The $20 Billion Arctic Pipeline That Will Haunt Canada Forever

Pipeline construction. Photo: Sergey R
Pipeline construction. Photo: Sergey R
The vision came to Jonas Antoine during a drum session with the other men of the tribe. Jonas is not a medicine man, but it was a medicine dream, of the kind that visited his Dene ancestors. He was in the village of Wrigley in a remote section of Canada’s Northwest Territories, standing at the cliff on the edge of town, looking out over the massive river valley, and as he beat the hand-held drum and chanted with the men he saw something out on the horizon

By Brian Castner | MOTHERBOARD

“I saw skyscrapers rise out of the ground,” Antoine told me. “We’re drumming, drumming, and I saw them. In the distance, rising out of our beautiful mountains. And I thought, ‘This can’t happen here.’ I knew I had to stop it.”

Antoine is seventy-five years old, has traveled the world, seen skyscrapers in the cities of North America. But he had returned to his home to be close to the land, and in the medicine dream, his people’s traditional way of life suddenly felt threatened in an existential way.

“Our culture is the land. Take that away, we go away,” he said.

Sitting with Antoine at his home in the bush of the interior Arctic, this skyscraper portent would probably seem outrageous. Wrigley is a tiny hamlet of a hundred souls; stand on the bluff as Antoine did and look out on the Mackenzie River valley and you can see the curvature of the earth but not another sign of human habitation. Calgary, the closest city of at least a million people, is over 900 miles away.

And yet, Antoine’s fear is not completely misplaced, because the Mackenzie watershed does contain more than black spruce and caribou.

It also hides gas and oil, about 166 billion barrels of it, the third largest energy reserve in the world.

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