“We’re here for the river,” Winona LaDuke, Honor the Earth executive director, shared with water protectors on July 15 at the Shell City Campground near Menahga.
In an afternoon rally of remembering treaties between tribes and the United States government, defending the sacred and honoring the legacy of Indigenous women leaders, a group of about 200 stood for water and against the Enbridge Line 3 replacement project.
The river is set to have three to five drilling sites where clams and manoomin, or wild rice, are abundant. These are some of the very aspects the group gathered to protect as portions of the 1855 treaty territory, as event organizers said. The water and land have been harvested for thousands of years as a “sustainable economy,” according to LaDuke.
“What we watched on the river in the past seven weeks is the impact of a drought, which we’re all experiencing, and we also watched the impact of irrigation systems and so a lot of us were awakened to the situation of this river, which is intended to be crossed five times by Enbridge,” LaDuke said. “It (the river) changes a lot according to what’s going on around it, if it’s irrigating, if it’s hot.”
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The issues from water to climate change brought David Gonesy-Miller, of the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin, to the rally and he could say he was glad to see the wild rice growing when visiting the Mississippi Headwaters.
“Creation, it’s meant for everybody and we’ve made some very bad decisions as a nation … to allow development to go unbridled and we’re just starting to see if you listen to the people that study it, the scientists, the anthros and the historians we’re going into a new time that if we don’t put the halt on it it’s difficult,” Gonesy-Miller said. He said people can help the earth heal.
Actress Marisa Tomei called on President Joe Biden and White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy to act, to revoke the Line 3 pipeline permits and to complete a comprehensive review of how tribal treaty rights as well as the water, land, air and climate will be impacted. Leaders also called on Gov. Tim Walz and Biden to stop the project on July 14.
“It’s time to stop playing politics with the future of life on this planet,” Tomei said. “If President Biden is serious about climate change, if he’s serious about respecting the rights of Indigenous people and if he’s serious about making sure we’re on track to have a liveable planet then Line 3 must be stopped.”
Rita Chamblin, of Bemidji and Watch the Line MN, is concerned about what isn’t being shared, such as activities happening along the line. Playwright V compared the treatment of the rivers to the treatment of women including rape.
“What it says to me is that the risks are there and we don’t always know what has happened unless we happen to be there. If we hadn’t happened to be there in that moment … would we have known? How would we have known? Would we have gotten information to help us understand what actually occurred?” Chamblin said about the spill of drilling fluid at Willow River.
Chamblin also emphasized the issues of treaty rights, the impacted interdependence of air, water and soil and climate justice. She said people need to “think outside of ourselves,” whether living near the line or not.
As a water protector since 12 years old, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune shared how community members in Toms River, New Jersey helped shut down a pipeline. He also encouraged people to realize their strength.
“We work to fight every pipeline that’s coming from the tar sands, every coal plant that poisons our water, every gas plant, LNG terminal, every frack gassed pipeline because it’s 2021, we shouldn’t have to do all this work to simply provide clean air and clean water for ourselves,” Brune said.
While camping at the site, V noted her enjoyment of sitting along the river and seeing the animals.
“This morning I heard the river say, I heard her call, ‘Protect me. See me. Feel me. Bathe in me. Cherish me. Do not let the ones who cannot see me or feel me have their way with me. Do not drill into me. Do not drill under me. Do not tear me or shatter me, contaminate me, mute me or stop my flow. Do not prevent my future,’” V said.
In a final water activity, the group canoed and traveled by bus to Duck Lake in the Huntersville State Forest at a Line 3 easement site. The Line 3 route sites have included hundreds of arrests.
Earlier in the week, Enbridge spokesperson Juli Kellner pointed out that the Line 3 replacement project has the support of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and that the White Earth Nation "was also included and invited to be part of the process" with Enbridge.