Generations of ricers, Ashley-Martin and Andegoons Darwin Neeland, with mother and aunt Star Steven, and JoAnn Gagnon.
Published August 18, 2015
MADELINE ISLAND, MINNESOTA – In the second half of August, national Native environmental organization Honor the Earth will sponsor its third annual Love Water Not Oil tour, a spiritual journey by horse and canoe along the proposed new Sandpiper/Line 3 oil pipeline corridor. The tour will be a time for ceremony, personal connection with the land, and celebration of manoomin (wild rice), the sacred food of the Anishinaabe people. The tour will also be an organizing and public education effort, engaging communities and summer residents along the corridor and the many pristine lakes that would be endangered by the new pipelines. As the tour commences, the wild ricing season will open and tribal members will harvest in traditional lakes, many of which are threatened.
“The manoomin is our buffalo…it is our covenant with the creator. It is very spiritual. I have been ricing my whole lifetime…We have a symbiotic relationship with the rice. We don’t need to beat around….the rice tells the way. That ‘s what he is bred to do…I will continue ricing as long as I can lift a pole and lift knockers,” says Faron Jackson, of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
Enbridge is the Canadian company proposing the new Sandpiper and Line 3 lines. The Sandpiper would be a new 610-mile-long pipeline that would move an estimated 640,000 barrels a day from the fracking fields of the Bakken formation in North Dakota, to Superior, Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the company is making plans to abandon an existing pipeline, Line 3, that carries tar sands crude from Alberta to Wisconsin refineries, and replace it with a new 760,000 barrel per day pipeline in the same Sandpiper corridor. This new energy corridor would likely receive proposals for even more pipelines in the future. Enbridge also intends to double the amount of tar sands oil that currently passes through its Alberta Clipper line, from 450,000 barrels of oil a day to 880,000 barrels a day. They are currently doing so thru an illegal “switcheroo” scheme at the border, which has spurred a lawsuit by a coalition of tribal and environmental organizations against John Kerry and the Department of State. The White Earth Nation is the lead plaintiff and the first hearing will be held in federal court in Minneapolis on September 10, 2015. Separately, the Koch Brothers are proposing an expansion of their existing MinnCan pipeline, to ship up to 350,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil down to its St. Paul refinery. In total, these 4 proposals constitute over two million barrels a day of new tar sands and fracked oil to cross Ojibwe Indian reservations and the mother lode of the world’s wild rice, much of it then heading to Lake Superior, home to one fifth of the world’s fresh water.
Additional pipeline expansions are proposed on the east side of the Wisconsin refinery, to feed into the Great Lakes, along with seventeen refinery expansion proposals. None of this infrastructure is prepared for the shipment of tar sands or Bakken oil. There has not been an oil tanker on Lake Superior since l950, and – the Calumet company recently withdrew all their applications to ship oil out of Superior via tanker, in the face of vehement opposition from citizen groups, as well as rock-bottom oil prices that undermine the economic sensibility of new fossil fuel infrastructure investment despite the continued externalization of social and ecological costs.
Recent studies analyzing the carbon footprint of the proposed pipelines estimate that they will add over 831 million metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere annually. Removal of that carbon from the environment would require an annual cost of $285 billion. Additional regulatory problems, including a complete lack of regulations on pipeline abandonment, have put the state of Minnesota in a state of public policy crisis. With three pipelines over 50 years old, it is likely that Enbridge will seek to abandon these in Minnesota as well. In June, the Minnesota PUC, under immense pressure from Enbridge, granted a Certificate of Need for the Sandpiper, but required that the next phase, the route permit process, include the consideration of alternative route SA-03-M as well as a more thorough environmental review that takes into account the cumulative impact of the 2 lines. During that process, despite a state mandate to consult with tribal governments, the PUC denied requests for information or hearings on the reservations. New public hearings have been scheduled by the MN Public Utilities Commission for the proposed Line 3 pipeline’s Certificate of Need proceedings. This time, one is on the White Earth reservation (August 18 in Rice Lake) and one is in McGregor on August 25, but many fear that the process is too flawed to work.
Inspired by spiritual teachings, and in the third year of a spiritual ride, Honor the Earth and members of the Ojibwe and Lakota riders who have ridden on the proposed Keystone XL Route, will join with about l00 Minnesotans, for the horse ride and canoe journey. The journey will begin on Madeline Island on the 20 of August, then pass thru Duluth on the 23rd, where traditional Anishinaabeg women will perform a water ceremony, and thru the East Lake community on the Mille Lacs reservation on the 24th, where local ricers will provide a tour of the harvesting and parching process. The horse ride and 50 mile canoe journey will begin in East Lake on the 25th, near Rice Lake Refuge in McGregor, with a stop at the Line 3 PUC hearing in McGregor that evening. The ten day journey westward will cross many of the potentially impacted wild rice and pristine watersheds, as well as two tribal communities – East Lake on the Mille Lacs reservation, and Rice Lake on the White Earth reservation, which would bear the brunt of the pipeline proposals. Musicians, including Sister Tree, Chastity Brown, Annie Humphrey, Aku Maki (Allison Warden), the Good Sky Boys, as well as special guests, will join with the Anishinaabeg on this journey.
Winona LaDuke, Honor the Earth Executive Director, in a recent video, Triple Crown of Pipeline Rides, says: “These pipelines go through indigenous territories which are healthy lands. Lands that our ancestors wish to protect; we intend to do the same… Greed makes people act poorly rather than investing into efficiency, infrastructure, or renewable or safe energy. The push is to extract as quickly as possible, by any means necessary, and to move that oil by any means necessary…. This is not an indigenous issue, this affects us all.”
The Sandpiper/Line 3 projects are opposed by all Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota and the National Congress of American Indians, as well as prominent Lake Associations, small businesses, and local officials throughout the state.
Honor the Earth is engaged in an extensive policy and regulatory intervention campaign, along with allied organizations like Friends of the Headwaters, Carlton County Land Stewards, MN350, the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation, and a new citizen group called the Northern Minnesota Water Alliance. For more information on Honor the Earth, the pipeline proposals, or how to make contributions to help with legal efforts, please visit www.honorearth.org.
Photos by Sarah of LittleRedfeatherDesign.com for Honor the Earth.