Treaty People Update

Last Saturday evening, our Michigan contingent arrived at the Treaty People Gathering in northern Minnesota.  We were part of the multi-faith delegation organized by Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, GreenFaith, and others. That evening, we gathered in circle with song and a few speakers, including Winona La Duke. At dusk, we went to the shore for Havdalah which was followed by a water blessing by Winona.  Each day of the gathering began and ended with prayer. Temps hovered in the mid-90’s for the entire gathering with no break in the forecast, a reminder that global heating is bearing down.

Sunday was a day of training in the larger group.  We were briefed on the two non-violent direct actions that would take place on Monday at two very different locations.  There was a place for everyone whether you wanted to actively risk arrest, were willing but not eager to be arrested, or  did not want to risk arrest. We were also reminded that we are all treaty people and responsible for respecting the treaties the U.S. government signed with indigenous nations.  I’d never looked at it quite that way.    

The largest action on Monday included a colorful march/procession of around 2,000 people at the headwaters of the Mississippi.  Most of the Michigan delegation, including me, participated in this action.  It was a place of great natural beauty with dragonflies filling the skies around us. Enbridge plans to begin drilling under the rivers at month end.  Those of us willing to risk arrest threaded our way across the marsh among the tussocks.  Water dampened our shoes and cooled our bodies.  We gathered on the platform of “skids” that will allow drilling equipment to move across these sensitive wetlands.  There were no arrests and little police presence at this location which is now an encampment.  That venue will remain occupied until people are removed.

The “hotter” action took place near an Enbridge pumping station where many locked themselves to heavy construction equipment.  A Department of Homeland Security helicopter buzzed dangerously low over the heads of the crowd, creating a sandstorm.  Around 150 people were arrested into the night.  These numbers overwhelmed the system, and people were taken to jails in eight counties. All were expected to be out on bail the following day.  But when I left the gathering, the majority had not yet been released, including at least one individual from Michigan.

Non-violent direct action and arrests have been on-going during the construction of the Line 3 replacement which began in December 2020.  As you may know, Line 3 is the feeder line for lines 5 and 6b/78 which failed and dumped over a million gallons of tar sands into the Kalamazoo River.  Its replacement follows a different route.  If completed, it would be the largest tar sands pipeline in the world at a time when the need to move away from burning fossil fuels grows more urgent. 

— Deb Hansen

Editor’s update: I just saw this story on about the related effort in Michigan: Michigan’s indigenous tribes ramp up efforts to shut down oil pipeline through sacred waters –jb