The tar sands project “poses a significant threat to water, Indigenous treaty rights, and worsens the global climate crisis,” the group wrote to Biden’s Interior Secretary.

A group of Indigenous women opposed to the Line 3 pipeline on Thursday invited Interior Secretary Deb Haaland—the first Native American woman to hold her Cabinet position and a professed critic of fossil fuel infrastructure on public and tribal lands—to visit northern Minnesota and “learn more about the impacts” of the tar sands project first-hand.

“We would be honored to host you in our territories and share further about our treaty rights, the violation of free, prior, and informed consent now occurring, the importance of wild rice to our communities, and the impacts of Line 3.”
—Letter to Interior Secretary Haaland

“The Line 3 pipeline project poses a significant threat to water, Indigenous Treaty rights, and worsens the global climate crisis,” the group wrote in a letter (pdf) addressed to Haaland. “Line 3 is being constructed in Minnesota on Indigenous lands without consent from local tribes and public officials, and without a federal environmental review.”

As the group noted,

“Enbridge’s new pipeline route crosses the 1854 and 1855 Treaty territories, where Anishinaabe people retain the right to hunt, fish, gather medicines, and harvest wild rice. The impact of construction—or worse, an oil spill—would permanently damage our people’s ability to exercise these rights.”

“The White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians wrote (pdf) to President Joe Biden informing him these sovereign nations do not consent to Line 3 and have enacted multiple resolutions opposing the project, and requesting President Biden respect treaty rights,” the group added. “So far, President Biden and the Army Corps of Engineers haven’t listened to our voices—we are hoping they will listen to yours.”

The invitation was sent by Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation), Giniw Collective; Winona LaDuke (White Earth Nation), Honor the Earth; Taysha Martineau (The Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), Camp Migizi; Sasha Beaulieu (Red Lake Nation), Red Lake Treaty Camp; Simone Senogles (Red Lake Nation), Indigenous Environmental Network and RISE Coalition; and Joye Braun (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe), Indigenous Environmental Network.

The letter states:

The Army Corps of Engineers must immediately reevaluate and suspend or revoke Enbridge’s Line 3 Clean Water Act Section 404 permit. The Army Corps failed to consider significant information on Line 3’s impacts in reaching its original determination, including the risks of oil spills, climate change effects, and consequences to Indigenous peoples. The Army Corps also refused to prepare a federal Environmental Impact Statement for Line 3, despite overwhelming evidence that the project would have significant impacts.

The new Line 3 route will run from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the shores of Lake Superior, crossing 227 lakes and rivers, including the headwaters of the Mississippi River and rivers that feed directly into Lake Superior, putting all those waterways at imminent risk of a spill from the 760,000 barrels of tar sands oil that would flow daily.

Climate scientists warn that we must keep the vast majority of known fossil fuels reserves in the ground and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions before 2030 to achieve international climate goals. Line 3 would release emissions equivalent to building 50 new coal plants, costing society more than $287 billion in climate impacts in just its first 30 years of operation.

Line 3 will increase tar sands export by 370,000 barrels per day. In the most severe drought we have seen in this time, Enbridge plans to take 630 million gallons of water from the fish and the wild rice. All of this puts our pristine ecosystems on the verge of collapse, with significant impacts on federally protected areas including major waterfowl production areas, and forested areas.

Not only does the spill-prone pipeline—which scientists and activists have described as a “climate time bomb”—threaten local ecosystems and communities while exacerbating the carbon pollution driving planetary heating, but opponents say it also puts Indigenous people at risk of physical and sexual violence.

“It is well documented that ‘man camps’ set up along the pipeline route are directly linked with increased rates of drug use, sex trafficking, and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls,” the group wrote. “Already this year, two Line 3 pipeline workers in Itasca County, Minnesota were arrested and charged with human trafficking, and specifically, solicitation of a minor.”

The Indigenous leaders vowed the coalition opposed to the project would continue direct actions against the pipeline while legal challenges make their way through the courts.

“None of us want further harms or mass arrests for communities on the ground protecting water, the global climate, and Indigenous lands,” the women wrote. “There have been over 500 arrests since construction began in December. Old and young, Indigenous and allied, church and religious people of all walks are engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience to stop the pipeline. We do not want to see an escalation of militarized force against water protectors.”

The letter comes on the heels on a historic weekend of nonviolent, direct action against Line 3. The mass mobilization on June 7—the largest demonstration against the pipeline to date—was brutally repressed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which used low-flying helicopters to kick up sand and debris to force water protectors away from the protest site.

Two days later, the Keystone XL—whose federal permit was rescinded by Biden on the first day of his presidency—was officially declared dead when the corporation behind the tar sands pipeline terminated the project after more than a decade of grassroots organizing, agitation, and tireless opposition by the international climate movement.

That huge victory has only intensified the resolve of Indigenous rights and environmental justice advocates to force Biden to use his executive authority to pull the plug on other destructive fossil fuel projects, including Line 3, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and others advanced during the Trump administration.

“We greatly appreciate your consideration and hope that you will accept this invitation to visit our homelands,” the group said to Haaland. “We would be honored to host you in our territories and share further about our treaty rights, the violation of free, prior and informed consent now occurring, the importance of wild rice to our communities, and the impacts of Line 3.”


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Teaser photo credit: By Deb Haaland – https://twitter.com/RepDebHaaland/status/1127600090737205250/photo/1, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=98217888