Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/1/2009 (4634 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Indications are the money, which the Dakota bands received late last year, is an extension of a memorandum of understanding signed between the Dakotas and Enbridge in 2007.
"I can confirm we provided $500,000 for investment in their communities," said Anne McIntosh, Enbridge manager of communications and stakeholder relations for major projects. "It was really provided not too long before Christmas."
The goodwill gesture has already gone to good use, says Birdtail Sioux First Nation Chief Ken Chalmers, who said his people’s share of the money has gone toward the construction of a new general store and gas bar.
"We just poured the cement before the holidays," Chalmers said.
"It’s great big store, which will give my people the benefits of cheaper food and groceries."
Though Birdtail had its own store — which has already been demolished in anticipation of the new structure — residents had to do most of their grocery shopping in Birtle and Miniota, an expensive proposition for those who live within a low-income scale.
Shipping product to these communities is not cheap, and the reserve has a break on taxes when goods are ordered in.
Chalmers estimates his community will be able to save between 20 and 30 per cent on the cost of buying food.
"A lot of people are on social assistance," Chalmers said. "This way, they can stretch their meagre dollars."
The Dakota are one of five aboriginal peoples across the western provinces that are negotiating with Enbridge for employment and training opportunities, as well as community investment funding.
In 2006, Enbridge announced the construction of two major oil pipeline expansion projects in Manitoba: the Southern Lights project which began construction in 2008, and the Alberta Clipper project which is slated to begin this year.
The Dakota at first sought intervenor status on the company’s expansion projects with the National Energy Board. As non-treaty bands, the chiefs claimed their people never ceded control over their territory, and as a result want to be consulted regarding the use of the province’s natural resources.
When Enbridge decided to sit down with the Dakota and negotiate, the five chiefs withdrew their application at the NEB and eventually signed the MOU.
That agreement may become a formalized contract in the near future if negotiations continue.
The company completed safety training courses on the five Dakota reserves last summer — including the Dakota Tipi, Dakota Plains, Canupawakpa Dakota, Sioux Valley Dakota and Birdtail Sioux Dakota First Nations — though most of the contracts for the Southern Lights project had already been filled.
Chalmers is hopeful that many more Dakota members will benefit with employment from the Alberta Clipper project, shortly underway.
"The Dakota nations are in at the ground floor providing services and training with heavy equipment," Chalmers said. "This means people getting their drivers licenses, and heavy equipment certificates."
Not all the Dakota chiefs see the benefit of continued negotiations with Enbridge, however. Canupawakpa Chief Frank Brown says Enbridge has not come through as they promised.
"The MOU we signed is all broken," Brown said. "We’re thinking of terminating our discussion with Enbridge."
Brown confirmed that the company gave Canupawakpa $100,000 last December, but said it was only half of what was originally agreed upon in the MOU.
"The original agreement is $1 million."
The training some of his band members received didn’t result in steady jobs, Brown says, as the contractors hire union people for employment.
"You have to be part of the union to work there. All these people that have took that training they can’t work it."
While Chalmers — who has been taking the lead during negotiations with Enbridge — may find benefits for Birdtail, Brown fears that Canupawakpa and the other three Dakota bands will be left in the dark.
"We’re getting no information," Brown said. "The other Dakota are standing behind me too. We’re all in the dark. We all got fooled the same. We all got lied to the same."
If he does pull out of negotiations with Enbridge, Brown says his band will keep Enbridge’s money, which the chief said went to pay some of the reserve’s bills.
But Chalmers hopes the other chiefs will remain patient, and keep trying to work things out with Enbridge. Not only has the company promised to secure a high level meeting between Canada and the Dakota, it has pledged to help pay for the employment of reserve teachers who speak the Dakota-Sioux language.
"I know (our people) were frustrated in the past. I knew at the 11th hour we were only going to get a few people in there. This one is different. My expectations are really high. They always have been.
"We don’t want the future to be full of blockades. We want to move ahead here. My people are tired of this."
The other three Dakota chiefs could not be reached in time for comment.
--The Brandon Sun