Treaty People Gathering was about more than resistance and arrests, but a teaching moment

Treaties are a two-way street with rights and responsibilities for both parties. On Line 3, Minnesota is failing its duty.

Photo: Ron Turney, EIN

The Treaty People Gathering, June 5-8, garnered extensive media coverage, notably the June 7 actions taken to stop construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota.

The media covered the political pressure placed on President Joe Biden to live up to his campaign promises to address climate change and respect Tribal sovereignty. It covered water protectors chaining themselves to Enbridge equipment and the subsequent arrests of approximately 200 people. It covered speeches by important movement leaders and celebrities such as Winona LaDuke, Tara Houska and Jane Fonda.

Most stories made a passing reference to treaty rights, but failed to give the topice much ink. It’s not something that fits easily into a two-paragraph summary or a 30-second video clip.

The problem is that many non-Indigenous people erroneously view treaty rights as a gift from the United State government to Indigenous Nations. Treaty rights are a binding contract between two parties, each with their own rights and responsibilities.

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Line 3 resistance now focuses on Biden

One piece of broader effort to stop pipelines

Darrell G. Seki Sr., chair of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and Michael Fairbanks, Chair of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe wrote a strong letter to President Biden last winter asking him to shut down Enbridge Line 3 by executive order.

They asked Biden to respect Tribal sovereignty and treaties. “As elected leaders, we wish to state clearly that the Bands never gave consent for the construction of the pipeline through our treaty lands,” the Feb. 2 letter said. “In fact, the Bands’ governing bodies have each enacted multiple Resolutions throughout the course of the five-year regulatory process in opposition to the 338 miles of pipeline construction through the largest concentration of wild rice watersheds in the United States.”

With Walz being a wallflower in the Line 3 debate, Tribes, water protectors and their allies have ramped up presidential pressure.

Last month, more than 300 organizations “representing Indigenous groups and national and local organizations, sent a letter to the Biden Administration calling on him to immediately suspend or revoke Enbridge’s Line 3 permits,” WECAN reported.

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Red Lake rejected Enbridge financial deal to drop Line 3 lawsuits

A lot of the $56 million offer Enbridge should be doing anyway

Native nations are quite familiar with divide-and-conquer tactics.

The first treaty made in what would become Minnesota happened in 1805, two years after the Louisiana purchase. Lt. Zebulon Pike reported in his journal that two of the seven Dakota leaders present agreed to sell the site that would become Fort Snelling.

Two of seven, and Pike considered it a done deal.

The Star Tribune ran a story Monday on how Enbridge tried to buy off the Red Lake Nation, a key Line 3 opponent, and get it to drop its lawsuit against the project. Red Lake rejected it.

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Enbridge Line 3’s COVID Preparedness Plan has no teeth

On Dec. 2, the day after Enbridge started construction of its Line 3 pipeline, the company updated its COVID Preparedness Plan with state regulators.

The plan was part of a compliance filing for Line 3’s Route Permit, approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

The plan seemed deficient, lacking transparency and enforcement. Healing Minnesota Stories wrote the PUC to ask why it didn’t require a stronger plan.

PUC Executive Secretary Will Seuffert wrote back: “the Commission did not require Enbridge to file any plans related to COVID-19, and did not approve the COVID-19 prevention plan.”

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MN Court of Appeals rejects stay in Line 3 construction

The Minnesota Court of Appeals Tuesday rejected an appeal by the Red Lake and White Earth nations to stop construction of Enbridge Line 3 until all the legal challenges could be heard.

While a big disappointment, Line 3 opponents still have a separate request for an injunction on construction pending in federal court.

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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.)
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PUC ignores Native nation’s concerns about Line 3’s COVID risks

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today rejected requests from the Red Lake and White Earth nations to delay construction of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline.

Further, the tribes said the arrival of out-of-town construction workers would increase the spread of COVID.

Further, the tribes and other intervenors have cases pending in the Minnesota Court of Appeals trying to reverse Line 3 approvals. The issues range from Line 3’s climate damage and treaty rights to the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s argument that Enbridge failed to prove this pipeline is needed.

The tribes argued that if the PUC didn’t delay Line 3 construction, the environmental damage would be done before the court reaches a decision, which would be unfair.

In a 4-1 vote, the PUC rejected the request for a “stay” in construction. Commissioner Matt Schuerger was the lone vote in favor of the stay. He called the tribe’s arguments “persuasive and critically important.”

Red Lake and White Earth are expected to appeal the PUC’s decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

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During pandemic spike, state needs to bar Enbridge Line 3 construction and its influx of out-of-state workers

PUC to hear Red Lake, White Earth requests for pipeline delay on Friday

Native Nations, environmental groups, file suit today to block MPCA’s Line 3 permit

Native Americans are bearing a disproportionate burden of the coronavirus pandemic and getting inadequate government support.

It’s true nationally and in Minnesota. Here, Gov. Tim Walz’ administration has put Indigenous lives at risk by failing to delay Enbridge Line 3 construction and the pandemic risks it entails.

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Red Lake, White Earth ask PUC to stop Line 3 construction until legal challenges are decided

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated where the motion was filed. It was filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

In a motion filed today at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the Red Lake and White Earth nations have asked for a “stay” of Enbridge Line 3 construction until the Court makes a ruling on pending legal challenges.

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Thank you Governor Walz! State refiles Line 3 pipeline appeal

Groups opposed to the Line 3 tar sands pipeline filed appeals today to overturn Enbridge Line 3’s permits at the Minnesota Court of Appeals .

Gov. Tim Walz

In terrific news for those opposing the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline, the Minnesota Department of Commerce late today announced it would refile its appeal to stop the project. (Thanks to MPR’s Dan Kraker for the tweet.) The case now heads to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

The Walz administration faced a Wednesday deadline to file its appeal. The Governor hadn’t indicated which way he was leaning. The pressure was on.

Earlier today, Indigenous Nations and environmental groups filed a joint appeal to reject Line 3’s permits. Group representatives called on Walz to renew the state’s appeal at a press conference outside the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

“Yet again, the PUC has refused to acknowledge the reality that Line 3 would pose untenable costs to Minnesota, all to deliver tar sands oil we don’t need,” Sierra Club North Star Chapter Director Margaret Levin said in a media release. “Their bad decision — ignoring state’s agencies’ recommendations, and based on a faulty process — would be devastating for Minnesota’s clean water and communities. The Court must reject the PUC’s decision once and for all.”

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