TOWhen the sun went down, more than a dozen young people carried a wooden bridge onto a narrow section of the Mississippi River. The bridge allowed the group to more easily cross from their camp to where the huge pipeline was being built on the other side.
They were cited for breaking and entering, but had symbolically reclaimed the swampy landscape.
That same day, Dawn Goodwin’s voice was soft but forceful as she spoke to the camera: “I ask you, Joe Biden, to respect our treaties, because they are the supreme law of the land.”
Goodwin, an Ojibwe woman and environmental activist, was recording a live broadcast from a picturesque campground amid the natural beauty of northern Minnesota, where she and dozens of others had gathered to protest the construction of the LA pipeline. Line 3.
Across the state, along the pipeline’s planned construction route, activists have traveled from across the country to do the same: many have locked themselves in construction equipment and hundreds have been arrested. Goodwin’s preferred method of protest is arguably less physical (he was in the middle of a four-day prayer ceremony), but he hoped it would be no less effective to draw attention to the potential damage the pipeline represents.
“We have finished playing with the process and trusting that the process will work, because in the end, it failed us,” he said. “What am I relying on instead? The power of the people and the creator “.
The proposed Line 3 pipeline, which, if expanded, would move crude oil from Alberta in Canada through Minnesota to Wisconsin, has quickly become the primary target of US environmental advocates. In addition to drawing protesters from across the country, it is drawing attention to Biden’s broken promises so far on the climate crisis, as advocates argue that it could intervene to stop an expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, but has not. done. The United States already produces more oil than it can use and is increasing exports of oil and natural gas, despite promising to reduce its own climate pollution.
The spike in protests in Minnesota comes on the heels of a major environmental victory, with developers canceling the Keystone XL pipeline, something that indigenous activists fought for about a decade. Now advocates are framing Line 3 as the last frontier in environmental justice, in part because of the risks it poses to the waterways that Native Americans depend on.
“For all the reasons that Keystone XL was closed and more, Line 3 must also be stopped,” said Collin Rees, a prominent Oil Change International activist. “There is a growing understanding that we cannot keep expanding fossil fuels.”
If the pipeline moves forward, Rees said, the Biden administration will undermine its own authority in international climate negotiations. Other countries, including Denmark, Ireland, Y Spain – are moving to ban future licenses for oil and gas drilling.
The 52-year-old pipeline, operated by Canadian energy company Enbridge, is being replaced because it is deteriorating. Two other Enbridge pipelines have suffered major spills. But the replacement line is on an entirely new route, one that crosses rivers, lakes, and wetlands. “Because if there is a spill, we don’t know what will happen. We do not fully understand the subsoil. We want to think we do it, but we don’t, ”Goodwin said.
Goodwin is a “protector of water,” named after the Native Americans and their allies who rally in resistance to fossil fuels and, in particular, pipelines.
Water protectors also fought the Dakota Access pipeline, drawing activists from around the world to Standing Rock in 2016 and 2017.
It is a form of activism that is often physically exhausting and not without legal risks: Several states are initiating tougher penalties for protesters crossing borders to oppose oil and gas infrastructure. But activists say the water protection strategy has proven effective with the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline.
But the movement has had setbacks: a federal judge in Louisisana recently blocked the Biden administration’s pause on certain oil and gas leases. And in a hurdle for Line 3 opponents, a Minnesota court recently sided with Enbridge in challenges to his permit.
Tara Houska, a tribal lawyer and founder of the Giniw Collective, which has been protesting the pipeline for years, called the ruling “disappointing,” but said the fighting continues.
“We can’t stop. And we won’t stop,” he said.
Since December, protesters have been camping, praying and saving space. But they have also gone to greater lengths: Johnny Barber slammed an Enbridge door shut in March, a statement against the pipeline.
It was inspired by Standing Rock, a native-led movement in resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline, focused on the water protection camps set up near where the pipeline was being built. Founded on principles of native sovereignty and cultural preservation, as well as environmental concerns, it attracted allies from around the world.
“Standing Rock was a watershed moment in the fight to stop these pipelines,” Barber said. “I promised myself at the time that if there was, if and when the next battle happened, I would make sure I could participate.”
“There are many different ways that people are fighting this pipeline,” said Taysha Martineau, Ojibwe water protector who is part of a camp called The root, on land close to the pipeline route in Cloque. When she was starting out, Martineau was angry and hurt, in part because the reservation she is from reached an agreement with Enbridge to build the line through the reservation.
“He was fighting just to exist,” he said, referring to the tensions he had with members of his own tribe. Since then, he has found a sense of community with other water protectors and has seen his work change. “I went from yelling at riot police to praying for these easements with the sheriff’s departments,” he said.
Martinez said the power of prayer brought her to the head. “I am not locked in the machinery today, because I recognize that the defense of our treaties does not always have to come from a place of anger,” he said.
“It was the women here who told me it was my time to be here with them. And so I am here in solidarity and learning my place as a young Two Spirits, learning where I will fit in when we achieve our goal of stopping Line 3. “
In the first week of June, more Line 3 protesters from across the country invaded northern Minnesota. By June 7, about 200 people had been arrested. Some 2,000 environmental defenders arrived at the Tierra Blanca Reserve a day earlier for three days of training, according to the meeting of the treaty people.
Keya Chatterjee, director of the US Climate Action Network, said the nonprofit’s policy arm brought in three buses full of people from Seattle, Spokane and North Carolina to participate.
Before noon, he said, a Customs and Border Patrol helicopter appeared. “[It] he just started harassing us severely, flying very, very low and kicking up dust. ”Nine people from his group were arrested, Chatterjee said.
According to US Customs and Border Protection in Grand Forks, the agency was responding to a request for assistance from local law enforcement in connection with a report of a break-in on private property. “CBP headquarters is investigating the events to determine precisely what happened and whether the actions taken were justified,” the agency’s statement read.
“All appropriate actions will be taken based on the facts that are known, including with respect to the incident itself, as well as applicable agency policies and procedures.”
A fight for treaty rights
Because Enbridge needs access to treaty-protected land to complete construction, activists say the expansion also challenges long-standing agreements that guarantee the right to hunt, fish, gather wild rice and preserve cultural resources for the people of Ojibwe.
“Our state and local federal governments are violating treaties by allowing this pipeline to pass through,” said Nancy Beaulieu, an Ojibwe woman who co-founded the Rise coalition with Goodwin.
“We are here to defend all living things,” Beaulieu said. In addition to asking Biden to end water crossing permits, he wants the state to reject Enbridge’s need for more water. “Consider the drought that we are in,” he said. “Our water levels are already very low.”
In the past, the courts have ratified the United States’ treaties with Ojibwe. A court ruled in 1999 that the Ojibwe tribes retain their right to hunt, fish, and gather, as set forth in the treaties of 1837 and 1854.
Other activists have taken a more direct approach. Late last year, indigenous activist Tania Aubid, 52, built a prayer hut along the Mississippi. His plan was to stay on the path of the pipeline, and he has maintained that cultural site ever since.
In early June, Aubid says that law enforcement officers visited the lodge while she was praying and told her she was trespassing, at which point Aubid pointed out that the prayer lodge is a cultural resource, protected by the 1855 Treaty Authority. .
The officers left, but the prayer flag makes clear what indigenous activists have been saying for years: The further development of oil and gas infrastructure is in direct conflict with native ways of life and the health and safety of the natives who depend on the land. being developed.
For now, Aubid feels confident that her message is getting through. “Here, they know that we are doing everything we can to protect the 1855 Treaty territories,” Aubid said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism