As three Native women Water Protectors prepared for trial next week in Aitkin County, Judge Leslie Metzen dismissed all remaining criminal charges against Winona LaDuke, Tania Aubid and Dawn Goodwin late Thursday afternoon, September 14, 2023. The nearly three-year-old charges stemmed from a peaceful and prayerful gathering on the banks of the Mississippi River on ceded Anishinaabe land as Enbridge began construction of its Line 3 tar sands pipeline. Joined by several dozen other Water Protectors, the three women wore ceremonial jingle dresses, and sang, danced, and prayed for the water as heavy construction equipment tore into the earth.
Line 3 Pipeline
Indigenous water defenders and their allies on Tuesday celebrated a Minnesota court ruling protecting a Line 3 protest camp from illegal government repression. Hubbard County District Judge Jana Austad issued a ruling shielding the Indigenous-led Giniw Collective's Camp Namewag—where opponents organize resistance to Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline—from local law enforcement's unlawful blockades and harassment. The ruling follows months of litigation on behalf of Indigenous water protectors, whose legal team last year secured a temporary restraining order issued by Austad against Hubbard County, Sheriff Cory Aukes, and the local land commissioner for illegally blocking access to Camp Namewag. "Today David beat Goliath in a legal victory for people protecting the climate from rapacious corporate destruction," Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, director of the Center for Protest Law & Litigation at the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said in a statement.
In the past few weeks, a number of water protectors have seen criminal cases dismissed by prosecutors in so-called Northern Minnesota for alleged actions taken to stop the Line 3 pipeline in defense of the water, the climate, and the treaty rights of the Anishinaabeg people. Violating Anishinaabe treaty territories in Minnesota, the new stretch of Line 3 was approved without full consent or proper impact studies, threatening safe water sources for millions. It carries the carbon equivalent of 50 coal plants. More than 68,000 Minnesotans testified against this plan. Over 1,000 arrests were made during the nine months of construction. These individuals put their bodies on the line to stop Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline, a massive tar sands project that threatens the state’s lakes, rivers, aquifers and wild rice beds.
"The Enbridge terminal expansion is planned to be constructed in the ancestral settlement and land of the Karankawa Kadla, where thousands of sacred Karankawa artifacts remain and ceremony and prayer have continued for the past 2,000 years,” said a news release from the Indigenous Environmental Network. The release also included a simple line asking for “accountability from Enbridge and Bank of America". That word “accountability” shifts the protest to another kind of action, one based on ESG standards; a metric that includes Environment, Social and Governance as well as the planning for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Both Bank of America and Enbridge say they have ESG plans and are on track to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The Center for Protest Law & Litigation has obtained documents through our ongoing investigation showing that Jonathan Frieden, the lead prosecutor in Hubbard County, Minnesota, who is seeking to jail hundreds of peaceful Line 3 water protectors, sought Enbridge pipeline corporation’s money to fund his prosecutions.
Every few days, Jaike Spotted-Wolf walks over to a well near Camp Migizi to refill several five-gallon water containers. At the camp, where Spotted-Wolf is one of several matriarchs, there is no plumbing, no pipes and no faucets. Residents take turns getting water, which they need for basics such as cooking and showers. The camp was — and is — one of several resistance camps formed to oppose Enbridge’s now-completed Line 3 project, which replaced a corroding oil pipeline built in the 1960s with a new, larger pipeline. The pipeline runs through northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin. Nearly a month and a half after oil-laden tar sands began flowing through the pipes, activists are still living at Camp Migizi and other sites.
Anishinaabe Akiing, Minnesota - Today, defendants arrested while opposing the construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline launched a campaign calling on Minnesota’s elected leadership to drop all criminal charges against over 700 water protectors. A Drop the Charges petition to MN Governor Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison has already garnered over 13,000 signatures. Organizers of the campaign describe the charges as unjust based on the brutal policing tactics that the Enbridge corporation directly funded, the violation of Anishinaabe treaty rights, and the project’s contribution to catastrophic climate change. Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, said about the campaign launch, “It's entirely wrong that Enbridge—a foreign oil corporation— has committed egregious crimes against the water and people, yet it’s us who are being prosecuted.
St. Paul, MN – During a swearing-in ceremony of the new Dean and President Anthony Niedwiecki at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law on September 23, 2021, water protectors disrupted Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s keynote speech to gauge his support of Line 3. As Ellison was getting into his keynote speech, a water protector interrupted by challenging Ellison’s stance on whether he really stands with “[his] First Nations brothers and sisters” as he stated at the 2015 Tar Sands Resistance March in St. Paul. The water protectors requested a statement by Ellison, after chanting “stop line 3” and displaying a banner that read “President Biden, Protect Our Children’s Future.” Ellison agreed to meet them outside to have a conversation, and that they would have to trust him on that.
