Tags: Aboriginal engagement
Author: Northern Gateway
Dated: 22 June 2012
Representatives from the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) and Niagara Gas Transmission Limited (NGTL), an Enbridge company, gathered on June 22, 2012, to plant three sugar maple trees at the A'nowarako:wa Arena in Kawehno:ke (Cornwall Island, Akwesasne).
The trees, which symbolize “remembering the past,” “celebrating the present,” and “building a strong future,” were a gift from NGTL representatives, who presented them to MCA officials in January 2012 at a ceremony at which members of both parties were celebrating the cooperation and land use agreement they had jointly signed in 2009. The June 22 gathering marks the return of NGTL representatives to the Akwesasne community to actually plant the trees.
The growing positive relationship that the two groups have nurtured made the cooperation and land use agreement that they jointly signed possible. Under the agreement, NGTL paid a one-time infrastructure-related fee of $1 million to the MCA, and will pay annual payments of about $100,000 for the next 20 years for the use of Akwesasne land through which a NGTL pipeline travels.
The agreement represents a commitment by both parties to work together and build a stronger relationship based on cooperation and mutual respect. “Akwesasne has been engaged in a process to define and re-define its relationship with external agencies and governments that recognizes our jurisdiction and decision-making authority to determine how our lands will be utilized for the benefit of the Mohawks of Akwesasne,” said MCA Grand Chief Mike Kanentakeron Mitchell.
“I’m extremely proud of the relationship between the MCA and NGTL,” said NGTL President Lisa Lawler. “Through this agreement, we’re building a relationship that we can use as a model to demonstrate how working together in an open, transparent and respectful manner can achieve outcomes with mutual benefit.”
Both Mitchell and Lawler said the agreement between MCA and NGTL is the result of a decade of work. For nearly five decades, NGTL operated a pipeline that traversed through Cornwall and across Cornwall Island to New York State. Previously, a pipeline had crossed the north channel of the St. Lawrence River via a bridge owned by Federal Bridge Corporation Ltd. (FBCL), a government agency. When FBCL announced plans nearly a decade ago to replace the bridge, NGTL began exploring alternative crossing options. NGTL’s exploration led to negotiations with the MCA, starting in 2007.
“This relationship has become as strong as it has because people took the time to get to know one another. We demonstrated respect for each other and, at the end of the day, have built a true friendship,” said Peter Valiquet, Enbridge’s Manager, Work Management Centre Operations, who participated in the negotiations. “At Enbridge, we learned a lot about Mohawk culture. And the MCA and the community learned a lot about Enbridge and the pipeline.”
According to MCA Kanatakon District Chief Larry King added, “The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne hopes to build on the strong relationship that is beginning to take shape with NGTL—one based on a foundation of cooperation, mutual trust and respect and the agreement reflects that new relationship.”
In 2009, on the strength of this effort, the two groups signed the agreement. Two years later, the agreement paved the way for the installation of a new underground pipeline under the North Channel, using horizontal drilling technology.
To build the crossing, Enbridge and NGTL worked closely with the MCA’s Department of the Environment on a harmonized environmental assessment report, which incorporated traditional knowledge into project plans. Action items required by the report included removal of the abandoned pipe and the protection of culturally important trees during construction.
“We chose to give the MCA a gift of sugar maple trees because of the significance that they have amongst all trees, which represents the high value we place on our continuing relationship with the Akwesasne community,” said Lawler.
In the future, the agreement provides for an ongoing relationship between with the MCA and NGTL/ Enbridge that will contribute to long-term economic opportunities. As part of the agreement, NGTL has agreed to work with the MCA to conduct an economic development study on the merits of the MCA commissioning and operating a natural gas distribution enterprise in its community.
Kawehnoke District Chief Abram Benedict added, “We are pleased that the agreement contains provisions that will provide additional benefits and services to Akwesasne, such as exploring the distribution of natural gas to the community in the near future."
NGTL also plans to continue to invest in local initiatives, provide bursaries to local students and sponsor the community’s annual powwow.
“Our agreement is just one step in a long-term relationship,” said Lawler. “Today’s tree planting signifies that we are committed to the Akwesasne community and that we have strong roots here.”