Canada-based Enbridge wants to replace its existing oil pipeline across northern Minnesota, extending from North Dakota on the west and into Wisconsin on the east. That has prompted strong opposition from Native American and environmental groups. (Ron Turney/IEN)

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 By Mike Moen

June 8, 2021

BEMIDJI, Minn. — Scores of protesters have gathered in northern Minnesota in hopes of halting the Line 3 oil pipeline project. Native American activists and their allies want to stop construction as the work nears a final phase.

In what’s being billed as a Treaty People Gathering, opponents this week rallied at the headwaters of the Mississippi River before marching to an area where the pipeline and river meet. Protesters say they’re engaging in civil disobedience, including attempts to block a pumping station.

Tara Houska, tribal attorney and environmental and Indigenous rights advocate, livestreamed from some of the events, noting the movement centers around protecting natural resources for tribal communities.

“What’s really important to us is our water, our lives, our children, our futures, the animals, the plants, the sacred all around us,” Houska asserted.

Organizers expected crowds of at least 1,500. The latest opposition efforts come amid an expected court ruling this month on a challenge to the state’s approval of Line 3.

The project is being carried out by Canada-based Enbridge Energy, which argued the move is needed because the existing line is aging, while adding Line 3 creates thousands of jobs. Construction is already past the halfway point.

A group calling itself Minnesotans for Line 3 issued a statement criticizing the protests, while claiming the new line will make it safer to transport energy, but Houska and the many opponents who have gathered in the region say they remain undeterred.

“Beautiful water protectors from all walks of life, standing together, standing strong, standing up for Mother Earth,” Houska remarked.

“For Bibeau and the Anishinaabe people, the wild rice harvest is at once tradition, sustenance, and cultural life-way. According to their oral tradition, the Anishinaabe came to settle in the Great Lakes basin thousands of years ago when they followed a sacred shell in the sky to a place where food grew on water. When they arrived, they found wild rice — one of the only grains native to North America. Wild rice in the Anishinaabe language is manoomin: the good berry.

“Wild rice is our life. Where there’s Anishinaabe there’s rice. Where there’s rice there’s Anishinaabe. It’s our most sacred food,” said Anishinaabe activist Winona LaDuke. “It’s who we are.”

The future of wild rice in this region, however, is at risk. Wild rice has already been threatened by climate change, mining, water pollution, and genetic modification. LaDuke runs the White Earth Land Recovery project, a nonprofit that seeks to preserve the wild rice harvest, as well as the environmental justice nonprofit Honor the Earth. She’s spent much of her career defending the grain.

“We have very little left, and it’s central to our identity,” she told me. “Now, LaDuke and Bibeau are facing a new battle for the future of wild rice: The Line 3 pipeline, which is slated to carry 760,000 barrels of crude oil a day across more than 200 bodies of water, including lakes, streams, wetlands, the headwaters of the Mississippi River — and over 3,400 acres of wild rice waters.

Opponents continue to pressure President Joe Biden to intervene. They say the construction disregards Native American treaty rights. They also say Line 3 would cross more than 200 bodies of water in Minnesota, including dozens of wild rice lakes, as well as sensitive watersheds.

Media outlets with reporters at the scene of the protest, including Minnesota Public Radio, said authorities moved in late Monday to arrest protesters inside the pump station, as hundreds of other activists faced off with law enforcement outside the facility.

References:  Line 3 pipeline project Minn. Public Utilities Commission
Treaty People Gathering
Authorities move to arrest protesters Minnesota Public Radio 06/07/2021