Anishinabe tribal members fear a possible pipeline expansion

By KBJR News 1

October 2, 2013 Updated Oct 2, 2013 at 9:32 AM CDT

Cloquet, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- This week a group of Anishinabe tribal members is riding horses along the area of the Enbridge "Alberta Clipper" oil pipeline to challenge the line and draw attention to Enbridge Energy's pipeline expansion proposal.

The group fears a possible approval of the pipeline expansion.

The Enbridge Energy "Alberta Clipper" pipeline expansion would make it the largest current tar sands pipeline in the United States.

Enbridge officials say the expansion would help them meet increased demand for crude oil.

However the Anishinabe riders are worried about potential oil spills into nearby waterways.

"Enbridge has already had over 800 spills, and the more pipelines they're going to put in the more spills they'll have," said Winona LaDuke, executive director of the 'Honor the Earth' organization.

"Clean your mess up first, and then let's talk about it," said Michael Dahl, one of the seven horseback riders.

'Honor the Earth', a national Native American environmental organization, is sponsoring the 230 mile horseback ride.

"It is actually a spiritual ride. We're praying," said LaDuke.

Praying, and carrying on a centuries old tradition of sharing their values.

"It means a lot to me, because like I'm the great great great great great granddaughter of Hole-In-The-Day. So it's kind of really special for me," said Skyla St. Clair, a young rider.

Hole-In-The-Day was a 19th century Ojibwe Chief, known for his diplomacy, who negotiated many early treaties.

Riders say if the pipeline expansion is approved, they fear for what may come.

"This is treating our natural resources as collateral damage," said Dahl.

The seven riders will travel more than 200 miles through their seven day trek, ending next to the main substation for the pipeline.

"The more tar sands oil you push through... tar sands has more friction, and it's more likely to break," said LaDuke.

The riders say they aren't as worried about the effects the pipeline may have on our generation, but on future generations.

"My grandkids, my great grandkids. What about them? What about their grandkids?" said Dahl.

Enbridge spokespeople say pipeline transportation is proven to be the safest method of oil transport.

The say the expansion proposal still needs to be approved, and that a series of hearings will follow.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is currently analyzing the plan.

Elsa Robins