On his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that canceled the permit for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Native American tribes and allies had been protesting the pipeline for more than a decade and applauded the president’s decision.
But several other pipelines are still in the works, despite concern from conservation groups and Native American tribes.
Among them is Enbridge Energy's Line 3 pipeline which, like Keystone XL, would bring carbon-heavy tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, into the United States. Line 3 would run a corridor through delicate wetlands and the treaty territory of the Anishinaabe peoples in northern Minnesota, ending at the shores of Lake Superior.
“I'm really concerned for our whole community,” says Winona LaDuke, of the Ojibwe White Earth Nation in Minnesota. LaDuke is one of the founders of the Indigenous Women’s Network and a rural development economist and political activist protesting pipelines on native land.
LaDuke points out that Enbridge, the largest pipeline company in North America, already has six aging pipes across northern Minnesota. In November, Governor Walz of Minnesota approved water permits for Enbridge's Line 3 replacement pipeline, outraging local Indigenous communities.
“That pipeline is 915,000 barrels a day of oil, the equivalent of 50 new coal-fired power plants,” LaDuke says. “It's the end of the fossil fuel era. Why would you want to put in a bunch more tar sands pipelines?”
The pipeline would cross through what's known as the 1855 Treaty Territory, the section of northern Minnesota “most full of wild rice, most full of biodiversity, most full of water, LaDuke explains. “We don't want any oil in our water.”
“There are seven tribes in northern Minnesota and it goes through the heart of our territory. This is our food. This is our way of life. This is the only thing we have. You destroy our land and you destroy us. That's why we're fighting them."
“There are seven tribes in northern Minnesota and it goes through the heart of our territory,” LaDuke says. “This is our food. This is our way of life. This is the only thing we have. You destroy our land and you destroy us. That's why we're fighting them."
Indigenous communities have fought the Enbridge pipeline for seven years and have no plans to stop now, LaDuke insists.
“We fought it in courts, we went to every regulatory hearing, and now we're faced with [fighting it] on the ground,” she says. “We have 50 people [who have] been arrested, and I've been charged with trespassing. I'm facing a lot of police [and] riot lines. There were more police in northern Minnesota than at the Capitol. So it's civil rights violations on top of environmental destruction. It's brutal.”
“We think that if this pipeline is put up to a rigorous test — that would include, for instance, the climate change impact of the pipeline — it wouldn't pass the test."
LaDuke and others have asked the courts to issue a stay on construction of the line. “We think that if this pipeline is put up to a rigorous test — that would include, for instance, the climate change impact of the pipeline — it wouldn't pass the test,” she says. “We want to hold Biden to the same standard as he did for Keystone."
Adding insult to injury, the 4,200 workers working on the pipeline are mostly from out of state, LaDuke says.
“They walk through our stores without masks on and they put our communities in the north at higher risk,” she says. “As a result, our tribes actually filed for a stay on the pipeline based, in part, on the fact that we are so at risk and it is so egregious that the governor would have brought in 4,200 workers during a pandemic to northern Minnesota, where the people most impacted already are tribal people.”
Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.