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On Monday, Ojibwe attorney Tara Houska was arrested for criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor in Virginia, after she locked herself to construction equipment at a Mountain Valley Pipeline construction site in Elliston, Virginia.
Houska is the co-founder of the Giniw Collective, an Indigenous women-led collective that encamped in northern Minnesota in 2021 to oppose the expansion of Enbridge Line 3.

Houska told Native News Online that she was released on Tuesday after posting $2,000 cash bail for criminal trespassing in Montgomery County. 

“We cannot succumb to powerlessness,” Houska said in a statement. “The real power I have encountered in this world is in the people, in nature. We will not back down when we stand with truth and love in our hearts. For the earth, for our children. End apartheid. Free Gaza. Stop Mountain Valley Pipeline.”

On Monday, three people locked themselves to construction equipment at sites along the Mountain Valley Pipeline route and halted drilling under the highway and train tracks next to the Roanoke River for the day. The $6.6 billion natural gas pipeline will transport up to 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas in the area and will cross more than 1,000 streams and wetlands in Appalachia, according to Appalachians Against Pipelines, a coalition of activists who have been organizing direct actions against the Mountain Valley Pipeline since 2018. 

Mountain Valley Pipeline filed a lawsuit against Appalachians Against Pipelines in an effort to silence their efforts and decry their actions to slow the construction of the pipeline. 

The 304-mile pipeline began construction in 2018 but has since been stalled over the last two years by legal challenges. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked construction in early July while federal permits are under review. However, the Supreme Court struck down the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on July 27. President Biden signed the Fiscal Responsibility Act earlier this summer, which stripped the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals from jurisdiction on the case and cleared the path for the final permits needed for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. 

The pipeline was backed by Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) who is reported as the biggest recipient of fossil fuel in U.S. Congress. In July, Manchin filed a brief against the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and later announced on Twitter that he was glad the highest court in the land cleared the way for the pipeline’s final construction.

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 After Houska was released from jail on Tuesday, she thanked Appalachians Against Pipelines for opposing the construction of the pipeline and for standing in solidarity with Indigenous opposition to the Line 3 expansion. 

“Chi-miigwech to every person around the globe marching for Palestine, giving their hearts and their love, refusing to look away and be complicit,” she said. 

Earlier this year, Native News Online reported that Houska was awarded the Dickenson College’s Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism. In addition to a multi-day residency at the college, she was awarded $100,000. Houska is a Couchiching First Nations citizen, grew up in Ranier, Minnesota, and earned a B.A., B.S., and J.D. from the University of Minnesota. She went on to practice law in Washington, D.C. and clerked in the Obama Administration.

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About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a staff reporter for Native News Online who is based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.