Dec 3, 2013 - Umatilla Blockade to Halt Tar Sands Megaloads Continues Tonight

Umatilla Tribe grandmother at Megaloads Protest, Umatilla, OR from Trip Jennings on Vimeo.

This morning, members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) stood before tribal leadership and their legal counsel at a Board of Trustees meeting to implore them to take immediate and decisive action in stopping shipping company Omega Morgan from transporting megaloads of equipment through their tribal homelands. The equipment is to be used in the expansion of Alberta tar sands, including supplying oil for Keystone XL and other pipelines.

Members of the Four Columbia River Treaty Tribes, joined by chapters of Rising Tide and, successfully stopped a megaload from passing through Umatilla ceded territory last night. Another blockade is planned for tonight.

Kayla Godowa, a Warm Springs Tribal member and one of the organizers of the blockade spoke with Last Real Indians. She listed a number of reasons why the tar sands megaloads should be halted. “There have been no government to government consultations [on the transport of megaloads] between the state of Oregon, Tribes, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, as required by law,” says Ms. Godowa. Furthermore, “the highway passes right through Umatilla sacred gathering grounds, and forest conservation lands that are set aside for salmon restoration purposes.”

Of last night’s protest, Kayla says, “It was a ceremonial blockade with services from the longhouse. Prayer songs were sung while taking direct action.”

Protestors blocked megaloads from passage by placing their bodies in the way. Two were arrested and were being arraigned at the time this article was being written.

Kayla says the group hopes the Tribes will be able to secure an injunction against megaloads, fearing they could become a “potential permanent corridor [for such activity] for the next 20 years.”

There is also worry about division being caused because big oil interests are “throwing money at Tribes.” “They’ve hired three Umatilla Tribal members,” Kayla reports.

Umatilla Tribal member and organizer Shana Radford shares Kayla’s concerns. “Local affects are the lack of consultation and recognition of our treaty inherent rights while also ignoring the environmental repercussions and impact on taxpayer dollars for all of Oregonians. The impacts on our fish, our game and our first foods are at stake. These loads are ridiculously large, and we are all affected by the impacts of the Canadian tar sands. We have a responsibility and obligation to protect the lands, our homelands and the future of our people. They will keep coming and they won’t stop unless we can come together in solidarity and demand that these destructive materials aren’t allowed on or through our homelands without our permission.”

Shana would like other tribes to follow suit, and join the Nez Perce, Umatilla and others in stopping the passage of these megaloads and making them “think twice about tromping through our occupied territory.”

Besides prayer, Shana hopes that anyone who cannot be at the blockade tonight will spread word of their plight via social media, thereby helping them to garner more support and put pressure on tribal leadership to act quickly.

Cathy Sampson-Kruse, a Umatilla Tribal member and great grandmother, was present at this morning’s Board of Trustees meeting. She and others asked Tribal leadership to take an active role in stopping the tar sands megaloads. “We need the Tribe’s voice there…we have a sacred and moral obligation to uphold treaty rights.” Cathy left the meeting hopeful that leadership will take action. She realizes this blockade could help other Indigenous peoples as well. “I don’t like what [tar sands development] is doing to our First Nations relatives,” Cathy says.

Sources have reported that megaloads will be escorted by police tonight, but the group still plans to do whatever they can to block transport through their Tribal homelands and expect a larger turnout tonight than last night.

Shipments are only allowed to leave from 8pm-6am with their permits,” Shana states. “We are seeking drummers, singers, spirituals leaders and others to join in prayer with us tonight.”

Shana concluded by telling Last Real Indians, “It’s an important part of our tribal history and it’s time to rise up and take action against corporations who do not respect our ways and way of life. We have an obligation to our future generations and to our ancestors to protect our land, our treaty and our first foods- our livelihood depends on it.”

Supporting Tribal Documents:

Last Real Indians