Urgent: The Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Must Be Stopped

pumpkin bread and pumpkins and seeds on wooden table

Written by Ariana Lipsman | Edited By: Carol Coutinho

February 8, 2021

There is a ticking time bomb buried in Minnesota. It’s a massive, 1,097 mile-long snake made of faulty steel, burrowed under the earth. It pumps tar sands, one of the dirtiest fuels in the world, from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. This snake trespasses through Native American reservations- the Fond du Lac Reservation of the Lake Superior Chippewa and the Leech Lake Reservation of Ojibwe- endangering the land and people  who live there. This snake is the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline. 

Infographic displaying the nutrient profile of one cup of cooked fresh pumpkin and a cartoony illustration of a green bowl of orange pumpkin puree
Uy, Stacey. “#NoDAPL”. 2016. jog file.

Enbridge is the Canadian oil company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in America. Now, it wants to build another pipeline in the same area. While they call this new plan a “replacement”, they have no intention of actually replacing the pipeline. Enbridge plans to leave the existing 60 year-old pipeline to rot in the ground, while  building a new, bigger, and longer pipeline through wild land. Land full of natural resources promised by treaty to the Anishinaabe Nation of indigenous peoples. Land that they rely on for their traditional food sources and way of life.

Tar sands crude, an extremely thick type of oil, is what will run through the new pipeline. “Tar sands are worse because there’s very little study on the effects of tar sands on living organisms. And it sinks in water, so they have to put gas condensate, a lighter gas, and chemicals into the oil to thin it out so that it can get through the lines,” explains Dawn Goodwin, an Anishinaabe water protector fighting against Line 3. 


What’s Wrong With Pipelines?

The reason oil pipelines are so dangerous is because it isn’t a matter of “if” they leak, but when. That’s why Enbridge’s plan makes my palms sweat. It will run through the clean, pure lakes, rivers, and wetlands of Northern Minnesota- over 200 of them, to be exact, while also being scarily close to the Great Lakes. These bodies of water provide one fifth of the world’s freshwater supply, and all of them support delicate, aquatic ecosystems. Not to mention that there are major fisheries throughout the area that generate $7.2 billion every year and sustain 49,000 jobs. The pipeline would also cut right through the Anishinaabe’s wild rice beds, a crucial food source for them. This wild rice only grows in this area of Minnesota- nowhere else in the country, or the entire world.

Dawn explains that “this pipeline, this oil, would increase the carbon dioxide in the air [to a level that is] equal to 50 coal plants, over its duration. So that’s how much carbon dioxide would be in the air. It’s poison, [and] it could possibly poison the water, going under rivers, and through watersheds and wetlands. The absolute worst place to put a tar sands pipeline is in aquatic areas. They’re impossible to clean up entirely. And then the longer tar sands are in the water and exposed to sun, the more toxic it gets.”  In other words, it’s a cocktail of toxins that is a disaster waiting to happen. 


Sick Black Girl Blowing Nose Sitting In Bed, Panorama

Bracken, Amber. “Line 3 Construction”. Greenpeace. 2020 jpg file.


What’s the Status?

Despite all of the lives and lands that the pipeline would endanger, Minnesota regulators approved the plan this past November. After a grueling seven years in which environmental and indigenous groups fought Enbridge tooth and nail, it has won the permits it needs to begin construction. “They can now de-water lakes and move water in between basins and wetlands”, said Winona LaDuke, an Anishinaabe water protector, in an interview with Park Rapids Enterprise. Winona LaDuke is also the executive director of Honor the Earth, one of the organizations at the forefront of the fight against Enbridge, and has been fighting them since the beginning. 

“…the treaties have been ignored for so long and kept out of history… They’ve been ignored and people think they don’t have to follow them.”  – Dawn Goodwin

Enbridge has been able to push through the approval process by deliberately evading the indigenous groups that would be affected. They also ignored the Anishinaabe’s treaty rights to the resources of the land, specifically the Treaty of 1855, which the pipeline will directly impact. How are Enbridge and all of the politicians who gave it approval able to brush past this 170 year-old written agreement? Dawn Goodwin’s answer to my burning question doesn’t inspire much pride in our government. “Because the treaties have been ignored for so long and kept out of history… They’ve been ignored and people think they don’t have to follow them. And it’s been ignored so long that people think that’s okay.” 

Stop Line 3.org. “Enbridge Line 3 Impact on Treaty Resources”. 2020. jpg file.

