'Over the 7 years I’ve fought back against Line 3, my own personhood has felt absent.'

Photo is of Tara Houska, tribal attorney, on the frontline. Photo credit: Giniw Collective

Hi Reader Friend,

It’s been a while, once again. I’ve been attempting to focus on getting commissioned work from editors, which means things – such as this newsletter – have had to take a backseat to accommodate for paid writing and the rest of life.

A friend of mine from the States has been sharing Instagram stories, raising awareness about the plight of Native American tribes in Minnesota who are actively opposing the Line 3 oils sands pipeline under construction through the state. I’ve written about it here in hopes that people who don’t generally touch the news websites or tv channels would read the story and get involved. If you want to know who to follow to learn more, you’ll find a list below.

As always, I would love to hear from anyone who reads these human rights musings. Do get in touch. Subscribe for more letters by entering your email at the bottom of this article.


‘Many times over the 7 years I’ve fought back against Line 3, my own personhood has felt absent; I’ve been nothing but a means to an end for so many at different times,’ said Tara Houska, tribal attorney, on a recent tweet. ‘A workhorse, a rival, a scapegoat, a stonewall, an outsider, an insider, a radical, a liberal, it goes on. 15 days ago I was shot by police with rubber bullets, mace, pepper balls paid for by Enbridge. I heard shouts, cries and gasping coughing punctuated by the sound of munitions firing and a huge drill out of a sci-fi movie boring thru the river we were there to protect.’

Tara and thousands of others, including big name celebrities, Native American tribes, and indigenous-led environmental organizations, are joining the opposition against Enbridge’s Line 3 construction project.

While you can find summaries from those on the ground, the long and short of it is that there are six really old pipelines that were put through to ship tar sands through northern Minnesota from Alberta, Canada. Tar sands (also called oil sands) are a mixture of sand, clay, water, and bitumen. Bitumen is sticky, thick, black oil often used as a binding agent in road asphalt. Alberta, Canada is home to one of the largest deposits of tar sands in the world, covering an area larger than England. Tar sand chemicals have been linked to higher rates of cancer in Indigenous communities and dangerous air pollution. They’re a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions, destroyer of habitat, and requires massive amounts of water to extract from the ground.

One of these six pipelines, built by Enbridge (a natural distribution company) in the 1960s from Alberta to Wisconsin, was the Line 3 pipeline. Enbridge said that the existing pipeline is corroded and cracked, requiring extensive maintenance. Their rationale is that it’s safer to build a new pipeline with modern construction methods, rather than operating an old, corroding, leaking pipe. Supporters of a new Line 3 argue that society demands oil and pipelines provide a fast, safe option to transport them

So instead of fixing their mess left by ill-constructed pipelines, Enbridge plans to abandon the old Line 3 pipeline and build a new route that will open Minnesota up to more oil spills and threaten the lakes, rivers, and wild rice waters used by Native American tribes – tribes who retain certain property rights that allow them to ‘make a modest living from the land.’

‘New oil pipelines in northern Minnesota would violate the treaty rights of the Anishinaabeg by endangering critical natural and cultural resources in the 1842, 1854, and 1855 treaty areas,’ said StopLine3 on their website. ‘All pipelines leak, and catastrophes like Enbridge’s 1 million gallon spill in 2010 on the Kalamazoo River are not unlikely.  Pipelines threaten the culture, way of life, and physical survival of the Ojibwe people.  Where there is wild rice, there are Anishinaabeg, and where there are Anishinaabeg, there is wild rice. It is our sacred food. Without it we will die. It’s that simple.’

The corroding pipe and construction of the new pipe carries with it issues that will affect local and international communities as Enbridge contributes to the climate crisis. Building a new Line 3 will be equivalent to building 50 new coal-fired power plants. It was calculated that the ‘social cost of carbon for a new Line 3 would be $287 billion over the first 30 years of the pipeline’s life.’

Just as the IPCC released its report on the future effects of climate change, Enbridge’s actions essentially spit in the face of climate change for the sake of money. Indigenous people are the ones most impacted by the consequences as they are most closely tied to the land and require it for survival.

There are additional concerns regarding the temporary housing facilities to accommodate predominantly male workers – such as trafficking and violent crimes– which affect Indigenous communities. The Line will rip through historic, archaeological, cultural, and sacred sites of the Anishinaabeg, Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota tribes. Spills are inevitable, regardless of promises made by Enbridge. Over the last 15 years, there have been 800 spills.

The list of concerns just goes on and on and on.

Protestors who oppose the line are increasingly in danger of arrest and violence from the police. More than 600 people have been arrested or received citations, many arrested on trespass charges. On the 30th of July, it was reported that water protectors at Line 3 were pepper-sprayed and shot at with rubber bullets. Many who have been jailed are said to have been mistreated by police – not fed properly, put in solitary confinement, and denied medication.

The information about this issue is just never-ending, dating back decades. The construction of Line 3 was meant to be completed in 2017 but the brave efforts of legal and grassroots efforts have kept destruction at bay. It is now only months away from being completed and legal battles are being fought to delay and end the completion.  

I've been told that one of the most helpful things we can do is to support the bail funds of those who have been arrested for their opposition to the Line 2 expansion project. Read more here.

In his poemMark K Tilsen, Lakota Jewish poet, describes the fight:

Hey hopeless

You on the edge
with nothing left to give
Stay and fight
the old glaciers melt
the Great Forrest burns
old gods ancient spirits loose their wrath
we are going to lose
But don’t go
Not yet
please don’t go
There is so much life left
So much to save
Meet me in the ashes
where everything turns to grey

Who To Follow For More:

Red Lake Treaty Camp

Resist Line 3

Lakota Law

Stop The Line

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