Victory! Several reputable news outlets have announced that president-elect Joe Biden plans to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) on his first day in office. From all of us here at the Cheyenne River Nation to you, wopila tanka! Thank you so much for staying with us and keeping the pressure on Washington, D.C. to do right by Lakota Country. We only achieve huge wins like this by speaking out together.
Please watch this new film by our friends at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Earthjustice, written and directed by Josué Rivas. Our pipeline fight won’t end until we win justice for Standing Rock, too.
Rescinding KXL’s permit is a promising early signal that the new administration is listening to our concerns and will take issues of climate and Indigenous justice seriously. We have to insist that it not stop there. It’s also high time to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) once and for all.
Nearly 13,000 of you have already signed onto our petition telling the Biden-Harris administration to end KXL and DAPL. Once the KXL decision is official, we’ll adjust the petition to thank our new leadership in D.C. for its action while remaining insistent that DAPL come next. We stand in solidarity with our relatives at Standing Rock and allied organizations like Earthjustice, which represents Standing Rock in its legal battle to stop DAPL. The two co-produced this powerful new video and asked us to share it. Please take a moment to watch.
In this hour, victory is undeniably sweet. I think it’s safe to say we needed some good news! But, as the actions of many over the past days and years have demonstrated, we must not let down our guard. Our mission to end the devastation wrought by pipelines on our Grandmother Earth — and on our Lakota families — won’t be finished until we dig DAPL out of our sacred lands. We will stay ever vigilant, and I thank you for supporting us every step of the way.
Wopila tanka — our enduring gratitude for helping us fight and win!
Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
Environmental activist Winona LaDuke (C) and water protectors stand in front of the construction site for the Line 3 oil pipeline near Palisade, Minnesota, on January 9, 2021. (Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)
Water protectors were arrested Thursday after halting construction at a Minnesota worksite for Enbridge’s Line 3 project by locking themselves together inside a pipe segment.
“I refuse to be complicit in settler colonialist practices, and feel that I have to put my body on the line to protect Indigenous communities’ sovereignty and all of our futures.” —Abby Hornberger, water protector
“After moving to Minnesota to attend college and study environmental science, I was excited to be in a place where people valued protecting the Earth and finding a viable future. What I found, however, was a state that had formed ‘ambitious’ climate goals yet endorsed one of the dirtiest fossil fuels, tar sands oil,” water protector Abby Hornberger said in a statement. “I realized that Indigenous ways of knowing and practicing harmony with the environment are continuously ignored.”
KFGOreports that Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said two protesters who were taken into custody on Thursday now face charges of trespassing and obstructing.
Hornberger explained that “the Line 3 pipeline far outweighs all clean energy initiatives and progress being made in renewable energies. Line 3 will destroy Minnesota’s essential clean water resources for future generations and will ultimately drive us into climate doom. Education and spreading awareness is no longer enough to create meaningful change for me.”
Indigenous and environmental activists have long opposed the Canadian company’s efforts to replace an aging oil pipeline with a larger one running from Alberta, through North Dakota and Minnesota, to Wisconsin—noting Enbridge’s track record on spills and that cultural maps indicate “numerous sacred and significant sites lie in the path of the Line 3 project.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has come under fire from Indigenous and climate leaders in recent months as the state has approved key permits that Enbridge needs to complete the new Line 3, especially given the Democratic governor said publicly in February of 2019 that projects like this one “don’t just need a building permit to go forward, they also need a social permit.”
As some water protectors on Thursday protested inside a pipe segment a few miles from a man camp in Backus, “dozens more held space,” according to the Giniw Collective. The group also pointed out that “Enbridge is working 24 hours per day at several worksites, as a pending injunction to halt work while tribally led lawsuits are heard has yet to be decided.”
Water protector Andrew Lee said that he participated in the action againt Line 3 on Thursday “to protect the treaties that my ancestors failed to uphold.”
“I’ve learned over the course of this year that Tim Walz isn’t going to protect us, the government of Minnesota isn’t going to protect us, and the federal government isn’t going to protect us,” Lee continued. “I believe it is my duty, as a colonizer and as a person with the privilege, to do so, to put my body on the line to stop the Enbridge Corporation from building this pipeline.”
Thursday’s action came after eight people were arrested on Saturday, when scores of water protectors and Anishinaabe jingle dress dancers gathered at the Mississippi River, then walked onto a Line 3 worksite. According to a statement from organizers:
After praying and sharing a healing jingle dance, water protectors went to Haypoint, Minnesota, where Enbridge is actively boring under Highway 169 on its way to the Willow and Mississippi Rivers.
Construction stopped as water protectors held space and documented irregularities in the pipe being put into the ground. Nearly 30 police squad cars from multiple counties and the Department of Natural Resources were onsite.
The statement, which confirmed the eight arrests, also said that “one arresting officer in a Cass County uniform without a badge refused to put on a face mask and grinned at the crowd as he held a zip-tied water protector. Enbridge’s worksites and man camps have quickly become hotspots for Covid-19 in Aitkin County.”
While critics of Line 3 and similar projects have long raised health and safety concerns—including about the well-documented connection between man camps and the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women—the pandemic, which has hit Indigenous communities hard, has further fueled opposition.
Activists are calling on President-elect Joe Biden to stand up for those “on the frontlines of fossil fuel racism and the climate crisis” by stopping Line 3. On Thursday, more than 75 Indigenous women leaders wrote to the next president, urging him to block Line 3 and two other projects that “pose grave threats to Indigenous rights, cultural survival, sacred water and land, the global climate, and the public health crises within our communities, which have been greatly exacerbated by Covid-19.”
