- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

A delegation from Canadian Indian tribes on Thursday used a traditional visit to the District to urge President-elect Barack Obama to pressure Canada to share its oil revenues with the resource’s “rightful owners.”

“President-elect Obama must apply international pressure on Canada, the largest supplier of crude oil to the U.S., and its failure to share resource wealth with the indigenous communities from which the oil is extracted,” said Terrance Nelson, a spokesman for the National Assembly of First Nations, which represents 633 Canadian First Nations.

Chief Nelson, speaking at the National Press Club, also said the oil industry and the Canadian government are making billions of dollars off oil pipelines “but they don’t offer us a dime as the rightful owners of the lands.”

“In one of the world’s richest nations, we are living in Third World conditions,” he added.

A Canadian government official said the dispute is between Canadian Indian groups and the Canadian energy industry.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 84 percent of exported Canadian oil goes to the United States. In September, Canada supplied 2.36 millions barrel a day to the U.S. market, far more than the 1.4 million barrels a day provided by Saudi Arabia, the second largest petroleum exporter to the U.S.

Two pipelines under construction should provide an additional 1.9 million barrels of oil to the United States.

“We want to raise American awareness that this is not a Canadian domestic issue but a homeland security issue for the U.S.,” said Chief Glenn Hudson, of the Peguis First Nation. “A disruption of Canadian oil supply would have a devastating impact on the U.S. economy.”

In September, two blockades organized by First Nations in the province of Saskatchewan halted the construction of the pipelines.

“We don’t want to act as terrorists, but desperate times call for desperate measures” said Sheldon Wuttunee, one of the two chiefs who coordinated the action in Saskatchewan. “We don’t want to stop the export of oil; we don’t want the white men’s money; we just want a share of our own wealth.”

Earlier Thursday, the delegation formed a procession in Upper Senate Park. Wearing traditional regalia and headdresses, they performed a ceremony in Mr. Obama’s honor.

“What this new president brings is hope for a better future, including for us,” Chief Hudson said.

Chief Nelson also praised Mr. Obama for appointing seven American Indians in his transition team.

The delegation could not meet with Mr. Obama but sent a statement and a video documentary to his transition team. The delegation met with American Indians on the transition team.

It was the first time Canadian tribes came to the District to attempt to meet a president-elect - following the centuries-long tradition of delegations of American Indians traveling to the District to meet the chief of state.

“Americans have made a courageous move in supporting change by electing the first African-American to be president of the United States,” Chief Hudson said. “We want that change to come all the way to Canada.”

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