TransCanada Takes Advantage of Harvard to Prop Up Its Reputation

UPDATE Monday May 13th 9:30pm – we’ve just gotten word that Lou Thompson, TransCanada’s Manager of Tribal Affairs, has decided not to attend the Harvard forum on tribal-corporate relations this week!

Thanks to everyone who helped put the pressure on HPAIED and TransCanada over this matter of PR abuse and blatant hypocrisy.

And for what it’s worth, this isn’t a reason to stop contacting HPAIED or its co-director Joseph Kalt (see the end of this blog). HPAIED is doing meaningful things to raise awareness of issues surrounding tribal-corporate relations, and if these matters interest you then we encourage you to reach out to them to learn more!


About a week ago we learned that, according to TransCanada’s blog, TransCanada’s Manager of Tribal Affairs Lou Thompson was invited by Harvard to a leadership forum on tribal-corporate relations to be held this Thursday and Friday May 16-17th.

TransCanada's former

TransCanada’s former “assisting Harvard” blog, reconstructed from multiple screen captures.

In their blog TransCanada claimed that Harvard invited them because Harvard sought “TransCanada’s expertise in building tribal relationships”. Seeing no other source of information available on the net, we foolishly took TransCanada for their word and called Harvard out. Fortunately, Harvard students, faculty and alumni were quick to set the record straight and clarify that TransCanada’s representation of what the leadership forum is was blatantly false.

TransCanada claimed they were invited for their “expertise”. In fact Thompson was invited to a luncheon talk with only one speaker, S. James Anaya (UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, who by the way has been denied entry into Canada for official visit to investigate the human rights situation of indigenous peoples there). All others, including Thompson, were invited as participants. This full reply by Joseph Kalt, Co-Director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (the organization holding the forum) clarifies the details, intentions and goals of the forum.

There has been considerable mis-information spreading on the web about this forum, including someone saying that tribes are not involved, talking about who is making speeches, and portraying this as a TransCanada forum (it is not; a representative of that company is but one participant). Here is what is actually occurring:

On May 16-17, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development is hosting a policy forum at the Kennedy School of Government on “Major Development Projects On and Near Indian Lands: Best Practices in Tribal-Corporate Relations” It is part of a two-forum series. The first is an industry forum. The second is a tribal forum scheduled for this summer. At this first forum, there are no speakers, except S. James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, who is giving a
luncheon talk. Both forums are roundtable discussions among 25-30 professionals about best and worst practices in major land-using projectdevelopment (especially hard rock mining). The industry forum focuses on industry, and the tribal forum focuses on tribal leaders. Even at the industry forum, however, a number of tribes and their attorneys are represented. The forums are part of a multi-year research project that is seeking input on best and worst practices in, especially, hard rock mining on and near Indian lands. In keeping with the policies of the Kennedy School, the intention of both forums is to create an environment for civil discussion by all parties, including controversial parties. The guiding principle is that, to get better at these kinds of relationships, the parties have to have better knowledge, knowledge that comes from experiences in the real world. Following the forums, a project report or handbook will be produced to provide information which “both sides of the table” (tribal and company) can use in their tribal-corporate relations in the mining sector. The research project has been supported by funding from Rio Tinto and numerous tribes and companies have participated – with all parties recognizing that tribal-corporate relations on very large resource-using projects represent a relatively new development for tribes and companies. Focused on best and worst practices, key results are already emerging. Most centrally, worst practices arise when companies seeking partnerships with tribes fail to recognize that tribes are governments, with all that that implies. On the best practices side, where we see tribes and companies pleased with their mutual relationships, best practices include the two sides establishing formal corporate-to-government relations that mirror the strengthened government-to-government relations between tribes and the federal government. The forthcoming project report/handbook will develop these themes in detail.

It is exceedingly arrogant, but not at all surprising, that TransCanada took an invitation from Harvard and spun it to elevate its own name. Their blog made it seem like TransCanada was invited to “assist” Harvard whereas, it turns out, they were invited as just a single participant of a luncheon discussion whose main speaker was not Thompson. TransCanada must’ve received some flack for this, since they removed their blog last Thursday. We noticed soon after it happened, though, and tweeted:


Instead of thinking that it is in a position to “assist” Harvard, or any other entity for that matter, TransCanada should really take a step back and look at the way it relates to tribes along the proposed KXL route and how much opposition there is to Keystone XL. TransCanada is bent on getting its destructive project through regardless of opposition, and so is essentially opposed to meaningful dialogue or relations of any kind. TransCanada has a blatant disregard for the laws that tribal nations are governed by and that the US has agreed to follow by treaty. For just one example out of the countless available, last year, on March 5, 2012, TransCanada truck drivers trespassed on the Oglala Lakota Nation, and were blockaded by its members.

In the video, one of the members of the Oglala Lakota Nation said “you can’t violate our laws to please a corporation or to please the state of South Dakota. Our laws are important, if we don’t enforce our own laws, they’re gonna squash us like ants.” TransCanada would do well to know that this quote more accurately describes the relationship it has with sovereign peoples in the continental US and elsewhere than anything that comes out of its PR spin-machine.

Send a message to HPAIED!

We’re of the opinion that if TransCanada is still granted an invitation to the forum hosted by Harvard’s Project on American Indian Economic Development (HPAIED) this Thursday and Friday, TransCanada will likely use this, in some way or another, to elevate its name. As deceit is the way of the day when it comes to this corporation, TransCanada would no doubt continue to say, in less public media, that Harvard invited them because of their expertise in tribal-corporate relations, and that TransCanada was thereby “assisting” Harvard.

TransCanada’s abuse of others shouldn’t go unchecked. If you agree that TransCanada should not be invited to HPAIED’s forum on tribal-corporate relations, let HPAIED know! Leave messages on the HPAIED Facebook page. Or email Joseph Kalt, HPAIED Co-Director, directly! His address is [email protected] … please be respectful when emailing: TransCanada is the problem, not Kalt or HPAIED.

Cheers to shaming TransCanada where shame is due!

Permanent link to this article: