Reflections on Reconciliation, Sacred Sites, and Broken Treaties

The term “reconciliation” is a deeply problematic word when it comes to indigenous-colonizer relationships. The word refers to restoring friendly relationships when for indigenous peoples, friendly relationships never existed with colonizers.

Canada had a lengthy Truth and Reconciliation Commission, something not attempted yet in the United States. We struggle with the first half of the proposition — simply telling the truth. Continue reading

Legal Challenges Take Shape Against Line 3 and the PUC’s Anti-Indian, Anti-Environment Vote

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC’s) deeply flawed decision approving the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota likely will get challenged in court. Some of the legal arguments against the PUC are now coming into focus.

Seven organizations and tribal governments filed motions asking the PUC to reconsider its vote approving Line 3’s Certificate of Need. The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s motion says the PUC’s decision: “contains legal errors and ambiguities.” The Youth Climate Intervenors’ motion said that: “The Commission’s explicit denial of climate science and wholesale dismissal of treaty rights as ‘unnecessary’ are appalling.” A joint motion by Honor the Earth, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, said the PUC’s order: “fails to interpret state law to favor the public interest and protect the environment as against private interests.”

It’s doubtful the PUC will budge and reverse its vote, but this is a necessary procedural step to allow Line 3 opponents to sue in court. The legal arguments contained in these motions could form the basis for future lawsuits. If this issue does go to court, the PUC will have a lot of explaining to do about why it consistently favored Enbridge and ignored public testimony and the administrative law judge’s independent recommendations.

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PUC Final Order Approving Line 3 is Racist

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC’s) Sept. 5 final order approving the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline is disturbing. It ignores significant arguments brought forward by Native nations, environmental groups and youth, cherry picking facts to justify its decision.

The order has many flaws in how it addresses climate change, environmental risks to our state’s clean waters, and other issues that will be explored in a later blog. This blog focuses on the order’s racist conclusion that the PUC doesn’t need to consider the pipeline’s treaty rights impacts. Continue reading

PUC Adds Conditions to Enbridge’s Line 3 Approval, But Only Those Acceptable to Enbridge

The current Line 3 is blue, the proposed reroute is in red. Light green shaded area reflects the “ceded lands” where bands retain rights to hunt, fish and gather.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) added conditions to Enbridge Line 3 pipeline permits, but they could amount to a Band Aid on a skull fracture.

Probably good to have a Band Aid. Just not really all that good.

The PUC had a strong position to negotiate permit language for the new Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. The PUC failed to use its power and act in the best interests of Minnesotans. Continue reading

Eighteen Criticisms of the PUC’s Approval of the Enbridge Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) failed Minnesota citizens and Native nations by approving the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. The PUC seemed to bend over backwards to favor international corporate interests over Minnesota’s interests. At the same time, it seem to cave into Enbridge’s thinly veiled threat to keep running the old and dangerous Line 3 if the new Line 3 wasn’t approved.

Here are 18 flaws in the PUC’s decision and its process.

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Judge Takes Sides in Line 3’s Treaty Rights Debate When She Should Have Stayed Neutral

In her recommendations on the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline, Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly took sides on the critical issue of treaty rights when she should have stayed neutral. Instead, she staked out a legal position outside the scope of her work and one detrimental to the Ojibwe Bands.

O’Reilly is not a treaty law expert. More importantly, O’Reilly’s recommendations are meant for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the PUC isn’t going to take a position on treaty rights. It’s beyond the PUC’s scope. O’Reilly should have stayed neutral and articulated the PUC’s predicament: The PUC can’t decide treaty law disputes yet treaty rights are a critical issue underpinning its Line 3 decision. Continue reading

Block (Line 3) Party at the PUC: An Act of Celebration and Resistance

Part of the two-day Block Party opposing Enbridge Line 3 included a Water Ceremony at the Mississippi River, led by Sharon Day. (Photos by Scott Russell)
Camp Turtle Island erected a tipi in front of the PUC offices and members spent the night there.

In a month, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is expected to take a final vote on key permits for the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota. Indigenous and environmental groups kept up the pressure opposing the project by hosting a two-day Block Party right in front of PUC offices in downtown St. Paul.

It was called the “Block (Line 3) Party at the PUC,” and it was both a celebration and an act of resistance. The May 18-19 event included a meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton’s staff around pipeline issues, a community meal prepared by indigenous grandmothers, a silk screening tent, a water ceremony led by Sharon Day (an Anishinaabe Water Walker), community education, Line 3 updates, and a music concert featuring Annie Humphrey, Jayanthi Kyle, Thomas X and See More Perspective.

Rose Whipple, one of the Youth Climate Intervenors, spoke.

Line 3 is a bad idea, a proposal putting the interests of Canadian oil transportation giant Enbridge and larger oil processing firms over the interests of Minnesotans. Approving Line 3 would set a bad precedent for relocating other Enbridge pipelines throughout the state, increasing harm to the state’s environment, indigenous peoples, and anyone who cares about its waters. Several hundred people attended the event to show their opposition to the pipeline.

Debra Topping, a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe, and one of the Block Party organizers, was one of many speakers: “Every day I wake up there is something to fight about,” she said “Every single day we get up and fight for our wild rice.”

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