After the treaty people gathering and after visiting friends in Minneapolis for a few days, I returned to the area where our non-violent direct action took place. I’m so glad i did, even though I am exhausted now and needing to rest.
I was so grateful to be able to see the “occupation” I’d helped start reach its conclusion after eight days. I stayed in a glam tent (room to stand with a cot) at the Mahnomen camp and helped cook and deliver two meals a day to the encampment, known as Camp Firelight. I was the only elder in our group. I love to be with young people, so that worked out well, and it was a treat to get to know Andy Pearson from Minnesota 350 a little better. I remember him coming to us when we were in the early stages of the work on Line 5. The days were demanding in that there was ceremony at the encampment every night which began between 10:00 and 11:00 PM. People ate after that. The temps remained blistering during the day, and dipped into the low 50’s/high 40’s at night. One night we got back to our camp around 1:00 AM. Because a court ruling was expected at 10:00 the following morning, we rose at 6:00 to prepare breakfast in time for the ruling which was in Enbridge’s favor.
There was ceremony every night at a spirit fire. A neighbor was known for expressing his objections by shooting his gun into the air. Motorcycles would sometimes gun their engines when passing by. People in some vehicles shouted insults.
I have so much respect for the work of the Rise Coalition. The communication between a sheriff who was supportive of the treaties and the indigenous leaders, and how the camp was shut down emphasized relationships and trust. The sheriff kept his word and went on his own to ask people to disperse. One native woman said they left on their own terms — peacefully and prayerfully — without violence and drama. One person was arrested by choice to continue to test treaty rights in court. Fifty people received citations — which offers another opportunity to challenge the system.
No trash was left behind, though there were signs of our presence in this sensitive ecosystem. The ash of the spirit fire was taken to our camp and a fire rekindled. Most of the people at the encampment stayed with us and enjoyed a festive meal of wild rice soup. While the action at the pumping station was compelling, I feel the approach of rise is transformative stuff.
Actions in other locations went on the following day and will continue. Minnesota is very mature in its organizing strategy. We can learn from their example.
A dominant culture and economic system that would put the headwaters of a mighty river at risk of an oil spill is the same culture and economic system that has put the Great Lakes at risk of an oil spill for 68 years.
One life in the spirit of love and struggle.