Treaty protestors score largest pipeline gathering ever

June 7: Indigenous leaders and allies are staging nonviolent demonstrations, calling for Biden to honor treaties, stop construction of Enbridge Energy Inc.’s Line 3, protect water, and defend land. Photo by Darren Thompson

PARK RAPIDS, Minnesota — During the largest anti-pipeline action ever mobilized here in Anishinaabe treaty jurisdiction, self-proclaimed water protectors halted construction of Enbridge Energy Inc.’s Line 3 toxic tar-sands crude-oil pipeline on June 7.

More than 1,000 people marched with Indigenous leaders to the headwaters of the Mississippi River to initiate a four-day prayer ceremony for treaty rights recognition at the site where the pipeline is slated to cross.

Further south, some 500 Native pipeline resisters, celebrities and other allies shut down an active Line 3 pump station in a 14-hour show of civil disobedience that ended in arrests of some 100 for unlawful assembly. 

The massive direct actions launched a weeklong Treaty People Gathering, attracting an estimated 2,000 participants. Indigenous-led groups, communities of faith, and climate justice organizations envision it as “the beginning of a summer of resistance,” Giniw Collective said in a media release.

The purpose is to pressure U.S. President Joe Biden to stop Line 3, since courts have failed to grant tribes’ requests to enjoin the Canadian multinational’s private infrastructure activity. Opponents argue that the project – to replace the existing Line 3 with a higher capacity conduit — threatens water, wildlife, traditional subsistence fishing and wild rice harvesting, the global climate, and treaty rights.

More than 250 opponents in several resistance camps were arrested previously during actions to thwart construction dating back six months. “Despite repeated calls from these frontlines communities, multiple tribal lawsuits, and hundreds of arrests, President Biden has yet to comment on Line 3,” stated Giniw Collective, which describes itself as an Indigenous women, two-spirit-led frontline land defense group.

During speeches that accompanied June 7 actions, Winona LaDuke, a Bear Clan member from Round Lake on the White Earth Reservation and executive director of Honor the Earth, denounced Enbridge Energy Inc. for contracting public law enforcement officers to work security detail for its private cause of building Line 3.

Giniw Collective founder Tara Houska, a Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe citizen, stressed, “We are not armed with anything but sage and sweet grass and love and care for our mother. We are risking the safety of our own bodies, our own freedom, to defend the voiceless, to defend future generations.”

She noted that treaties are “contractual obligations,” which, in Anishinaabe territory, guarantee tribal descendants perpetual access to hunting, fishing, gathering and traditional lifeways in exchange for ceding land to settlers. 

Joining LaDuke and Houska to make statements at Line 3’s Two Inlets pump-station were Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, Rosanna Arquette, Taylor Shilling, Siihasin Senior, and Big Wind. Meanwhile other water protectors blockaded the entrance with a boat and pried up platforms meant to park heavy equipment, converted station materials into a barricade, locked themselves to equipment, and pitched tents.

One locked-down water protector said, “Think about the water you drink every day. Think about the fact that a human can’t live more than three days without water. Think of what you would do if a corporation just took that from you. So many Indigenous bodies have gone towards protecting the resources that we all benefit from, and everyone should think about how they can be someone who actually defends the water and isn’t just somebody who is using it.”

Video from on-site documented a U.S border control helicopter swooping down on the station twice, stirring up dust and rocks in what participants said was a use of force to disburse them because they couldn’t breathe well in the swirling debris.

Nonetheless, with 250 people on site and 24 people locked down, zero injuries resulted, Giniw Collective submitted. Refusal to obey a county sheriff’s disbursal order just after sunset led to the arrests, followed by citations and immediate release.

At the headwaters treaty prayer camp, led by the RISE Coalition, movement stalwarts Bill McKibben, Dawn Goodwin, and Nancy Beaulieau addressed the crowd. Participants prepared to remain on Line 3’s easement along the banks of the Mississippi.

“For years we have tried to assert our sovereignty and speak out against Line 3.” said RISE Coalition co-founder Goodwin, a citizen of the Anishinaabe White Earth Mississippi Band. “We still have time to save our sacred waters and land — our life sources.” 

Prayer vigils took place in multiple locations along the pipeline route as Enbridge readied to drill under the headwaters of the Mississippi River, 21 other Minnesota rivers, and some 200 water bodies in all. 

“We called this mobilization the Treaty People Gathering because we are all treaty people,” said Beaulieau, an organizer with MN350 and co-founder of the RISE Coalition. “Our non-Native allies have a responsibility to stand with us against projects like the Line 3 pipeline that put our Anishinaabe lifeways at risk. Today, we’re taking a stand for our right to hunt, fish, and gather, and for the future of the climate,” she said.

Anishinaabe tribes and allied groups have been resisting the construction of Line 3 across Minnesota since it was proposed in 2014. On May 26, 2021, more than 300 organizations submitted a letter to Biden, calling on him to direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately re-evaluate and suspend or revoke Enbridge’s Line 3 Clean Water Act Section 404 permit.

What the company dubs a “replacement” project includes 337 miles of new larger pipe, half of which are in a different corridor than Enbridge’s existing lines. The new pipe would have the capacity to transport almost twice as much crude oil as existing line. 

Tribal governments, climate groups, and the Minnesota State Department of Commerce have sued in state court to revoke the pipeline’s “Certificate of Need.” They argue that demand is slack for additional oil supplies, and the escalated use of comparatively carbon intensive tar-sands oil will contribute to catastrophic climate change. 

Expert witness testimony at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission established that building Line 3 would unlock emissions equivalent to building 50 coal plants.

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.net)

 

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