Blood Tribe, we were never asked whether or not we wanted these wells built in the first place. There was no referendum, no vote, and no transparent consultation process. If any objective body were to look at the facts, they would see that the actual people who live on this land were both ignored and lied to. The fact is that we are a marginalized population that has, once again, been exploited by those in power. We have been cast into a legal no man’s land and were left with few other recourses at that particular moment but to exercise our right as members of the Blood Tribe to peacefully gather on our land and demand justice. We were an unarmed group of people who numbered less than twelve at any given time. We remained on Blood Tribe land and did not step foot on the well site. We treated those working on the well along with the security personnel with respect. After being told by the law enforcement officers present that the Blood Tribe Chief and Council refused to meet with us, we were given no other option but to stand our ground and refuse that any of the Murphy Oil vehicles carrying these harmful chemicals be allowed to leave the well site and enter tribal land. At this point, Lois Frank, Jill Crop Eared Wolf, and myself were all arrested and handcuffed by the Blood Tribe Police while R.C.M.P. officers stood by. Just after 9 PM, we were all placed in a Blood Tribe holding cell and held without charge for approximately four hours. After we were charged with violating Section 423 (1)(G) of the criminal code for “intimidation”, we were not released until 7 AM the next morning. One of the conditions of our release is that we do not attend any gas or oil site on the Blood Reserve.
Recently, Canada endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We understand that this declaration is not legally binding, however if Canada wishes to recognize the rights set forth in the charter then it is clear that our rights as Indigenous peoples have been blatantly violated. In particular, Article 29 of the Declaration states that “(1) Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination. ?(2) States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent. ?(3) States shall also take effective measures to ensure, as needed, that programmes for monitoring, maintaining and restoring the health of indigenous peoples, as developed and implemented by the peoples affected by such materials, are duly implemented.”
I do not feel as though what we did was heroic. We were a handful of people, including a couple of children, who gathered for a common purpose; to prevent any further desecration of the land. For us, this place is more than just land; it is the place that has given life to our people since time immemorial. Our culture, our language, our identity comes from the land and it is to the land that we owe our very existence. This knowledge is something that our ancestors have passed on from the beginning; this land is our mother and we must always respect that. So when I say that I do not feel that what we did was heroic, I mean that we were just doing the right thing. It is important to understand our actions were not rooted in politics because this issue is more than just politics; it is about doing the right thing. I don’t think in any of our hearts, and I mean the collective “we”, that there is any denying what the right thing to do is. This earth is all we have. It is just that simple. Without it, there is no “us” and there is no “we”.
We, on the Blood Reserve, have reached a point where we need to set aside politics and family ties and look at the very real issue at hand. We are about to kill the one thing that has given us life since the very beginning. How can we look our children and grandchildren in the eye and say that we have let such a thing happen? We are nothing without this place. There is no simple solution to the greater social issues that come as a result of colonization. However, there is a simple solution to this one problem and that is just to do the right thing. Set aside your fears and protect what we have, the land, our mother.
I want to believe, more than anything, that those behind our arrest knew in their hearts that treating the earth this way is wrong. And I want to believe, more than anything, that their actions were motivated by fear; which may explain our criminal charges of “intimidation”. I look back on the last year and am still in disbelief that it came to this point. From the actual signing of the gas and oil agreement on the Blood Reserve to the arrest and imprisonment of three unarmed Blood Tribe women. It feels much like a bad dream but somehow this is our current reality.
I feel that there is no reason for us to have to explain ourselves and our actions but the current state of affairs forces us to do so. Lois Frank, Jill Crop Eared Wolf and myself are all members of the Blood Tribe. Each of us has a post-secondary education as well as an education in the ways of our people. We each have a deep love for our homeland and wish for our children and grandchildren to be able to love the land in the same way that our people have since the beginning.
Our court date has been set for September 19, 2011 at 10 am at the Provincial Court Building in Cardston, Alberta. We have legal council but are asking that anyone that is in the position to help, assist us with the funds needed for the necessary legal fees.
We would also like to gratefully acknowledge the overwhelming support that we have received worldwide throughout this whole ordeal.