Indigenous Pipeline Resistance in Solar Panels, Tiny Houses

November 6, 2017

Solar XL is a wave of renewable energy resistance that’s building solar arrays directly in the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline – putting clean energy solutions in the path of the problem.

The project was launched by Bold Nebraska,, Indigenous Environmental Network, CREDO, and Oil Change International.

This 8-minute film shares the stories of the people and vision behind Solar XL. This is bigger than one pipeline. It’s about resisting with clean energy solutions that support communities and protect our climate.


Kinder Morgan is not a household name, but it is one of the largest energy transportation companies in North America. According to its website, it owns “an interest in or operate approximately 84,000 miles of pipelines and 155 terminals.” The company is planning to build what it calls the Trans Mountain pipeline to carry crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to an ocean terminal in Vancouver. But the proposed pipeline crosses more than 300 miles of land claimed as tribal lands by the Secwepemc Nation in British Columbia and the indigenous people aren’t about to let that happen without a fight.


Their weapon of choice? A solar powered tiny house community strategically located along the proposed route of the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline. The resistance is being led by Kanahus Manuel, founder of the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society. She says each tiny house is a symbol of sustainability. She lived in such a house for three months in 2016 as part of the Standing Rock protest and asked the person who designed that structure to create plans for the small homes that will be set in place along the Trans Mountain pipeline route.

Each tiny house will have space for about 5 people. They are constructed of wood with sustainable insulation. A small wood stove will be used for heat and the preparation of meals. The structures are mounted on 18-foot long trailers so they can be transported to where they are needed most as the battle with Kinder Morgan progresses. Composting toilets will be constructed outside each unit.

The group calls itself the Tiny House Warriors. Their goal is not only to block the pipeline — which they say will endanger the land they consider part of their ancestral home and the water that flows through it — but also to help alleviate a tribal housing crisis and provide places to run language camps, teach traditional birthing practices and teach traditional tattooing techniques.

Unlike the United States, where protesters with a social conscience are deemed terrorists and charged with felonies punishable by 40 years in prison, Canada has a somewhat more enlightened approach to its indigenous people (emphasis on “somewhat”). Not all native tribes are opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline. Fifty one First Nation groups have signed mutual benefit agreements with Trans Mountain, including some that are part of the broader Secwepemc Nation, spurred no doubt by rosy predictions of new jobs and other economic benefits that may or may not materialize.

Kinder Morgan, using the finest language professional public relations experts can devise, says,

“We are committed to working with Aboriginal communities where we operate. Our goal is to build and sustain effective relationships based on mutual respect, to share mutual benefits and to work cooperatively and transparently with Aboriginal groups. The [Trans Mountain] Project presents a special opportunity to enhance existing relationships with Aboriginal communities along our pipeline corridor, while also opening the door to new relationships, including coastal Aboriginal communities with respect to marine transportation and safety. The dialogue to date has been invaluable to our Project planning and to developing understanding between communities and our industry. We look forward to building and nurturing these relationships.”

2 Responses to “Indigenous Pipeline Resistance in Solar Panels, Tiny Houses”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    A wood stove for heating and cooking is a symbol for sustainability? Who knew?

  2. Mari Rosie Says:

    So grateful that you wrote about Kinder Morgan in the context of the Tiny Houses project. I live in the area that Kinder Morgan is trying to build the pipeline and the opposition is trying to create a narrative that indigenous folks (you may not know they do not have a treaty and have mounted a strong legal case against KM particularly Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Squamish Nation) are have been properly consulted which isn’t true. Kinder Morgan and other fossil fuel infrastructure projects like this not only aren’t needed and will create infrastructure lock-in for 70+ years, but the thing will only create 50 permanent jobs! It’s not good for the economy – it’s good for Kinder Morgan which is deeply in debt (billions) and had a disappointing IPO. They need this pipeline, Canadians do not.

    There is no guarantee that bringing the bitumen to tidewater to be exported to China there will be a market by the time the project is finished (4th quarter 2020). The whole thing is a crock!

    Most importantly if burned the project will create even more climate chaos, a spill in a dense urban centre is all but guaranteed and the Southern resident killers whales will go extinct. That has been proven in court by scientific experts in court. Wild salmon is also very much in decline for other reasons besides climate changes (spoiler alert: fish farms) and could be extinct in mere decades.

    I’m grateful to Kanahus and and the Secwepemc Nation in British Columbia. I know not all indigenous groups oppose Kinder Morgan and it will provide some solid temporary jobs. As a non-indigenous person, I would never speak against them – they have their reasons for making a deal with Trans Mountain which are none of my business. But in the long run the inevitable oil spill will devastate communities and it’s a risk I could never support. You can’t clean up an oil spill – they last forever. Let’s hope this project is cancelled like Enbridge and Energy East.

    Thank you so much for highlighting the Tiny Houses, a beautiful symbol of peaceful resistance led by incredible indigenous women.

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