By Brett Wilkins
“We need everyone who can to come to the frontlines in support. We need those who can’t come here in person to amplify this message through every available channel.”
As state and local law enforcement in Minnesota intensify their violent repression of water protectors resisting Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline, Indigenous leaders on Thursday appealed for allies in their effort to pressure the U.S. government to honor Native American treaty rights and protect the environment and climate by stopping the toxic project.
“We are running out of time to do the right thing for future generations.”
—Chase Iron Eyes,
Lakota People’s Law Project
At least 20 Indigenous-led water protectors were brutally arrested in northern Minnesota last weekend, with law enforcement using tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and pepper projectiles in an attempt to break resistance to the Canadian pipeline company’s $9 billion Line 3 project.
Native American leaders pointed to recent events, including the violent repression of Stop Line 3 water protectors and the discovery of the remains of more than 1,000 Indigenous children at Indian boarding schools in Canada and the United States, as evidence of an ongoing “slow genocide.”
“This is no accident,” said Chase Iron Eyes, co-director and lead counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project, in a statement Thursday. “The drilling that Enbridge is being allowed to do here is a continuation of the same pattern of subjugation and genocide faced by Indigenous populations throughout history.”
Iron Eyes continued:
Our treaties have been ignored, our children have been killed, and now our rivers are being poisoned. And when we stand up to the forces of extractive greed, we pay a heavy price. We are asking President [Joe] Biden to stop Line 3, and we need everyone who can to come to the frontlines in support. We need those who can’t come here in person to amplify this message through every available channel.
“We are running out of time to do the right thing for future generations,” said Iron Eyes.
If built as planned, Line 3 will carry up to 760,000 barrels of crude tar sands oil—the world’s dirtiest fuel—from Alberta to the port of Superior, Wisconsin, crossing Anishinaabe treaty land without consent. The conduit’s route is set to traverse more than 200 bodies of water and 800 wetlands, raising serious concerns not only about its climate impact, but also about accidents and leaks that plague pipelines.
“Eight hundred wetlands, that’s what’s at stake here,” Indigenous lawyer and Giniw Collective co-founder Tara Houska said Thursday. “Beautiful, untouched ecosystems, endangered by a corporation with no knowledge of or respect for this land. They have no idea what they’re doing here. President Biden has the power to stop this, but he’s not listening closely enough.”
Houska was among the water protectors who were violently arrested while protesting Line 3 last weekend.
“The level of brutality that was unleashed on us was very extreme,” Houska, who said she was shot by police with rubber-coated steel bullets before being hospitalized and jailed, told Democracy Now! Wednesday.
“People were shot in their faces, in their bodies, in their upper torsos,” she said. “I saw a young woman’s head get split open right in front of me. It was a really, really brutal scene. And the arrests in person were also quite brutal, throwing people face down in the dirt and being extremely violent.”
When I was sitting on the side of a police vehicle with several others waiting to be brought to jail, I overheard several of the police officers talking about how they were going to get bonus time for this brutality they had unleashed upon us… Police officers are reimbursed for any costs associated with Enbridge Line 3 protests, and it seems like they welcome the opportunity. One police officer was actually grinning and smiling and said he had a great time and couldn’t wait for us to come again.
They’ve billed over $1.7 million to the Public Safety Escrow Trust, in which Enbridge is dumping millions of dollars to incentivize and encourage police officers to repress, suppress, surveil, and harass Indigenous people and our allies that are helping us try to stop this pipeline from happening in our treaty territory.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission required the trust to reimburse law enforcement when approving the project in 2018.
Water protectors told Democracy Now! that they were denied medical care for injuries they suffered at the hands of police. Some of the activists also said they were denied proper food and held in solitary confinement.
“We need our brothers and sisters to stand with us.”
—Tara Houska, Giniw Collective
Among others arrested in recent weeks were Lakota People’s Law Project co-director Dan Nelson, Honor the Earth co-founder Winona LaDuke, and a journalist who goes by the camp name “River,” who says he suffered a neck injury after being placed in a chokehold by police after recording officers arresting a water protector.
Houska called for allies to join water protectors on the frontlines of the fight against Line 3, saying that “we need our brothers and sisters to stand with us.”
As part of the wider effort to stop Line 3, Honor the Earth and Indigenous Environmental Network, in partnership with over 200 artists and activists, on Thursday launched a six-figure ad buy, including full-page advertisements in the New York Times and Minneapolis Star Tribune, and a digital ad on the Washington Post website, calling on the Biden administration to stand with Anishinaabe people and stop Line 3.
The Lakota People’s Law Project said that anyone who is interested in joining the fight against Line 3 should follow the organization and the Giniw Collective on social media, contact the group about going to the frontlines, and sign a petition urging Biden to stop the pipeline project like he rescinded the federal permit for the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day of office following years of grassroots organizing.
LaDuke recently told Slate: “Biden’s acting like he canceled one pipeline so he gets a gold star. But you don’t get a gold star from Mother Earth to let Line 3 go ahead. You don’t get a gold star from the planet.”
Brett Wilkins is staff writer for Common Dreams.
Editor’s note: this article originally appeared on Common Dreams
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons