Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2021
By Kelly Lundeen
In 1854 and 1855, treaties were signed between the Anishinaabe and the United States governing lands where today the Enbridge Inc. tar sands Line 3 pipeline is under construction. Article 11 of the 1854 Treaty says the Indigenous peoples “in the territory hereby ceded, shall have the right to hunt and fish.”
“My grandfather signed the 1854 Treaty,” says Anishinaabe Water Protector Sherry Couture of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Carrying on the work of her family, she resists Line 3 as a way to honor the treaties. President Biden could do the same by cancelling Line 3 with the stroke of a pen. The US government is in clear violation of the treaties. Enbridge, a Canadian company, has a record of 1,068 spills spewing 7.4 million gallons of oil, and 28 more spills during construction of Line 3 that spilled 13,000 gallons of drilling fluid.
Since the line expansion was proposed seven years ago, there has been sustained opposition. In August, a novel lawsuit arguing for the rights of manoomin, or wild rice, was filed by the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, several tribal members and lead plaintiff, manoomin itself, against the State of Minnesota in the Tribal Court of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe. A case for the rights of nature is a new legal strategy, but not implausible considering it has already faced down its first challenge from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. At least six tribal nations and other countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, and Uganda already have the rights of nature guaranteed in their constitutions or statutes.
In addition to litigation, nonviolent direct action has led to the arrest of over 800 water protectors. In June, Nukewatch organized a local gathering to greet the Wisconsin caravan that participated in the Treaty People Gathering, a massive, nationwide mobilization. In August I joined a walk with my three children, a double stroller, bikes, and roller blades for a 30-mile portion of the 256-mile long Treaty People Walk for Water. On the walk we met Couture, and many other Water Protectors walking up to 20 miles a day through summer heat and wind.
What started in northern Minnesota with a few dozen walkers, swelled to a flood of 2,000 people at the state capitol on August 25.
The resistance will continue. Couture told Nukewatch that she’d been to all the hearings, including her own tribal government’s, and lived 70 percent of the last four years in camps resisting the pipelines. “I’ve been arrested 15 times,” she said. She and others are beginning a new walk against Enbridge’s Line 5 in northern Wisconsin. Water protectors say reasons for walking are still here: for the Water and to honor the treaties.
For more info., find Treaty People Walk Line 3 on Facebook, or stopline3.org.