EAGLE BUTTE – As Native grassroots water protectors carried on more than a decade of resistance to oil and gas pipeline construction during the first week of December, authorities across the Northern Great Plains responded in kind.
In South Dakota, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chair Harold Frazier threatened to arrest Ziebach County Sheriff Gary Cudmore for hassling “peacefully assembled” tribal members opposing TC Energy Corp.’s Keystone XL Pipeline.
In Nebraska, the Plainview City Council denied a special use permit for a TC Energy Corp. construction camp.
The Minnesota Chippewa Tribes petitioned Gov. Tim Walz to reverse the Public Utilities Commission approval of Enbridge Line 3 construction, which would cross the Mississippi River.
In Lansing, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the imminent 2021 shutdown of Enbridge Line 5, which runs under the Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac.
Frazier fired off an official letter Dec. 3 to Cudmore, stating, “It has been brought to my attention that you recently accosted, intimidated and stole property from tribal members peacefully assembled on what is referred to as Ash Creek Road on the Cheyenne River.
Frazier said, “This trespass on tribal land and the unlawful exercise of your authority will result in your arrest if you continue to harass, intimidate or steal from tribal members.”
The letter responded to documentation presented by tribal members who set up an encampment Nov. 30 at the bridge over the Cheyenne River between Bridger and Philip where the Keystone XL tar-sands crude pipeline is slated to cross.
Cudmore and another officer are shown on video taking away the flags of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the #LandBack treaty rights movement that flew from the bridge.
Frazier ordered the tribal flag and any other stolen goods returned to their rightful owners immediately.
Further south on the KXL route, the Plainview City Council in Nebraska denied the Canadian hazardous infrastructure developer its amended application for a “contractor yard” for use by hundreds of temporary employees if the project is approved.
The Nov. 30 vote of 2-1 against the facility in the Pierce County municipality of 2,000 followed a Holt County Nebraska rejection of a similar request Oct. 29.
“Despite the coronavirus pandemic, and a promise from Joe Biden to stop the pipeline …, TransCanada is continuing to push forward with local permits it still needs in Nebraska for its proposed Keystone XL project,” Bold Nebraska non-profit pipeline fighter Tom Genung marveled.
Meanwhile, the federally recognized Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, comprised of the Six Bands of the Anishinaabe, Bois Forte, Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, and White Earth, appealed to the Walz Administration to stop Line 3, saying, “Utilize your executive authority to correct the wrongs and acknowledge that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission failed the people of Minnesota” in greenlighting the line replacement by Canada’s Enbridge Inc.
“Approval of the project should be reversed, and public input and opinion should be taken seriously. Putting an end to Line 3, and any future project like it, will ensure that the next seven generations have clean water and unpolluted lands,” the tribal government stated in a Dec. 4 letter.
“Indian people have lived along the lakes, rivers, and streams of Northern Minnesota since time immemorial,” it said. There is no resource more important to our existence than clean water and unpolluted land, and Line 3 poses an existential threat to our well-being.”
Enbridge Inc. is responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, which was a tar-sands crude pipeline leak that turned Michigan’s Kalamazoo River into a Superfund, which is still under reclamation a decade later.
With another hearing on Line 3 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers slated for Dec. 7, grassroots opponents parked themselves at the site of its proposed Mississippi River crossing to block anticipated tree cutting and removal of cultural properties.
Honor the Earth and Giniw Collective stopped construction at the drill pad there on Dec. 4 by holding the highway and perching in the trees.
“While Enbridge and the fossil fuel industry have prepared for the last tar-sands pipeline, our people have been working on a transition. That’s to solar, electric vehicles, reduced energy consumption and local foods — all lessons during a pandemic, and during a time of climate change,” said Honor the Earth Director Winona LaDuke. “It’s time to build resilient systems, and care for each other.”
LaDuke noted that no new pipeline projects are getting approved. “Lawyers, resistance and fossil fuel economics during climate catastrophe are stopping projects,” she said.
After an eight year battle, the Constitution Pipeline Project, intended to move natural gas into upstate New York, was cancelled recently. The Teck Mine, the largest new tar-sands mine proposed, also was cancelled in February.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer revoked the 1953 easement that allows Enbridge Inc. to operate pipelines through the Straits of Mackinac, a narrow waterway that connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
“Enbridge has routinely refused to take action to protect our Great Lakes and the millions of Americans who depend on them for clean drinking water and good jobs,” Whitmer said. Enbridge Inc. is suing her for the decision.
Back in Minnesota, the Red Lake and White Earth bands, as well as the Minnesota Department of Commerce, and Honor the Earth, have appealed the state decisions that provided a Certificate of Need and the Route Permit for Line 3 replacement.
“We intend to have our day at the Minnesota Appeals Court,” LaDuke said, requesting support for legal expenses be donated.
She also invited water protectors to join the on-site resistance. “I am asking you to come see us, and bring warm clothes,” she said. “Come North. You can do it in a safe way. Come look at the pipe yards, the man camps and the river crossings that Governor Walz is permitting.”
The Cheyenne River encampment, tentatively dubbed the Roots Camp, on the other hand, is not prepared for an influx of campers, due to limited resources for preventing spread of the pandemic and treatment facilities. Donations are being requested.
(Contact Talli Nauman at firstname.lastname@example.org)