Secretary of the Red Lake Nation issues a call for public support in stopping Enbridge Line 3

Sam Strong, Secretary of the Red Lake Nation, issued a call for public help in stopping Enbridge from building its Line 3 pipeline. He calls the project a violation of Red Lake’s treaty rights.

Indigenous-led organizations such as Honor the Earth and the Giniw Collective have been on the front lines trying to stop Line 3. This is the first call from one of Minnesota’s sovereign Native nations asking people to come to northern Minnesota to support the pipeline resistance.

Sam Strong, Secretary of the Red Lake Nation (screen grab.)

Honor the Earth posted a one-minute video today of Strong issuing the call. He said:

We are out here tonight practicing our treaty rights. We are on our treaty territory. …

While practicing our treaty rights, we noticed that Enbridge and Line 3 have come in and desecrated our cultural sites, without informing us of their work, and without involving us in making sure our cultural sites were not impacted.

We are in opposition to this, and I have an obligation as Secretary of the Tribe to ensure all of our people — and everyone — knows that this wrongdoing is occurring on our land. And we are asking you to help us. We are asking you to come and support our cause.

We are here one-and-a-half miles north of St. Hilaire on Minnesota Highway 32. We are going to be here until our concerns are heard.


St. Hilaire is just south of Thief River Falls and near the Line 3 route. (Google maps screen grab)

Both Red Lake, White Earth, and various other groups, have cases pending in the Minnesota Court of Appeals trying to stop Line 3.

These cases will take months to play out as Line 3 construction continues. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) turned down Red Lake and White Earth’s petition to delay construction until the cases are heard. Red Lake and White Earth will try again Wednesday to get the PUC to change its mind. If the PUC rejects their request — as is expected — the nations can take their request for a delay to the Court of Appeals.

Red Lake and White Earth are also seek a Line 3 construction delay because of the ongoing pandemic. Indigenous peoples have been hit particularly hard by the disease. The influx of thousands of workers increases the risk of spread.

Current Line 3 route (orange) and proposed route (green).

The Anishinaabe nations in northern Minnesota claim treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather on the lands they ceded to the U.S. government (see map below). The state of Minnesota has repeatedly refused to honor those treaty rights.

The state seems to take the position that treaties are a federal issue and therefore the state will take a hands-off approach. Yet the state’s position in anything but neutral. It’s letting Line 3 construction proceed without first requiring treaty issues be resolved.

Its default assumption is that the treaty rights don’t exist.

Why Treaties Matter map showing land covered by various treaties. Line 3 runs through lands covered by the treaties of 1854, 1855 and 1863.

True, the state of Minnesota isn’t the right venue to interpret treaty law, but it has a legal and moral obligation to make sure that treaty issues are resolved before the such projects move forward.

In mid-2019, Gov. Tim Walz made headlines announcing an executive order affirming Minnesota’s government-to-government relationship with Native Nations. It states:

It is important to recognize that the United States and the State of Minnesota have a unique legal relationship with federally recognized Tribal Nations, as affirmed by the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, and case law. …

The State of Minnesota recognizes and supports the unique status of the Minnesota Tribal Nations and their right to existence, self-govern, and possess self-determination. …

All [state] agencies must recognize the unique legal relationship between the State of Minnesota and the Minnesota Tribal Nations, respect the fundamental principles that establish and maintain this relationship, and accord Tribal Governments the same respect accorded to other governments.

Executive Order 19-24

The state’s Line 3 decisions stand in stark contradiction to the Governor’s pledge.

At the time of the announcement, Scott Colombe, Farm Director for KLGR Radio, asked Walz to assess how Native leaders were responding to the executive order.

Walz said Native leaders should be “rightfully skeptical.” “We have a long, unfortunate, unpleasant history in this country of some broken treaties, and things we didn’t keep our word to,” he said.

Walz’s executive order can be added to the tall stack of broken promises.

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