Enbridge hasn’t wasted a second, jumping right into construction. They’ve opened multiple worksites where employees are working 24 hours a day. This rush is because of a pending order to stop all work, so that tribally-led lawsuits can be heard. No decisions have been made yet about the order, but Enbridge wants to complete as much of the pipe as they can in the meantime. Not surprisingly, they are ignoring the concerns from Anishinaabe groups about the hundreds of construction workers pouring into their communities, potentially bringing COVID-19 with them. Winona LaDuke explains the toll this has taken on the community. “We feel like we’ve had enough duress. We had a tough year. We had riots in Minneapolis and we had a very, very turbulent election. Our state is torn apart. It would just be great to have a winter of rest.”
Chocolate Torte

Hovland, Ben. “Dawn Goodwin and another water protector watch workers resume construction on the Line 3 pipeline in Aitkin County, Minn., on Saturday, Jan. 9.” 2020. jpg file.


The Anishanaabe

To understand why this land is so important to the Anishinaabe, we need to learn their history. The Anishinaabe Nation is a group of culturally and linguistically related First Nations that includes the Ojibwe, Chippewa, Odawa, and Algonquin groups, among others. The new Line 3 will cut by the White Earth, Leech Lake, and Fond du Lac reservations, homes of different Ojibwe tribes. 
The Anishinaabe came to the Great Lakes region from the east coast in the 1600’s, following their Prophecy of the Seven Fires. Each fire is a prediction of what the future would bring to them. This first fire told them to move west, and that they would know they had reached their destination when they found “the food that grows on water”- the wild rice of the Minnesota wetlands. For the next four hundred years, the Anishinaabe, especially the Ojibwe, would perfect techniques of harvesting and cooking the wild rice, which the Ojibwe named “manoomin”. It has become integral to their culture, and a part of who they are.
Carney, Brooke. “Sea Grant and Partners Work Together to Restore Culturally Important Wild Rice.” 2018. jpg file.
LaDuke, Winona. “The Long and Honorable Battle of the Ojibwe to Keep Their Wild Rice Wild. 2011.jpg file.
Dawn, who is Ojibwe and lives on the White Earth Reservation, described the Ojibwe’s deep connection to the land that Line 3 will cut through. “Our people lived by the seasons. Our cultural lifeways are dependent on the seasons. So when March comes, we know that it’s time for sugar bush maple syrup. Then shortly after that, the blossoms come, and then we get our berries from the blossoms. Then wild rice starts growing in the waters. And if wild rice doesn’t have the proper water levels at that certain time of the year, and proper sunlight, heat and coolness at harvest time, it doesn’t do well. It’s all connected.” The consequences of this lead right back to that 1855 treaty. “What this does at a higher level, is that it will create more climate change, which would put our seasonal Anishinaabe lifeways- the seasons- out of balance. So it would negate our guarantee to the treaty.”

If the Ojibwe, and all of the Anishinaabe groups, can no longer live off their land, eating the food that their ancestors did, maintaining their centuries-old harvesting and gathering practices, they lose their traditional way of life. They lose a huge part of who they are as a culture. That is a sobering thought. Native peoples have suffered, and miraculously survived, so much cultural genocide already. We know this, but we think of it as part of history, something that happened in the past. It isn’t. It’s happening right now. By repeatedly ignoring the Anishinaabe’s objections and thumbing its nose at their safety and well-being, Enbridge, and all of the politicians who helped it, have shown us that racism against Native Americans is alive and well. 

Food is life, and it’s identity. The American government has used this against Native Americans before. In the 1800’s, the U.S. government issued a call to kill as many American bison as possible. They knew that the bison were the main food source of the Great Plains tribes, who were blocking white settlers trying to move west at the time. Rather than come to a fair agreement with the tribes, the government massacred their food source, starving them out and forcing them onto reservations.

Though Enbridge’s plan is less intentional, it could have a similar effect. And it begs the question: Why are so many pipelines built through Native land? The Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, the Keystone XL Pipeline through Sac and Fox Tribe territory (among others), Line 5 going through the Bay Mills Indian Community. These are just three of the many pipelines violating Native treaty rights, without consent. It’s a dark pattern, and one that has to be stopped. 

Smithsonian Magazine. “Where the Buffalo No Longer Roamed.” Mid-1870’s. jpg file.

 The Frontlines

And the Anishinaabe intend to stop it from happening to them. Currently, there are water protector camps at many of the reservations in the area. Water protectors are organizers, activists, and cultural workers whose main focus is defending the planet’s water systems. The water protector camps are a silver lining in the pipeline madness. They’ve become cultural centers, where both Native and non-Native water protectors can gather, and Anishinaabe can practice cultural traditions. Dawn Goodwin is currently helping build one on the White Earth Reservation. “With the White Earth camp, we have fish houses right now, and we do have a couple different structures we can use. We’re in the process of building it up. I wanted to wait a little bit until we can have our spiritual people come, and have our drum come and do this in a really good way. It’s going to be built on community, sustainability, wellness, culture, language, and love.” A bright spot of perseverance in a dark situation. 

Zerr, Emily. 2020. jpg file.

“…I had a prayer lodge there on the banks of the Mississippi [River] to pray, and Enbridge put a stake in the middle of the prayer lodge…”  -Winona LaDuke

Some of these camps, however, have clashed with Enbridge’s construction sites. In her interview with Park Rapids Enterprise, Winona LaDuke talks about a recent clash with Enbridge.

“My sister, Tanya, and I had a prayer lodge there on the banks of the Mississippi [River] to pray, and Enbridge put a stake in the middle of the prayer lodge, as it was in the middle of the route of the pipeline.” She explains that Enbridge was required to have a cultural resource monitor to prevent it from disrespecting or interfering with Anishinaabe resources and practices, but “there was nobody out there.”  To make matters worse, she received a citation for being in her prayer lodge. “To be really clear, this is all public land. This is Minnesota Public Land, not private land. It’s yours and mine. That we’re being excluded from.” 

Eisenbart, Jennifer. “A Matter of Perspective”. 2020. jpg file.

But Winona, Dawn, and the rest of the water protectors are not without support. In her interview, Winona explains, “On Thursday, we expect about 200 people from churches in Minneapolis, including some bishops, coming to prayer circles and ceremonies on the river…There’s a lot of opposition to this pipeline and in the meantime, more people have been arrested. Yesterday 22 people were arrested, the oldest 65 and the youngest at 18…And I just want to be clear: the water protectors are not criminals. We’re patriots. We’re protecting our water from a Canadian multinational corporation.”

The Dying  Oil Industry

A multinational corporation that is in a declining industry. Recently, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasted that global oil consumption is going down significantly, and that its future is looking more precarious than expected.  IEA has said that “the path ahead [for oil] is treacherous”.  According to National Public Radio, the OPEC, an international oil group that many consider a cartel, has cut down its expectations for oil demand. Additionally, a huge oil trading company called Trafigura has predicted that there’s going to be a huge surplus of oil, much more than there is a demand for. In other words, the writing is on the wall for the oil industry. Oil is a limited resource, and the fact that Enbridge is having to resort to tar sands, a lower quality oil, is a telling sign that the supply isn’t what it used to be. The Line 3 pipeline is Enbridge’s attempt to stay viable in a world that’s leaving it behind. 


How You Can Help

Enbridge doesn’t want the public to know about this pipeline. It wants to build it over this winter, “before the world takes notice” says Winona. So what can you do? Let the world know. Here are steps you can take:

This petition calls for the Biden administration to stop Line 3, as they did for the Keystone XL pipeline.

2. Post and share about Line 3!

Post and share information and videos about Line 3, and spread as much awareness as you can. The Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline were heard about worldwide, and public outcry was a hugely helpful tool.

Honor the Earth is the indigenous-led organization that has been fighting Enbridge in court. Donations go to their legal expenses, advocacy, and education about stopping Line 3.
This will provide supplies like sleeping bags and blankets for water protectors protesting and camping out in the frigid Minnesota winter to stop construction. 
Divest from banks that financially support tar sands pipeline expansions.
6. Organize!
You can host a fundraiser, have a demonstration, or even just post an informative lawn sign in front of your house to spread awareness in your community.
7. Come to Minnesota

If you’re able to do so safely, come to Minnesota. As Dawn told me, “if you can, come. We need bodies. The time is now. If you can afford to buy fish houses, or to build structures for people to stay. Maybe you can come for a whole month, maybe you can only come for the weekend. But you could build a structure that you’re building for [water protectors] to use [in the cold winter].” 

To do this, you can contact Stop Line 3 at [email protected] , or Honor the Earth at [email protected] . You can also sign the Statement of Opposition to Line 3 and indicate that you are willing to physically come, or you can help organize events and action remotely.  

In the Anishinaabe’s Prophecy of the Seven Fires, the seventh and final fire predicts that a black snake, brought by “the light-skinned people”, will bring destruction to the earth. These light-skinned people will have to choose between two paths, one that is burnt and dead, and one that is lush and green. To me, the path of choice is very clear. The black snake must be stopped. 

Honor the Earth. “Last Breath of the Black Snake.” 2020. jpg file.

If you’d like to know more about how to help, let us know at any of our social media channels, or contact Honor the Earth at [email protected].

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