Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, founder of Healing Minnesota Stories, joined roughly 75 other faith and indigenous leaders who gathered in the Governor’s Conference Room today to pray, sing, hold an Anihsinaabe water ceremony, and make a clear demand that Gov. Tim Walz stop the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline — an unnecessary and dangerous project that violates treaty rights.
“Today, my message to Gov. Walz is that you cannot claim to be an ally to indigenous people when you knowingly introduce toxins into the food and water systems. And that is exactly what Enbridge Line 3 will do,” said Jacobs, who is a member of the Mohican Nation. “… I stand with all of you in hope that Gov. Walz will take heroic action and sign an executive order halting Line 3 where it stands,”
At a minimum, Jacobs said Walz needs to support a Minnesota Department of Commerce lawsuit to stop Line 3, an action begun by former Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration. The suit argues Enbridge failed to prove the new and expanded Line 3 was needed. The Walz administration is now reevaluating the lawsuit and the Governor is expected to announce early next week which side he will take.
Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light organized the event. (Note: There’s still time to call the Governor this weekend — 651-201-3400 — to oppose Line 3.)
Kristin Beckmann, Walz’ Deputy Chief of Staff, extended the Governor’s thanks to those in attendance. Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan had prioritized government-to-government talks with Native nations before meeting with advocacy groups about Line 3, she said. They were meeting with Native leaders that afternoon.
Beckmann promised to share with the Governor what she witnessed in the room.
“I am moved by the power and the energy that you bring into this room,” she said. “… I have stood with some of you at some serious social justice fights. I take that responsibility seriously.”
Standing Up to Empire
Rev. Dr. Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches, gave powerful testimony opposing Line 3. He opened by reading from the Gospel of Mark, when John baptizes Jesus in the River Jordan. When Jesus emerges from the water, “he saw Heaven torn open and the spirit descended on him like a dove.”
As Christians we are centered on following the life and the example of Jesus, one whose very ministry began at the water. Baptism was an act of life. He was also a person who lived on a land that was not controlled by his people but was controlled by the empire. As he’s baptized, he’s also starting a ministry of protest against the actions of empire as it relates to indigenous people. So … if we are faithful in our following of Jesus, there is no other place than we would be than right here.
Last spring and summer, more than 550 clergy members and faith leaders signed onto a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton opposing Line 3. “Here we are in winter, still in protest, still in witness, still in prayer,” DeYoung said.
Spirituality of Water
The common call and response by pipeline resisters is a Dakota phrase followed by its English translation: “Mni Wiconi … Water is Life!” Christian traditions hold water sacred, too.
The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, a United Church of Christ minister and Director of of the Center for Sustainable Justice, emceed the event.
“We are gathered here today because we know that water is life and our water, and our lives, are threatened by the Enbridge Line 3 project,” she said. “And so, as spiritually-rooted people, as people of faith and moral conviction, we are gathered to say no to that which threatens the water and our lives.” (Full remarks here.)
Dana Neuhauser, Minister of Public Witness at New City Church, a United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, talked about water, too, and how much she loved baptisms.
“One of my all-time favorite parts of the United Methodist service of baptism asks this question: “Do you accept the freedom God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?”
“This ritual doesn’t just remind us of the past and welcome us into community,” she said. “It calls and empowers us to actively resist when necessary. So, it is through the waters of baptism, my own and my children’s, that I am called to stand here today.”
Jacobs also spoke of the spirituality of water.
“To quote from the Hebrew Scriptures: ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and the Spirit of God covered over the water,’ he said. “It [water] is the first relative of all of Creation. And we approach this water, this sacred water, not as a resource which we can do with whatever we please, but as a relative who needs to be cared for, nurtured, and protected. Because that is exactly what she does for us.
Click here for MPR’s report: Faith leaders and lawmakers press Walz about Line 3 pipeline.
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