Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Last Thursday night, twenty six year old Elle-Maija Tailfeathers drove to the Blood Indian Reserve in Alberta from Vancouver for the weekend to see family and friends. She left the Reserve six years ago to pursue her education and graduated earlier this year from the University of British Columbia.
Elle-Maija Tailfeathers and Lois Frank Before Arrest
She and her traveling companions arrived about 2 am in the morning.
While on the Reserve, last Friday, she and friends heard about the two grandmothers protesting the Murphy Oil Company - as she referred to them. The protest was to stop the exploration of oil on the Reserve. Tailfeathers and her party decided to go over to view what was happening.
"We drove out to the blockade. We found two grandmothers by themselves. It was a very small and peaceful demonstration. People are asking me if I got arrested on purpose. I did not intentionally go there to get arrested," Tailfeathers told the Native News Network during a telephone conversation from Vancouver on Wednesday afternoon.
By 9 pm, she was arrested for protesting along with two other Blood Tribe women. All three were charged with intimidation under the Canadian Criminal Code Section 423, subsection 1. (g).
"This has been a life-changing experience for me so far. Here I am a university graduate with no criminal background who volunteers at an Aboriginal Youth Center here in Vancouver, now I have to face having a criminal record," Tailfeathers said.
The Blood Tribe Council entered into an agreement with the Murphy Oil Company in September 2010 that allows for the oil company to begin exploration. Members of the tribe are upset that tribal council members did not bring the Murphy Oil Company's proposal to tribal membership for a vote prior to entering the agreement.
The agreement allows for hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, exploration site at Standoff. Fracking involves injecting a mixture of chemicals, water and sand into the ground to help release natural gas and oil. The company says it may undertake fracking if the drilling proves successful.
Many of the tribal members are concerned that the negative ramifications to the environment and the members' health.
“I think the Tribal Council sold us out to the oil company,”
said Lois Frank, a former professor at the University of Lethbridge where she taught criminal justice. Frank was one of the grandmothers, referenced by Tailfeathers.
"Apathy is our biggest adversary at this moment,"
"People think they just will not be heard by the Tribe."
The experience has been an awakening to Tailfeathers. She said people have tried for nine months to keep Murphy Oil from beginning the wells.
Calls and emails to Chief Charles Weasel Head, as well as to Murphy Oil Company for this story, by the Native News Network remained unanswered at the press time.
Tailfeathers also indicated many tribal members are afraid to voice their discontent because they or family members may want to work for the oil companies.
By the time the three Blood Tribe women were arrested. The crowd at its peak reached sixteen people.
The length last Friday night's incarceration of the three tribal women remains in dispute.
"They were in jail for a total of three hours. We are on a remote site and hear back from Calgary before we can let someone post bail," said the Blood Tribe' Chief of Police Lee Boyd.
The three women contend they were held overnight. "We got arrested at 9 pm on Friday night and were not released to 7 am the next morning. We have documents to that state the times on them," commented Tailfeathers.
The three women who were arrested will be tried at the Cardston, Alberta courthouse on Monday, September 19, 2011. One condition of their release on Saturday was that they agree to stay away from the protest site or face a fine of $1,500 and up to one-year in jail.
revised 4:52 pm edt; posted September 15, 2011 8:57 am edt
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