Three Arrests in Latest Blockade of Tar Sands Equipment

The equipment has been blocked in Oregon, Idaho, and Montana—in each case by an alliance between Native Americans and environmental groups.

The last of three massive shipments of equipment used in the process of mining tar sands ran into opposition in Montana on March 14 as it rolled through Missoula on its way to Canada. Around 80 people performed a traditional Native American round dance on the street, stopping the shipment for about 20 minutes. After police issued a final warning, three women were arrested when they refused to leave the street.

The three loads have met resistance along the entire route.

Participating groups included Indian Peoples' Action, Northern Rockies Rising Tide, and the Blue Skies Campaign—highlighting the ongoing alliance between Native American tribes and environmental organizations in resisting the passage of the megaloads.

It's not the first time that shipments of tar sands equipment have been temporarily stopped. During the summer, Idaho Rivers United, Friends of the Clearwater, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide helped the Nez Perce tribe blockade the passage of megaloads across the tribe's reservation in western Idaho. They subsequently won a federal injunction blocking the shipping of megaloads via Highway 12 in that state.

In December, the hauling company Omega Morgan began the first of three planned megaload shipments through eastern Oregon. The Confederated Tribes of Umatilla along with Portland Rising Tide and other local environmental groups came together to protest the loads.

The three loads have met resistance along the entire route, from Oregon, through southern Idaho, and now in Montana.

In a press release, Northern Rockies Rising Tide echoed the sentiments of others fighting tar sands extraction:

For the protestors and organizers at the action, the megaloads represent a critical piece of the tar sands industry, and they vowed to confront any future shipments. Drawing connections to the construction of Keystone XL, proposed tar sands development in the U.S. and a continued disregard for indigenous sovereignty, the message at the action was expansive, but very clear – that until the tar sands are shut down people will continue to put their bodies on the line.

It's inspiring to see indigenous people and environmental activists uniting and supporting each other across borders and across issues.