Reckless driver tries to intimidate water protectors
On Dec. 18, Lee Lewis was driving Cass County back roads monitoring construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. He was volunteering with Watch the Line and following the law. He would stop where the proposed pipeline route crosses roadways and take photos from the public right of way.
He recalled seeing Sheriff Department vehicles a couple of times, either driving or parked near pipeline crossing sites. After a while, he noticed two sheriffs vehicles following him. They turned on their flashing lights and pulled him over, he said. A deputy got out of the first car and asked Lewis what he was doing.
“I told him that I was scouting Line 3 and making observations,” Lewis said. “He asked if I was a Water Protector. I said ‘yes’.”
The deputy told him he was within his rights to make such observations, but the department had received a call of suspicious activity. The deputy asked for Lewis’ driver’s license, calling it routine.
Lewis gave him his ID, but why should he have to? He had done nothing wrong. And why two squad cars?
This seems to be Enbridge’s standard operating procedure. If employees see anyone observing the pipeline, they call in “suspicious” activity. Sheriff’s deputies intervene on the company’s behalf.
Two lawsuits are in the works to force a construction delay in the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline, which is now well underway.
The Red Lake Band and White Earth nations, the Sierra Club and Honor the Earth sued in federal court last week to delay Line 3 construction, arguing it violates treaty rights and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted permits in violation of environmental laws.
Later this week, Honor the Earth says it will join with Red Lake, White Earth and the Sierra Club to go to the Minnesota Court of Appeals to seek a construction delay. The influx of construction out-of-state workers threatens to spread COVID-19 in northern Minnesota, they say. And the Court of Appeals has pending lawsuits against Line 3 that still needed to be heard and decided.
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.
Part of an occasional series highlighting examples of truth telling, education, and reparations with Indigenous and African American communities
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe holds less of its original reservation lands than any other Ojibwe tribe in Minnesota. In fact, Leech Lake suffered more land loss than most other reservations in the United States due the efforts by lumber barons to get their hands on the band’s prized timber lands.
The federal government has a trust responsibility to Native Americans. Historically, it deemed Native American “incompetent” to manage their own affairs. The government was supposed to protect Native nations and their lands from fraud and abuse. In fact, the government actively participated in undermining treaty obligations and facilitated land sell-offs to private business interests.
This year, Congress approved a bill to return some 17 square miles to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, lands that had been “wrongly transferred” to the Chippewa National Forest, according to the Pioneer Press.
A Leech Lake tribal news release said: “The land restoration is the culmination of years of effort and will honor tribal sovereignty, allowing the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe to invest in future generations and build more housing to accommodate their community.”
This is not charity. This is justice.
This is an act to be celebrated and a history to be mourned. While 17 square miles might seem like a lot, it’s a very small measure of repair given the amount of land stolen under the federal Dawes, Nelson, Morris, and Burke Acts of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Site is near where Enbridge plans to drill a tunnel under the Mississippi River
This from MN350: Native leaders on the frontlines of the fight against Line 3 have issued an urgent call: come on Monday, Dec 14 at 9:30am to stand with them and stop construction that imminently threatens the Mississippi River.
Go to Palisade, MN and then head north on Great River Road — you’ll see the meetup point. Since construction began nearly two weeks ago, many people have protested legally along the route, and some have been cited for protecting the water or engaging in peaceful civil disobedience on land where Enbridge is trying to build this harmful pipeline. At the meeting spot, you’ll learn more about the options for how to participate.
The state of Minnesota has paid a lot of lip service to Indigenous communities around “meaningful consultation” and “environmental justice.” As construction on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline seems imminent, the state’s shallow commitment to these promises has become ever more apparent.
White Earth and Red Lake Nations have opposed Line 3 for years. They say its construction and future spills would damage their treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather on lands the pipeline crosses. They are currently in court trying to stop the pipeline. The state has proceeded with approvals without making sure treaty issues get resolved first.
Last week, more than half of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) Environmental Justice Advisory Group resigned over the agency’s decision to approve a key Enbridge Line 3 pipeline permit. They “cannot continue to legitimize and provide cover for the MPCA’s war on black and brown people,” their letter said.
Today, the Minnesota Public Utility Commission (PUC) issued a letter saying that Enbridge was generally in compliance with its Route Permitconditions, which required plans that were supposed to benefit and protect Indigenous communities.
The PUC required Enbridge to submit a:
Tribal Economic Opportunity and Labor Education Plan
Human Trafficking Prevention Plan
Environmental Justice Communities Mitigation Plan
A close examination shows these plans to be inadequate and lacking in accountability.