Published August 8, 2016
On Monday, August 1, we finished the spiritual ride of our 4th annual Love Water Not Oil tour, with a celebration feast in our community, Rice Lake, on the White Earth Reservation. We rode and prayed for 2 weeks, along the route of the proposed Sandpiper and Line 3 pipelines. It is a beautiful year in our territories, and we were honored to ride with our Dakota relatives to protect our lands. On Tuesday, we held a final party to conclude the tour in Bemidji with fabulous music, food, and friends. As we drove away from the venue and watched the northern lights dance on the horizon, we got the call that the Sandpiper project was likely dead.
Earlier that day, Enbridge Energy and Marathon Petroleum announced a new joint investment in the Dakota Access pipeline, a line in the early phases of construction which would carry fracked oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, to Illinois. In their statements, Enbridge and Marathon announced that when the deal is done, they will terminate their joint venture partnership in the proposed Sandpiper Pipeline. Without a major financial commitment from a shipper like Marathon, there is basically no project, and with oil prices low and the Bakken busting, it is very unlikely that any other company would be interested in trying their luck against the Anishinaabe and Minnesotan pipeline fighters here. Let’s be clear, they initially planned to be digging and welding right now, but we stopped them.
As the people who would be most impacted by these projects, we are of course very happy to hear this news. For four years our community has said Gawiin, NO – from the wild rice harvesters to the tribal governments. For four years we have had ceremonies to stop this pipeline. We’ve also fought in the courts, in regulatory hearings, in the media, in the streets, and on the land. It is important to acknowledge and celebrate this victory. When we stand up we are so powerful. But it is a bittersweet victory, for while we have won the battle, the war remains. The black snake is a hydra – cut off one head and 2 more will emerge.
Our relatives to the west are fighting for their lives as construction begins on the Dakota Access pipeline, after an egregious rubber stamp job by the states and the US Army Corps, without tribal consultation or meaningful environmental review. We stand with all the warriors fighting to protect their lands, water, and future generations. We stand with the Dakota and Lakota tribes filing lawsuits and seeking justice. We stand opposed to Dakota Access and to any new pipelines anywhere.
And here in the Great Lakes, we still face the new Line 3 proposal along the same ill chosen route, threatening our lands, waters, wild rice, and literal survival as Anishinaabe people. We also still face the expansion of the Alberta Clipper, plus a set of 4 ancient, crumbling pipelines already in the ground – catastrophes waiting to happen. Our relatives to the east face the proposed Line 66 which would ship an additional 800,000 barrels of tar sands dilbit each day across Wisconsin. The bomb trains continue to derail in our communities. And nickel and copper mines are proposed for our territories that would poison everything we have left. These corporations are some of the most powerful in the world. And the regulatory systems are set up to protect them, not the water, and definitely not us. In other words, our fight continues. So we must continue to devote our full selves, and all our power, towards protecting our water and our Mother Earth, from all that which would destroy us.
And at the same time, we must create the future we want. In our Anishinaabe prophecies it is told of a time when we would have a choice between two paths… one path would be well-worn but scorched, and the other path would be green. This is known as the prophecy of the seventh fire. And that is where we are today. As the death of one black snake this week shows us, this is a moment when we can do something. We are not just fighting against something, but clearly and decidedly walking with open eyes and hearts down the path that is green.This is our opportunity to be pono, to do the righteous thing. We call this land Anishinaabe Akiing. This is the land we belong to, and we will continue to protect it, as our ancestors did before us. This is our covenant with the Creator and with Mother Earth. Let us take time to be grateful for this victory. Let us celebrate the courage and commitment it took from all of us. And let us keep moving forward.
Winona LaDuke is a longtime American Indian activist, evironmenatlist and writer. She is the executive director of Honor the Earth, an organization she co-founded with Indigo Girls in 1993. Contact:firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com
Editor’s Note: This guest commentary was originallypublished in Honor the Earth’s website. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Photos by Sarah Littleredfeather Kalmanson