I suppose that, if I’d thought about it, I could have figured out that there had to be a place where you could jump across the Mississippi. But I’d seen its majestic flow at so many points along its course (ripping through Minneapolis, regal in St. Louis, oceanic by Baton Rouge) that I’d never imagined it as a mere trickle. Now I have—I’ve waded through that trickle, in fact—and on an epic day in recent American Indigenous and environmental activism.
The backstory is that a big Canadian company, Enbridge, has been trying to expand and replace a pipeline, called Line 3, that runs across northern Minnesota. It would be about the same size as the now vanquished Keystone XL pipeline, and carry seven hundred and sixty thousand barrels of regular crude and tar-sands oil from Canada each day. (Enbridge characterizes the project as a “replacement” of the existing pipeline, but it will double the current capacity.) Most of the activists are Indigenous, led by groups such as Honor the Earth and the Giniw Collective, and many of those are led by remarkable women—Winona LaDuke, Tara Houska, and Dawn Goodwin, among many others. They have waged a stout campaign through a bitter Midwestern winter, but it has been hampered by the pandemic. Now vaccines have freed others to join them, and Monday was the first big mobilization.
Two mobilizations, actually, which was easy because so many people came from across the country. At one, activists locked themselves to construction equipment at a pumping station, and a video shows a border-patrol helicopter hovering low overhead, in what seemed like an attempt to stir up clouds of dust to drive the protesters away. (Law-enforcement officials have denied this, claiming that the purpose of the helicopter flight was to broadcast a dispersal order to protesters.) By the end of the day, state police and sheriff’s officers, who, under the terms of the state permit, receive financial backing from Enbridge, had arrested more than a hundred people. [Continue reading…]