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Ojibwe Nations Struggle to Protect Wild Rice from Oil Extraction Activities in the US and Canada

Mines, pipelines, and mega waterway projects threaten Indigenous identity of wild rice cultivation. Ojibwe nations struggle to protect their cultural heritage for 150 years.


The Ojibwe are one of the largest American Indian groups in North America. There are nearly 150 different bands of Ojibwe Indians living throughout their original home land in the northern United States (especially Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan) and southern Canada (especially Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan) [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Ojibwe Nations Struggle to Protect Wild Rice from Oil Extraction Activities in the US and Canada
Country:United States of America
State or province:Great Lakes Region
Location of conflict:US: Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan; Canada: Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

There are several oil, pipeline and mega waterway project constructions involved in this regional conflict about wild rice cultivation tradition of the Ojibwe Tribal in both the US and Canada:

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project4,000,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:01/01/2013
Company names or state enterprises:Enbridge Inc from Canada
Gogebic Taconite LLC (GTac) from United States of America
Back Forty Mine from United States of America
Parks Canada from Canada
Relevant government actors:Government of Canada, the US government
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-Chppeva Ojibwe Tribal Wild Rice Task Force
-Clean Wisconsin - concerned about the potential mine. It encourages a thorough environmental analysis before further development in the permitting process. This mine could have harmful effects on the wildlife, forests, soils and waterways in the area
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Oil spills, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Land demarcation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:One of the alternatives was to conduct an independent environmental impact of these large scale mega projects threatening wild rice cultivation in the area. However, no official alternative was offered by both the governments in the US and Canada. Ojibwe tribes continue to cultivate the wild rice in the region for centuries now as a resistance to the mega development projects: mining, pipelines, waterways - a very destructive environmental tendencies.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Although one of the proposed project - the Gogebic Taconite's plan to build a $1.5 billion iron-ore mine was cancelled due to independent environmental study, the resistance to protect culture and nature through wild rice cultivation continues for the Ojibwe tribes, since the conflict goes back in early 19 century with the construction of the Trent–Severn Waterway by the Canadian government and persists until today.
Sources & Materials

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[2] Enbridge Inc. Pipeline 5.
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[3] Clean Wisconsin 2013: Gogebic Taconite Mine
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[4] Chppeva Ojibwe Tribal Wild Rice Task Force Report 2018
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[5] Back Forty Mine
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[6] Wikipedia: Trent–Severn Waterway
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[7] John Enger (2015): Explaining Minnesota's 1837, 1854 and 1855 Ojibwe treaties
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Heide Brandes 2019: “Like Gold to Us”: Native American Nations Struggle to Protect Wild Rice
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Ksenija Hanaček ICTA-UAB
Last update08/10/2019
Conflict ID:4757
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