From the Line 3 front lines: Arrests at multiple sites, police dogs, an eviction order and its repeal, police harassment, and cultural renewal as pipeline construction escalates

Photo: Indigenous Environmental Network

Indigenous nations and people are flexing their treaty muscles to Stop Line 3.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety and the Minnesota Department of Transportation threatened arrests and evictions earlier today at the Red Lake Treaty Camp in Pennington County. The camp is adjacent to lands where Enbridge plans to tunnel Line 3 under the Red Lake River.

The agencies later rescinded their trespass order, indicating that Water Protectors in the area are not required to leave.

That said, law enforcement arrested one person at the Treaty Camp Tuesday. They also brought attack dogs, according to a media release, reminiscent of Standing Rock.

Unlike Standing Rock, however, which focused on the Dakota Access Pipeline’s Missouri River crossing, Line 3 runs 337 miles border-to-border through northern Minnesota, crossing more than 200 bodies. Resistance is spread out. Water Protectors use a variety of tactics. Some resist with peaceful presence, exercising their treaty-protected rights to hold ceremony on Line 3 easements. Others lock down to equipment.

In other news today, Water Protectors locked down to Enbridge’s Horizontal Directional Drill (HDD) equipment being used to bore a Line 3 tunnel under the Straight River in Hubbard County, according to the Giniw Collective.

On Monday, three Water Protectors connected to a ceremony were arrested in Aitkin County on an Enbridge easement for its second Mississippi River crossing.

Details below.

Red Lake Treaty Camp

Water Protector arrested near Red Lake River. Photo: Indigenous Environmental Network.

The Red Lake Tribal Council sanctioned the Red Lake Treaty Camp, which is on public land within the territory that Red Lake and Pembina Bands ceded to the United States through the 1863 Old Crossing Treaty. Red Lake members are exercising their their treaty rights. Enbridge’s construction is interrupting ceremony, in violation of the Native American Religious Freedom Act, according to an Indigenous Environmental Network media release.

On Tuesday, one Water Protector was tackled and suffered injuries while being arrested for “trespassing” on the Line 3 easement. Short video of arrest here.

Red Lake pushed back on the eviction order.

The Tribal Council appointed member Sasha Beaulieu as Tribal Cultural Resource Monitor responsible for Line 3. A media release said:

This appointment allows for monitoring and protection of archaeological sites under the National Historic Preservation Act, yet Ms. Beaulieu’s appointment has been ignored by Enbridge and she has not been able to monitor their work.

“We need the right representatives in place to protect our land, water, and rice beds,” said Sasha Beaulieu. “Enbridge is attempting to transport the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world at the expense of our most sacred food.”

“The killing of our wild rice beds is an act of genocide,” said Sam Strong. “A strong reminder of when the army killed all the buffalo in the 1800s to starve and remove the tribes from their land.”

Beaulieu told Truthout: that “it’s not the tribe’s Water Protectors and allies who are trespassing on the site; it’s Enbridge — since the tribe has a right to be there under the 1863 Treaty. Moreover, the Water Protector arrested Tuesday morning never crossed the gate that fences off Enbridge’s easement site.”

Locking down in Hubbard County

Water Protector locked down to Enbrdige trenching equipment in Hubbard County. Photo: Giniw Collective.

Some direct actions are sending a message to President Joe Biden, who has made promising remarks about addressing climate change but has remained silent on Enbridge Line 3. The pipeline would generate as much greenhouse gases as approving 50 new coal-fired power plants, according to state estimates.

A Giniw Collective media release quoted two participants in today’s action:

Water protector, author, and mother Madeline Fitch said, “I’m here to answer the call to action from Anishinaabe water protectors who are protecting their territory against Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline. I’m a settler on stolen land, and I think at this juncture if that’s true for you, you need to pick a side. I want to be on the side of people who belong to the land, indigenous people who have had their land stolen, and who are in the midst of 500 years of resistance. That’s the side I want to be on and I don’t want there to be any question about that. I want to be able to tell my children and the generations to come that I did everything in my power, everything I can, to make sure that there is a future for the next generations.”

Another Water Protector said, “I come from stolen Monacan and Tutelo land where the Mountain Valley Pipeline is being constructed. I believe that from the hills to the headwaters we need to act in solidarity with all people resisting extraction in their communities. Betray your whiteness, betray your class, be a traitor to a system that benefits you at the expense of indigenous people, a system that steals our futures away from us.”

Water Protector Welcome Center in Aitkin County

The Welcome Center in Aitkin County is on property adjacent to the site where Enbridge is preparing to drill under the Mississippi River. It’s a gathering space for Water Protectors.

Mississippi River in Aitkin County, just upstream from where Enbridge will drill.

Winona LaDuke, co-founder of Honor the Earth, and Tania Aubid, a Water Protector, erected a ceremonial prayer lodge on Enbridge’s easement near the Mississippi River, land they are allowed to occupy for ceremony under treaty law.

