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Environment & Climate Change

Indigenous communities demand seat at international Line 5 negotiations

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Courtesy: Whitney Gravelle
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As Michigan tries to use courts to shut down Line 5 in the Straits, Canada invoked a 1977 treaty this week to keep the pipeline open.

Whitney Gravelle is the chair of the Bay Mills Indian Community in the Eastern U.P.

“We want to be at the table. We are prepared to educate individuals about what our treaty rights mean, and it’s important that they hear from the people that a Line 5 spill would have a catastrophic impact.”

Gravelle says there’s another treaty that should take precedence — signed more than a century earlier. Gravelle is the chairperson and former attorney for the Bay Mills Indian Community.

She says the U.S. and Michigan have treaty obligations dating back to the 1800s to protect water and fishing rights for Michigan’s native communities, and pumping oil in the Straits jeopardizes those rights.

“If a resource that a treaty right depends upon is destroyed, you almost have a causal chain effect where the treaty right was violated, the resource was destroyed, and then the way of life — the very existence of Indigenous people — is also then destroyed.”

Neither the U.S. state department nor Canada’s foreign ministry immediately responded to questions about whether tribes will be invited to treaty negotiations.

Editor's note: Enbridge Energy is a financial sponsor of Michigan Radio.

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