Down to the River

On Saturday I visited the site of two things.

One was a construction site – the Canadian company Enbridge is building a pipeline to carry tar-sands oil, a filthy energy-producing sludge, from it’s home in Alberta, through Minnesota and ending at Lake Superior, so that it can be shipped overseas. The construction (destruction) has leveled pristine wilderness, will cross through 200 bodies of water, and as soon as the weather warms there will be drilling under the Mississippi at two points in Minnesota to lay the pipe. 

Next to the construction site was a resistance site. This camp near Palisade, Minnesota has been set up by Water Protectors to witness, to pray, and to resist the construction in ways big and small. It was established by people from Tribal Nations, environmental groups and community groups that came together for this purpose. For the day some friends and I were present as Water Protectors too, to witness and provide support.

This project is called “Line 3”. 

Line 3 is short-hand for climate catastrophe, for elected officials practicing tippy-toe politics, for systemic racism, it is short-hand for fear of change, for ignoring facts and denying science.

Line 3 is also short-hand for years of resistance, for resilience in the face of roadblocks, for uphill battles, for using creativity and art to affect social change, for legal minds fighting for what is right, and for strangers pulling together and becoming friends united in a purpose.

No Minnesotan or American will be using this oil flowing through our land and water. 

The pipeline is being built across indigenous land, undermining the treaty rights of the Anishinaabe people. The route crosses the 1854 and 1855 treaty territory where Anishinaabe people retain the right to hunt, fish, gather medicines, and harvest wild rice.

The climate impact of this project, if it is allowed to be completed, would be like building 50 new coal plants and operating them for 30 – 50 years. (Minnesota currently has 4 coal-fired power plants.). We would never build 50 coal plants today, obviously.

Our volunteer guide from the Welcome Water Protectors Center first walked our group to a spot near the construction site, where we saw the areas where trees had been leveled, and where the drilling under the Mississippi would happen. We stood by the side of the road while the Enbridge-funded security guard watched us from his truck across the street. The many “NO TRESPASSING” signs posted about warned us to watch where where we stepped.

Then we walked past the “Down to the River to Pray” sign, through the mud, to stand by the banks of the Mississippi. We were far enough north that the river was mostly still ice-covered, but we could literally see the ice melting on that 60 degree day, and could also feel the clock ticking. 

We reflected on what we had learned or what we were feeling. 

“I’m ready to get arrested.”

“We shouldn’t let Walz (MN Gov) and Ellison (MN AG) off the hook.”

“I’m thinking about the human trafficking that is happening here.”

“The destruction of the land and wildlife is sobering.”

“I’m motivated to do more.”

For most of my life I have lived within 15 minutes, by foot or by car, of the Mississippi River. If you live in the Twin Cities you probably cross it frequently as you drive between St. Paul and Minneapolis. You can walk along the shore or high on the bluffs. If you are lucky enough to live on “the west coast of Wisconsin”, the wide spot on the Mississippi which forms beautiful Lake Pepin is in your backyard.  

Pipelines break and leak. When this happens it is your river that is contaminated. These are your lakes and your land too.

We can pray, we can witness, we can speak up, and we can act. That’s it.

Please join the movement.


If this is the first time you’ve heard of Line 3, there are many resources to learn more about it:

Welcome Water Protectors

Stop Line 3

As construction begins Minnesota oil line native activists keep fighting

Treaty Rights Fact Sheet

Citizen action is critical:

Use social media to amplify the cause: #stopline3

Please call your US House Rep and Senators (regardless of your state or the party of your reps) and bring this issue to their attention. Ask them to put pressure on President Biden to stop construction, just like he did with Keystone XL. Find your reps here.

Then write President Biden and tell him to do the same. 

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