Protesters Rally Against Oil Company’s Gulf Coast Expansion on Karankawa Site
By Cristela Jones
Chanting “respect our existence or expect our resistance,” nearly 400 people protested outside an Austin bank Saturday to try to stop construction of an oil terminal on ancient Indigenous land near Corpus Christi.
“We are still here, and we are still fighting,” said protest organizer Chiara Sunshine Beaumont, a descendant of the Karankawa people who once lived on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Saturday’s protest followed months of efforts by Indigenous groups in support of the Karankawa’s objections to expansion of oil export terminals owned by Enbridge, a Canadian petrochemical pipeline company. Beaumont said her group chose to protest Saturday outside a Bank of America on South Congress Avenue because the bank is a large underwriter of Enbridge’s projects.
“We’re saying enough is enough,” Daniela Silva, a friend of Beaumont’s, said at Saturday’s protest. “Both Bank of America and Enbridge need to listen to the people who are going to be living in the effects of their present-day actions.”
Enbridge plans to expand its operations on Corpus Christi Bay by building a pier and oil terminal onto land near Ingleside that was a Karankawa Kadla settlement dating back 2,000 years. In October, Enbridge spent $3 billion to acquire Moda Midstream and its existing operations at Ingleside, one of the largest crude oil storage and export terminals in the country.
In August, the Karankawa Kadla People, the Indigenous People of Coastal Bend and local environmentalists sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which had approved Moda Midstream’s construction plans.
The groups allege that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not properly approve the permit for the site, known as McGloin’s Bluff. They say it was eligible to be a national historic site, the Texas Tribune has reported. Enbridge’s terminal is located at the eastern edge of the bluff where archeologists have found thousands of pieces of pottery, stone tools, jewelry, artifacts and other Karankawa ancestral belongings.
The suit also argues that Enbridge’s plan to construct a deep-water dock and turning basin violates the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act because the project failed to address public and environmental concerns, according to TruthOut.
Enbridge did not respond for comment on the protest. Its predecessor, Moda Midstream, has said the expansion will not harm McGloin’s Bluff.
“We have deep respect for our neighbors and for the Karankawa people,” Moda Midstream spokesperson Steven Davidson told the Texas Tribune last fall. “The permitted expansion of our existing waterfront and structures in the waterway will not impact any historical areas. … We are confident that the nearly year-and-a-half application review process was comprehensive, and the permit was properly issued.”
While the lawsuit is pending, construction on the project has been delayed until August 2022.
“Public pressure, people power, something going viral like this, it changes things,” Love Sanchez, a co-founder of the Indigenous People of Coastal Bend, said at Saturday’s protest. “That’s what we need. Because I love law, but I can’t rely on a system that wasn’t designed for us. I’ve got to rely on the people and that’s what we (saw) here today.”
Jessika McFarland, a biologist, came to the protest after seeing Sanchez’s call to action on social media.
“We’re all being exploited in some way or another by the fossil fuel industry, especially in regard to climate change, but some of us are more disproportionately harmed than others,” McFarland said. “Obviously, the Karankawa are one of those groups, so we need to stand up for what’s right, stand up for their land and just (be) a good person.”
Beaumont said the group plans to protest again in March or April.