Brainerd, Minnesota - Maya Stovall was a student at Carleton College helping organize on climate issues when she learned about the Line 3 oil pipeline. She decided to travel to northern Minnesota to join the protests against the pipeline — and kept going back. “Fighting Line 3 felt like the thing to be doing,” said Stovall, 20, who is from Illinois and majoring in political science and international relations. “We can’t have new fossil fuel infrastructure like Line 3 if we’re going to have a breathable planet.” In March, Stovall was arrested along with other protesters who locked themselves together surrounding a prayer lodge at a pipeline construction site in Hubbard County. She was arrested twice more at other protest actions during the summer.
Indigenous and environmental activists on Wednesday vowed to keep up the fight against Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline expansion after the Canadian company announced the completion of the multi-billion-dollar tar sands project. Calgary-based Enbridge on Wednesday announced the "substantial completion" of the 1,097-mile Line 3 expansion, which will enable the flow of up to 760,000 barrels of crude tar sands oil—the world's dirtiest fuel—from Alberta to the port of Superior, Wisconsin. Line 3 traverses Anishinaabe treaty land without the consent of the Indigenous peoples who live there. The pipeline's route crosses 200 bodies of water and 800 wetlands, raising serious concerns about its climate impact, as well as accidents and leaks that are endemic to pipelines, and other issues including sex trafficking by Line 3 workers.
St. Paul, MN – Over 50 water protectors protesting Line 3 were arrested, some violently, outside the Minnesota Governor’s Residence in St. Paul on Saturday, August 28, 2021. Those arrested were among hundreds who marched from the Capitol to Governor Walz’ mansion attempting to speak to him about their opposition to the Line 3 pipeline construction in northern Minnesota that’s nearing completion. The march on August 28 was led by pipeline resistance camp Camp Migizi, who had three Indigenous water protectors lock down to the fencing of the mansion after unsuccessfully pursuing a meeting with the governor. Behind water protectors who formed a human blockade, Taysha Martineau, a prominent figure in the movement against Line 3, was one of those who locked down and was arrested.
Clearbrook, MN - This morning, Water Protectors erected multiple blockades at a major U.S.-Canadian tar sands terminal in Clearbrook, Minnesota in direct opposition to Enbridge’s Line 3. From grandmothers to young people, Water Protectors of all walks of life continue to stand up for the sacred. On one end of the mile-long blockade, grandmothers led beautiful solidarity with Anishinaabe treaty territory and Mother Earth, in front of a boat painted with MMIWG2S messages. “We, elder women, stand in loving solidarity with our Indigenous relatives and all Water Protectors.
After walking more than 250 miles over 16 days, from the headwaters of the Mississippi River down to the Twin Cities, water protectors fighting to stop the Line 3 tar sands pipeline were met by more than 2,000 people gathered outside the Minnesota State Capitol. The group came together across race, occupation and generation, in ceremony and solidarity to send a message that the opposition to Line 3 isn’t going anywhere. This powerful gathering came amid a months-long campaign by Indigenous-led water protectors and allies who have been bravely putting their bodies on the line along the Line 3 route to stop construction of this pipeline, which is currently being built through critical waterways in northern Minnesota in violation of Indigenous treaty rights.
St. Paul, MN - On Saturday morning, hundreds of people participated in a march from the MN State Capitol to the Governor's residence led by pipeline resistance camp Camp Migizi. According to a statement from an organizer, Jaike Spotted-Wolf, Camp Migizi assembled at the Governor’s mansion to peacefully protest against Line 3, and for treaty rights and Indigenous Sovereignty. Armed police with riot gear have arrested over 50 Water Protectors with more arrests ongoing. Since Wednesday’s Treaties Not Tar Sands Rally to Stop Line 3, a group of peaceful water protectors were holding ceremonial space on the Capitol lawn. After the ceremony was interrupted by over 200 officers, forcing them to take down a ceremonial tipi, organizers decided to take their demands to the governor’s residence.
St Paul, MN - On Wednesday afternoon, more than 2,000 water protectors gathered outside the Minnesota State Capitol for the Treaties not Tar Sands Rally to stop the Line 3 tar sands pipeline and called on the Biden Administration to revoke federal permits for the project. The rally featured remarks from Indigenous leaders with the movement to stop Line 3, local community organizers for racial justice and Native sovereignty, and Minnesota state elected officials. The rally began as the Treaty People Walk for Water arrived, the walkers having traveled over 250 miles from the Line 3 pipeline crossing at the Mississippi River headwaters to the Capitol. Hundreds of people joined the last leg of the walk, and all wore orange in commemoration of the missing and murdered Indigenous children who continue to be found across North America.