In response to pushback, the 1855 Treaty Authority sent a cease and desist letter Friday to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Sarah Strommen and Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida. It reads in part:

I write to give notice of DNR officers and Aitkin County Deputies intentionally violating the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, Public Law No. 95-341, 92 Stat. 469 to cause fear and intimidate and interfere with our tribal member’s cultural and religious practices to protect and preserve our inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise their traditional religious rites, spiritual and cultural practices.

Frank Bibeau, executive director, 1855 Treaty Authority

On Monday, law enforcement officials arrested three Water Protectors at the lodge. One participant on the scene said more than two dozen law enforcement officials from multiple jurisdictions responded to the prayerful ceremony.

“This action was a blatant violation of 1855 Treaty Rights and an official stay on construction from the Army Corps of Engineers from last December that prohibits workers from entering the area,” according to Stop Line 3 statement.

Following the Monday arrests, Welcome Center volunteers took down the old ceremonial lodge and replaced it with a larger one.

Enbridge erected a visual barrier to its construction site near the Mississippi.

It’s hard to tell exactly how construction is proceeding near the Mississippi in Aitkin County. Enbridge erected a visual barrier to block the view from the road. There was lot of banging and other construction-related noises.

Sheriff Guida claims neutrality on Line 3. “We try to be in the middle just to keep the peace,” he told the Star Tribune. “We are not pro-pipeline or anti-pipeline.”

It sounds good, but doesn’t feel that way.

Guida is a member of the Northern Lights Task Force, a secret effort between law enforcement and Enbridge to coordinate responses to Water Protector resistance.

Aitkin County Sheriff’s deputies are a regular presence at the Enbridge worksite near the Mississippi River. They’re standing by regardless of whether there is an “incident” or not. For all practical matters, they’re acting as Enbridge’s private security.

Aitkin County law enforcement is a regular presence at the Enbridge drill site near the Mississippi River. Photo taken Tuesday.

State regulators approved a scheme where Enbridge pays the Aitkin County Sheriff’s office (and other law enforcement agencies) for any Line 3-related public safety expenses. The payment goes through an independent third party who approves it, but everyone knows where the money comes from.

The flow of cash creates good with law enforcement for Enbridge, and it creates a perverse incentive for law enforcement to hang out near Line 3 to get billable hours.

The Welcome Center has experienced law enforcement intimidation. Shanai Matteson, an organizer at the Center, offered this recent example.

Last week, “officers came into this peaceful prayer camp at around midnight — shining flashlights and taking pictures as they walked around camp — while women were in their tents and nearly asleep”, Matteson said in a press release. “These officers did not identify themselves, nor did they give any warnings or commands before or during their visit — a terrifying situation for those inside our tents and unable to see where they were or if our friends were safe.”

There’s also been petty power plays against the Welcome Center and its members.

Last winter, Matteson, who grew up in the area, wanted to hold a community festival in Palisade to provide information on fossil fuel dependence and renewable energy. She requested a permit to use the local pavilion. Local officials rejected it.

Guida was looped in on emails on the permit request, though he denies he had a role in denying it. The Palisade City Council “very concerned that someone from these camps was going to get aggressive. … They were concerned for their public safety. That’s why they brought me into the mix,” he said.

The official excuse for denying the permit was that Matteson didn’t apply 30 days in advance. An Indian Country Today story provides more details.

The Aitkin County Sheriff established a “No Parking” zone near the Welcome Center. It extends over the hill.

Another example: Shortly after Line 3 construction started in early December, the Sheriff’s Office created a “No Parking” zone along River Road near the Welcome Center. It requires visitors to park at least a quarter mile away from the center and walk on the shoulder of the road. In an interview with Guida several months ago, he defended the “No Parking” zone, calling it a safety issue.

We had a situation where we had about 120 cars on the side of the road, blocking the road, and there were lots of people walking back and forth. It was a very dangerous situation for both the vehicles driving up the road and the people walking.

Having such large gatherings has been relatively rare at the Center, but the parking restrictions remain.

Asked how having people walk a quarter mile on the shoulder of the road to get to camp made things safer, Guida said: “We addressed the worst-case scenario. If we hadn’t had that parking zone, there have been several days where we would have had huge issues, it’s a real curve right there, and there’s a congestion area.”

Check out the picture above and decide for yourself. You can’t see where the No Parking Zone begins because it’s past the top of the hill.

The law enforcement response seems primed to fear Water Protectors. Has anyone heard of an incident where a Water Protector has hurt someone in law enforcement? Let me know.

Four Seasons Camp

The Four Seasons Camp is a culture camp, an effort by Indigenous people to reclaim and practice traditional ways. Non-Indigenous people who are interested in learning and supporting the work have joined.

One camp member said efforts such as stopping Line 3 generate a lot of passion and people, yet at some point it all ends and the people leave. The Four Seasons Camp is thinking of ways to support the local Anishinaabe who were here before the controversy and will be here afterwards.

One of their current projects is to build a traditional ricing and fishing boat for a local family.

Four Seasons Camp project.

Driving home today from the Four Seasons Camp, I crossed the Line 3 route on Loon Avenue in Aitkin County. There were two dozen worker trucks parked on the road’s shoulder. Below is the photo of the work site.

Line 3 crossing Loon Avenue in Aitkin County

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