Nez Perce Tribal Council Members Arrested Blocking Tarsands Oil Shipment
The digisphere is abuzz with reports of elected Tribal officials taking to the streets to take direct action to block the road (highway 12 in Nez Perce Country), disallowing the passage of a massive “Mega-Load” of equipment destined for Alberta Tarsands Oil development (a most vile form of energy extraction).
LRI gives you an inside look at the happenings through the eyes of Brooklyn Baptiste (Nimiipuu Nation), a long-time Tribal Council member, Chairman, Vice-Chair of the Nez Perce Nation and leader of various trades who was arrested 48 hours ago along with fellow Tribal Council members.
[LRI] So Brooks (Councilman Baptiste), can you tell me what happened that day?
[Councilman Baptiste] Yes, we were all in frenzy because we had heard about the permit to pass through highway 12, which runs through territory we ceded to the U.S. while maintaining usufructuary rights (hunting, fishing, water, etc). Now this was on a Sunday, so we all called an emergency meeting of the 9 Council members to discuss the situation. Turns out the State Court in Idaho had granted or recognized the authority of the United States Forest Service to weigh in on whether or not the State of Idaho should or should not issue the permit to move this MegaLoad through our country. Well, the USFS stated that the Nez Perce government had not been consulted (as they are required to do on all highways in our ceded territory) and that they could not support approval of the permit. We (Nez Perce) agree with this statement and even assert that it should be elevated to requiring our Free Prior and Informed Consent according to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Anyhow, the Forest Service said no. The State of Idaho didn’t care, and issued the permit anyway. That left us with limited time, limited options. They backed us into a corner. We all agreed that forming a blockade was a reasonable thing to do.
[LRI] How many people were at the blockade? Were the arrests peaceful?
[Councilman Baptiste] There were at least 150 people there, including spiritual leaders, youth, regional activists, and environmental advocates- and 8 of our 9 council members. It was powerful. We Council members all got arrested by our own cops; actually I was arrested by my 1st cousin! But we are not above the law and we felt the State of Idaho, the Federal Gov., the President of the USA, and anyone who would listen should know that we cannot allow these governments to disrespect us like this. We were not consulted, we did not give consent; these MegaLoads are humongous. They block all traffic, they create adverse economic impacts for us, long term environmental impacts, and safety issues. Additionally, we do not support Tarsands Oil development; we (Nez Perce Tribal Council) have a resolution in place supporting our 1st Nations relatives on the other side of this colonial border who are suffering because of Tarsands Oil extraction. It’s total destruction. We all felt we had to take a stand; they need to listen. Something has to change. We all got charged with disorderly conduct but that direct action is effective. Just think if everyone did that when it was time. As leaders, elected or not, we need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land. This is about our inherent sovereignty. We are sovereign because of this land, this water, the animals. What is sovereignty without them? We’re all waking up.