On Jan. 22, members of the Karankawa nation and several hundred supporters gathered in front of a Bank of America location in Austin, Texas. Protesters spoke out against the planned expansion of an oil pier owned and operated by Canada-based oil giant Enbridge. The expansion would cross sacred Karankawa land at a Karankawa village site near Corpus Christi Bay in south Texas. Pipeline construction would also endanger sacred burial artifacts and have a disastrous effect on the sensitive and biodiverse wet marshes.
Chiara, a Karankawa organizer, gave an impassioned speech defending the environment of her people’s homeland and called out Bank of America for financing fossil fuel extraction. Bank of America invested $42 billion in fossil fuels in 2020 alone. Since the signing of the Paris Climate Accords in 2015, the world’s 60 largest banks have invested $3.8 trillion in fossil fuels.
In an Instagram video prior to the event, Chiara stated: “We are going to call for the cancellation of Enbridge on top of the Karankawa settlement. But since we are not the only Indigenous group that is affected by Enbridge, we’re also calling for more notice that this is happening to the Indigenous community. We’re asking people to stop with fossil fuels. … We are calling for Indigenous rights and sovereignty. We are calling for the restructuring of this awful system that we have going on right now where you are mining your spirit and the world of her ‘resources’ — to do what? To take away a part of our history?”
Enbridge has an abysmal track record on the environment. The company is notorious for its Line 3, which has spilled several times, most recently last year. On March 3, 1991, Line 3 ruptured and spilled 1.7 million gallons of oil into a wetland near Grand Rapids, Minnesota, which then spilled into the Prairie River. The pipeline was reconstructed in 2020, despite widespread protest from Indigenous tribes and supporters and despite pending appeals in court. In January 2021, Line 3 construction punctured an aquifer in northwestern Minnesota, unleashing an “uncontrolled flow of groundwater” that took Enbridge an entire year to fix.
U.S. police are playing a key role in defending dangerous fossil fuel extraction against Indigenous people. In Minnesota, Enbridge is effectively paying police to guard Line 3 and harass water protectors through a fund set up by the state’s Public Utilities Commission. “They’re pouring large sums of money into local sheriff’s departments, who can then tap the funds for any use that’s related to the pipelines,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer with the Center for Protest Law and Litigation. “It incentivizes them to take action against peaceful opponents of the pipeline.”
Despite the challenges, the Karankawa are fighting back. Recognition of Indigenous lands and solidarity with Indigenous peoples is indispensable to the fight against climate change and environmental destruction. Stand with the Karankawa against fossil fuel extraction! No Enbridge expansion! More info on the struggles and how to take action can be found at stopenbridge.com and karankawas.com.
Photo: Protesters hold signs at the Jan. 22 action in Austin, Texas. Liberation photo