Idle No More: Celebrating Defeats

West Coast Native News has reported on crude oil and toxic water spills for a lengthy time already.  From Imagenia Energy‘s 60,000 liter toxic water spill to Spyglass Resources Corporation‘s 500,000 liter toxic water spill, and countless others in between, the number of spills is shocking.  In fact, here’s a brief list of spills in Alberta (just one province) last month (October 2014).

Oct 03, 2014: Canadian Natural Resources Limited (11 Km East of Delia) – 10,000 litres of Crude oil
Oct 05, 2014: Nexen Energy ULC (2.5 Km SouthWest of Kinosis) – 5,800 litres of Toxic water
Oct 05, 2014: Cenovus Energy Inc (56 Km East of Brooks) – 9,800 litres of Toxic water
Oct 05, 2014: Nexen Energy ULC (41 Km SouthEast of Ft. McMurray) – 13,000 litres of Condensate
Oct 10, 2014: Husky Oil (30 Km SouthEast of Vermilion) – 50,000 litres of Crude oil and 25,000 litres of toxic water
Oct 13, 2014: Arc Resources (5 Km North of Redwater) – 150,000 litres of Toxic water
Oct 11, 2014: TAQA North Ltd (44 Km SouthWest of Spirit River) – 24,000 litres of Crude oil
Oct 14, 2014: Whitecap Resources Inc (37 Km NorthWest of Sexsmith) – 10,000 litres of Toxic water
Oct 15, 2014: Penn West Petroleum Ltd (14 Km SouthEast of Slave Lake) – 52,000 litres Crude oil
Oct 14, 2014: Zargon Oil & Gas Ltd (26 Km NorthWest of Vauxhall) – 8,000 litres of Toxic water
Oct 17, 2014: TAQA North Ltd (32 Km NorthWest of Rocky Mountain House) – 18,000 litres of Toxic water
Oct 21, 2014: Harvest Operations Corp (20 Km East of Galahad) – 200,000 litres of Toxic water

October Total: Over 625,000 Litres of crude oil and toxic water spills!

Imagine how much crude oil and toxic water spills will happen along the Keystone XL Pipeline trail.


This is why, when the Keystone XL Pipeline Bill was voted on in the U.S. Senate, many people were pleased to see it hadn’t passed.  For the Bill to pass, it would have needed 60 votes, and it didn’t meet that threshold.

Greg Grey Cloud, a member of the Crow Creek Tribe northwest of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, was in the gallery, and he broke out in song.  Had the Bill passed, the Keystone XL pipeline — and  $8 billion, 1,700-mile-long pipeline that would carry 800,000 barrels per day from the Alberta oil sands in Canada to the Gulf of Mexico coast in the U.S. — would have cut through land owned by the Crow Creek as well as other the lands of other Indigenous peoples.

The result of his joyous celebration at the defeat of the Bill was that he was detained in jail for five hours because he had disrupted the U.S. Senate.  He was released with a court date for December 10, 2014.

While some say this is abuse of power and some say that this is discrimination, the fact of the matter is that rules in place for those who are in the public gallery watching the U.S. Senate.  No food or drink is allowed.  Cameras and cellphones are not allowed.  Talking, clapping, or any other noises — including singing — are not allowed.

Five people were charged with Unlawful Conduct: Disruption of Congress.   The maximum penalty if found guilty of this charge is 6 months in jail and/or a $750 fine.

  • Gregory Grey Cloud of Yankton, South Dakota
  • Deirdra Shelly of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • Kayla Lang of Lynwood, Pennsylvania
  • Maria Langholz of St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Anthony Torres of East Islip, New York

While the penalty may not seem much of a hardship, and while there was reason to be pleased the Keystone XL Pipeline Bill did not pass, there are a few important points that are being overlooked.

The most important point is that, starting in January, the Republicans will be the majority in the U.S. Senate thanks to the election on November 4, 2014.  That means that they will undoubtedly meet the minimum threshold of 60 votes for the Keystone XL Pipeline Bill to pass.

Now whether you agree that settlers and colonials had the right to create their republic is immaterial.  They created a republic in what is now known as the United States of America.  Their laws are subject to review by the U.S. Supreme Court and can be changed through elections and constitutional amendments.  That is the law of America.

Indigenous peoples also have laws, and it is unconscionable that Indigenous laws are flouted by political and military leaders.  This erodes the respect that is due Indigenous peoples, culture, and heritage.

However, two wrongs do not make a right, and just because someone struck first doesn’t mean that striking back in similar fashion is the most effective way to address the wrongs visited upon Indigenous peoples.

As Irish author Laurence Sterne (24 November 1713 – 18 March 1768) wrote, “Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.”

While it’s a fact that Indigenous culture uses songs to express emotions, this would not have been a problem if the act had happened where this sort of free speech is allowed.  The problem is that it was an appropriate expression in an inappropriate place — the U.S. Senate public gallery.

Respect is one of the tenets of Indigenous culture.  Respect of self; respect of others.  If we are to expect others to respect our treaty rights and to respect our culture, we must show them respect as well.  This includes respecting the fact that there are codes of conduct for spectators in the U.S. Senate public gallery.

Let us not fall prey to bad behavior in our efforts to protect Turtle Island.

Elyse Bruce

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One Response to “Idle No More: Celebrating Defeats”

  1. Did She Even Read The Post? | Elyse Bruce Says:

    […] Idle No More: Celebrating Defeats […]


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