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  • Derek Nepinak

    Derek Nepinak | Photo: Facebook / Derek Nepinak

Expansions of an oil pipeline and a mining project into tribal lands will threaten important cultural heritage, the tribes said.

The Manitoba Chiefs in Canada are suing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government for approving the expansion of an oil pipeline that would run through tribal land and violate treaties to protect their harvesting, as another energy giant is seeking to expand a mining project on Hopi and Navajo land in Arizona.

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The grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Derek Nepinak, wrote on his Facebook Wednesday that their legal team will challenge the Line 3 pipeline expansion into the grasslands of Minnesota, which could threaten the cultivation of wild rice, a culturally and spiritually significant crop to the local tribes.

The pipeline is changing the route to protect communities that have become more developed since it was first built, reported Argus Media, but it could now “threaten downstream waterways and violate treaty rights to fish, hunt and gather crops," it wrote.

The extra 1,000 miles of pipeline would nearly double the volume of barrels transported, amounting from 19 to 26 extra megatons of greenhouse gas emissions a year, according to Enbridge, the Canadian energy company behind the pipeline. Protesters against the Dakota Access pipeline, which would run just south of Line 3, also made trips to Minnesota to oppose Enbridge there.

The project still awaits a permit from the U.S., which expects the environmental impact statement this spring.

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In Arizona, Peabody Energy is hoping to expand a mining project, which has the support of tribal leadership but not of other members, who are allying themselves with the Sierra Club and other environmentalists. The expansion will likely not be blocked, but the Hopi and Navajo members are demanding the company take further precautions to protect burial grounds and ruins, which it has a reputation of not properly respecting.

The groups, which also point to deteriorating air and water quality and exclusion from the decision-making process, brought Peabody Energy to court to force a Preservation Act study to uncover sacred and cultural sites on the mine’s path.

Activists against the Dakota Access pipeline are also continuing actions this week, with organizers from the Red Warrior Society, which changed its name from the Red Warrior Camp after they left the campgrounds, launching a tour on Wednesday across the U.S. to "create awareness of issues surrounding water protection in North Dakota by any means necessary."

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