As Walz administration continues to fail on Line 3, Line 3 continues bringing trauma to Indian Country

T-shirts spelled out: “We are all treaty people”

Native Nations and environmental groups opposed to the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline announced Wednesday they would appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court to overturn the pipeline’s Certificate of Need and Route Permit.

One notable advocate that had sued to stop Line 3 dropped out this time: The Minnesota Department of Commerce. Commerce represented the public interest before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). It has consistently argued that Enbridge failed to prove that future oil demand justified building the new and larger Line 3.

Those continuing litigation to overturn the PUC’s Line 3 permits are: The White Earth Band of Ojibwe, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, the Sierra Club, Honor the Earth, Friends of the Headwaters, and Youth Climate Interveners.

Gov. Tim Walz appears to have caved to political pressure. His administration’s decision to drop the appeal emphasizes what’s been clear for a while: In spite of promises, Walz is not taking climate damage or treaty rights seriously.

In related news, top elected leaders from the White Earth Nation came to the Capitol today to press the Walz administration for nation-to-nation consultation around Line 3.

Shortly after being elected, Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan issued an executive order promising such meaningful consultation with Native Nations. It hasn’t happened with Line 3.

White Earth Nation Chair Michael Fairbanks

The White Earth contingent at the Capitol Wednesday included Chair Michael Fairbanks; Secretary Treasurer Alan Roy; District 1 Representative Ray Auginaush; Waabinoo on behalf of District 2 Representative Kathy Goodwin; and Cheryl “Annie” Jackson, District 3 Representative.

Their message to the Walz administration was clear: Honor treaties, engage in meaningful nation-to-nation consultation, revoke Enbridge’s new and larger dewatering permits during the drought, and respect the rights of Manoomin (wild rice) under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

“Since the beginning of this process, White Earth Nation has been actively opposed to the construction of this pipeline,” Fairbanks said. “We don’t want this black snake.”

White Earth would “continue to oppose the pipeline and stand for our treaty rights until the construction is halted, the permits are revoked and our water is once again safe.”

That said, Fairbanks added that he believed Walz was “a reasonable and good man,” and they could still sit down and talk.

In Indian Country, pressure is mounting on Flanagan to do a lot more to oppose Line 3. As a state representative, she was a vocal opponent. As Lt. Governor, she’s been quiet.

A sign hanging from the rotunda said “Peggy, where are you?”

Some messages were subtle.

Iron Boy Singers

The Iron Boy Singers did a ceremonial opening for today’s Capitol rally. The Iron Boy Singers is the same group that performed in St. Paul in 2019 to honor of Flanagan’s inauguration.

Dawn Goodwin (left) and Nancy Beaulieu (with staffs).

Rally speakers included Dawn Goodwin of White Earth and Nancy Beaulieu of Leech Lake, two of the founders of RISE: Resilient Indigenous Sisters Engaging. They also are leading the Wild Rice Protector Camp near where Line 3 crosses the Mississippi headwaters.

Beaulieu noted that both she and Goodwin were honored to be carrying the staffs from Marvin Manypenny (Flanagan’s late father). Manypenny told them to “keep doing what you are supposed to be doing,” Beaulieu said.

[Update: Following the rally Flanagan posted a Facebook message opposing Line 3.

As many people know, I have long expressed my opposition to Line 3. My position has not changed and I am once again speaking up.

My daughter knows that she is a water protector and that water is our first medicine. She knows that our homeland is “where food grows on water” and that our sacred manoomin needs clean water in order to grow. The values we espouse in our own home cannot be separated from the values we live publicly. Support for Line 3 is inconsistent with my family’s values.

While I cannot stop Line 3, I will continue to do what is within my power to make sure our people are seen, heard, valued and protected. Using my voice is an important part of that work.

I am an Ojibwe woman all of the time. I cannot simply flip a switch and turn my identity on and off because of my job. I am also a proud member of the White Earth Nation and I stand with my people in opposition to Line 3.

Peggy Flanagan

Her post’s comments section has both support for her words and criticism for her lack of initiative on Line 3.]

Goodwin’s speech was particularly moving, and spoke to the personal costs paid by Indigenous leaders engaged in this work.

Dawn Goodwin

Goodwin said she has been working to stop Line 3 for seven years. She described herself as “the shiest person in the room,” but she had vowed to do all she could “to ensure my people’s voice was heard.”

“On the daily, it’s about stepping out of your comfort zone and doing what you can do,” she told the crowd. “What are you going to stand up for? I hope its water.”

And Goodwin began to choke up.

Seven years of my life. Time that I have given in this fight. But I do it for the water, because it’s worth it. But at the same time, my time is not given to my family. …

And I just recently lost my mother. I was waiting for things to slow down so I could spend more time with her. She’s not here now.

Dawn Goodwin
Taysha Martineau

Taysha Martineau of the Fond du Lac Band has led Camp Migizi and has had their own personal challenges. While Fond du Lac initially opposed Line 3, it has dropped its opposition. It came to terms with Enbridge to rebuild Line 3 through its reservation. That’s divided the community.

When Martineau was at Standing Rock, they didn’t know anything about Tiger Swan, the private security firm hired by the Dakota Access Pipeline, she said. With Line 3, they are toe-to-toe with friends and family.

Voice cracking, Martineau continued:

But when I take to the front lines in my home community, I’m standing against my brothers. I’m standing against people I have sat in ceremony with. People who fed my children. The people who fed me when I was hungry.

Taysha Martineau

In spite of the toll, front line resistance continues in various forms with various tactics.

Those of us who are not Indigenous can help in various ways. We can speak out on the importance of honoring treaty rights in our spheres of influence. We can go stand in solidarity on the front lines. We can contribute resources.

Here’s a few helpful links:

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