By Marian Moore & Simone Senogles

By Keri Pickett

Since we last shared about Line 3, the dirty tar sands pipeline project of the Canadian Corporation Enbridge (in the March issue), the resistance has grown exponentially. The rivers, lakes, and wetlands of Northern Minnesota, Anishinaabe Treaty territory continue to be violated. The struggle continues.

The story is complex and multi-layered so perhaps best to give you some glimpses of much that is unfolding.

At this writing, in late August, Enbridge claims to have completed 80% of the Line 3 pipeline with aspirations to have dirty tar sands oil flowing in late September through thousands of acres of wetlands, hundreds of bodies of water and 22 river crossings including the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  Since the two of us were arrested and jailed in December, 700 other water protectors have been criminalized as they continue to take direct action to try to physically prevent ongoing construction. In recent months, we have seen the escalation of violence perpetrated by law enforcement; even rubber bullets and tear gas have been used against non-violent protectors. The prosecutor in the first trial of a water protector since construction began in November asked the Judge to give the water protector 15 days. Instead, the judge sentenced him to 30 days for standing in a ditch on public property while others sought to slow down construction.

Water Protectors protect water in so many ways. Consider this:  In July, Winona LaDuke and Shanai Matteson were wading in the Willow River just a mile or so from the Mississippi, to see how things were progressing at the site of Enbridge’s intended drilling. This is how water protectors do their work: they pay attention to the water. Enbridge was drilling to lay a pipe “under” the river. Winona and Shanai noticed funny looking fluid as they waded in the Willow on a mercifully rainy day, given the historic drought we have been suffering this year.  It turns out the errant fluid was the effect of what is known as a “frac-out” when  drilling fluid is mistakenly released into the river.  Shanai Matteson describes the process here. But the even more maddening twist is that the law enforcement present at the time of this discovery were not from an agency tasked with making sure Enbridge, the Canadian Corporation followed the law of the permit they received; instead local cops were on hand to arrest water protectors should they get in the way of Enbridge’s drilling.

Meanwhile, there is a team of cops from various jurisdictions that comprises the Northern Lights task Force; initiated to coordinate their repressive acts against Water Protectors.  The stories of violence and repression are many; In fact, the Enbridge Corporation was required to put money into an escrow account to cover costs that Minnesota law enforcement might incur.

Enbridge has reimbursed local law enforcement via an escrow account that was required as part of their permit from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. So far, nearly 2 million dollars has flowed to local law enforcement. So, functionally we have a Canadian multinational corporation compensating local law enforcement to be their private security firm.  And that is how it feels driving around Northern Minnesota.

We have also seen gross negligence and mismanagement by our state government and by Enbridge. Originally Enbridge requested just over 500 million gallons of water that they require for the drilling process. In July, they requested a tenfold increase to 5 billion gallons.  Despite the worst drought in decades, the Mn.  Department of Natural Resources approved the withdrawal.  Upon further research a fellow water protector learned that Enbridge’s projection was based on studies conducted for the Alberta Clipper pipeline which was never approved. Water Protectors have chronicled water trucks sucking water out of municipal fire hydrants. They are desperate.  In mid-August Park Rapids, Mn, city council voted to stop allowing that practice. Good idea.

At this stage, there are still law suits pending, including the White Earth Nation’s law suit against the Mn. DNR on behalf of Manoomin (wild rice) that grows wild on lakes, is at the sacred heart of Ojibwe culture and requires water to live. Another possible success could come if Army Corps acting director Jaime Pinkham (Nez Perce)  does the right thing by stopping the drilling so that a proper federal environmental impact study can be made.  Last fall former President Trump rushed through the federal approval process to enable the permits to be issued by relying on the State EIS. Tribal Nations and Indigenous leaders and allies are demanding from the Army Corps that they do a thorough review that considers climate, water and treaty rights.

Indigenous Environmental Network

In late August, we had four days of ceremony and action, titled “Treaties not Tar Sands”  at the MN State Capitol. This event was requested by 3 indigenous grandmothers from the White Earth Reservation in Northern MN. The goal of the 4 days of ceremony were to restore balance to our world, our water and our people. Treaties not Tar Sands was set in conjunction with a 256 mile Walk For Water, that began at the Firelight Camp, a treaty rights camp in resistance to Line 3 near the headwaters of the Mississippi River. A spot on that precious and mighty river that had already been subject to chemical spills, or Frac outs from the drilling going “under” the river. Water Protectors exposed, documented and reported the spills, just feet from the river in sensitive wetlands. Enbridge workers were literally using push brooms to sweep up chemicals in a wetland. Ridiculous and horrifying. The 4 day full Treaties not Tar Sands event was from August 23rd -26th, with the walkers set to arrive on August 25th.

Indigenous Environment Network

We began our 4 days of ceremony with a small group of about 20 people, the grandmothers smoked their sacred pipes under a big, beautiful tree on the lawn of the MN State Capitol, while volunteers put up about 20 tipis. By the police presence and response, one might have thought there were armed terrorists storming the capitol. All roads were blocked off, hundreds of officers stood guard on the capitol steps while workers erected concrete barriers and chain link fencing around the Capitol Building, the so called, Peoples House for MN citizens. Despite all this, we had a powerful and peaceful 4 days of prayer and ceremony. On August 25th, hundreds joined the walkers for the last couple miles of the walk, entering the capitol lawn to songs of welcome and joy from thousands. For the rest of the afternoon and into the evening we sang, danced, shared stories and held a rally with many powerful speakers. We heard from State Representatives, Tribal elected officials, NGO leaders and grassroots water protectors and social justice champions, each of them outlined the myriad reasons that Line 3 is a bad idea for our waters, our state and for a world facing climate disaster. We stand strong now and into the future.

For more info on the Stop Line 3 Campaign go here.