From: Katie Engelmann
It feels like ages ago when our young family stood in a hotel conference room in northern Minnesota preparing to comment on a proposed pipeline slated to cut through the county where we lived. The pipeline would carry tar-sands oil from Alberta, Canada, across northern Minnesota through rivers, lakes, and wetlands to a terminal in Superior, Wis. State agency personnel, county commissioners, and the consultants in the room were all prepared to rubber stamp the project, as was typical for such things. These folks were sure the project would bring economic prosperity to the region. We stopped at an information booth that showed poorly detailed maps of the route and wondered, where was the water? This project would cut through the headwaters of the Mississippi River, where were the details? With a squirmy babe in our arms, we shakily spoke in opposition to the proposed Line 3 “replacement project,” its expanded capacity, and new route through the headwaters. We felt like lone voices in the room, but we were not. Shortly after us, Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth and other water protectors came and boldly stated the destruction the project would have on tribal lands, precious natural resources like wild rice, and the harm it would cause Indigenous communities.
More than 72,000 people also commented on the project during this scoping period. Over 68,000 of those comments were in opposition to the project. Despite public opposition, and the concern of several state agencies, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the pipeline. I learned of other organizations working to not only oppose the project, but to build community support networks that catalyze change — organizations like Honor the Earth, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, and Friends of the Headwaters. Folks in these organizations knew what the rubber stampers did not: Powerful communities are not built with oil money rooted in greed, corruption, and destruction. Powerful communities are built when they are rooted in honorable relationships among people and the land. Honor the Earth has organized a community of water protectors who are cultivating that relationship by creating spaces to share teachings about Indigenous lands, lifeways, and culture threatened by the pipeline. The community of water protectors has grown through prayerful connection, shared traditions, community meals, creation of art, collective celebration and sorrow, and building trust rooted in reciprocity. I have learned, changed, and grown from this movement.
Since that first scoping meeting our family has grown older, we have moved 635 Mississippi river miles, to Winona. We witness the impact of climate change and its blaze through the modern media cycle. We don’t forget these are lives and our Earth, changed. We try to resist doom culture and work to create a more just community. I have been introduced to a local organization, the Winona-Dakota Unity Alliance, a group working to create a sustainable alliance among Indigenous nations and the Winona community. I mourned with the Great River in October when Enbridge announced the completion of the Line 3 pipeline and the beginning of the flow of oil. As Winona LaDuke stated, although the project is completed, the resistance to it isn’t.
Indigenous-led resistance camps like Ginew Collective, RISE Coalition and others continue to advocate for environmental protection and native sovereignty. Over 800 people have been arrested or cited for protecting land and water, and standing up for treaty obligations to tribal nations. November was Indigenous Peoples Heritage month, on behalf of the Winona-Dakota Unity Alliance I ask fellow Winona community members the following:
1. Please come together to defend frontline activists facing legal challenges and support Indigenous communities by donating to: The Center for Protest Law & Litigation – Line 3 Rapid Response Fund at www.protestlaw.org/line3. Donations can be mailed to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (write CPLL/Line 3 in the subject line), 617 Florida Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001.
2. We are also asking for donations to support an Indigenous-led culture camp’s transition into the winter season. Please donate wool socks, wool blankets, and large army tarps. Items can be mailed to 1661 Reservation Road, Cloquet, MN 55720.
Your support helps give voice to Indigenous communities.