As Houska, Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe and a signatory to the letter, put it: “The Biden administration can uphold their climate justice claims by acting to stop Line 3, stop Keystone XL, and stop Dakota Access Pipeline, now.” Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.
Over 75 Indigenous Women Urge Biden to Stop Climate-Wrecking Pipelines and Respect Treaty Rights
“Joe Biden, we are asking you to stand on the right side of history and humanity by putting an immediate end to the deadly pipelines destroying our Earth, our communities, and all life.” byJessica Corbett, staff writer 12 Comments
“We have shown we are willing to risk our liberty and freedom and put our bodies on the line to blockade and stop construction of these dirty oil and gas projects, to ensure we have a clean future for our children,” said Kanahus Manuel of the Tiny House Warriors. (Photo: Tiny House Warriors/Facebook)
In a joint letter Thursday, more than 75 Indigenous women called on President-elect Joe Biden to immediately demonstrate his “commitment to fulfilling the U.S. treaty obligations and ending the reign of fossil fuel extraction in our tribal territories.”
The women leaders focus on the Line 3, Keystone XL (KXL), and Dakota Access (DAPL) pipeline projects. Long opposed by local tribes, environmentalists, and landowners, “these three pipelines pose grave threats to Indigenous rights, cultural survival, sacred water and land, the global climate, and the public health crises within our communities, which have been greatly exacerbated by Covid-19,” says the letter (pdf).
Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca Nation and the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) is among the dozens of women who signed on to the letter. The message to the next president, who will be sworn in next week, comes just a day after the historic second impeachment of President Donald Trump for inciting a siege of the U.S. Capitol while Congress was certifying Biden’s electoral victory.
“After witnessing the violent attempted insurrection on January 6th, 2021, and seeing ‘white privilege’ on full display,” Camp-Horinek said of how the pro-Trump mob was treated by law enforcement, “I am acutely reminded of the drastic contrast of response that Indigenous peoples experienced at Standing Rock where we were attacked by dogs, maced, shot at with rubber bullets, strip searched, put in dog kennels when arrested, and our bodies marked with numbers for peacefully protecting our water and lands.”
The letter notes the record-breaking heat, wildfires, and hurricanes of the past year; that the Biden administration must take seriously the climate emergency, including by exceeding the goals of the Paris agreement; and Indigenous knowledge and scientific warnings that keeping fossil fuels in the ground is a necessity.
“Massive pipeline projects such as Keystone XL, Line 3, and DAPL,” the letter declares, “are not in alignment with the natural laws or with meeting these commitments.”
Tara Houska, Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe and founder of Giniw Collective, is on the frontlines of the fight against Line 3. “One of Trump’s first actions in office was reauthorizing oil pipelines through Native lands,” she said. “The Biden administration can uphold their climate justice claims by acting to stop Line 3, stop Keystone XL, and stop Dakota Access Pipeline, now.”
The three pipelines would not only “emit catastrophic amounts of carbon dioxide annually,” worsening both the health of surrounding communities and the climate crisis, but also specifically endanger Indigenous women and girls.
“Already, our communities are dealing with the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and our families are impacted without the support of federal or state agencies,” the letter explains. “We still have daughters, aunties, mothers, cousins, and two-spirit relatives who have never been found and whose perpetrators have never been brought to justice. There is clear evidence that the epidemic of MMIW is directly linked to fossil fuel production.”
The letter points to studies and reporting that have shown the so-called “man camps” of temporary laborers drawn to a particular area to work on fossil fuel projects “lead to increased rates of sexual violence and sexual trafficking of Indigenous women and girls, as well as an influx of drug trafficking.”
“These pipelines are the outward manifestation of the rape of not only Mother Earth, but the very real rape of our people.” —Joye Braun, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and IEN
The raging coronavirus pandemic raises additional health and safety concerns. “Indigenous Peoples across the U.S. are experiencing the devastating impact of the virus’s spread due to colonial policies and practices that have led to historically underfunded healthcare programs and significant health disparities,” the letter says. “Moving forward with pipeline construction of Line 3 or KXL will only exacerbate the issues Indigenous communities already endure.”
“These pipelines are the outward manifestation of the rape of not only Mother Earth, but the very real rape of our people,” said Joye Braun of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). “From our bodies to the land and water we all need to survive, they must be stopped to prove this new president, indeed the new administration and electors, are serious about real climate change.”
All three pipelines “are also in clear violation of our treaty rights and all are moving forward without the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous tribes and nations,” the letter notes, referring to a right defined by a United Nations resolution allowing Indigenous Peoples to weigh in on actions impacting their communities.
Indigenous women “are the first to be impacted and have voiced a collective no consent for these pipelines to invade our tribal lands,” said Kanahus Manuel of the Secwepemc and Ktunaxa Nations, Secwepemc Women Warriors, and Tiny House Warriors. “We have shown we are willing to risk our liberty and freedom and put our bodies on the line to blockade and stop construction of these dirty oil and gas projects, to ensure we have a clean future for our children.”
The letter informs Biden that there are five actions he can take to uphold Indigenous sovereignty, align his administration with the goals of the Paris agreement and exceed its agenda, and keep fossil fuels in the ground:
Fulfill your promise and rescind all permits for Keystone XL pipeline.
Order a review of the Section 404 and 408 permits for the Line 3 pipeline.
Shut down all DAPL operations and order the Army Corps of Engineers to complete a thorough Environment Impact Statement for DAPL.
Issue a presidential memoranda to halt construction and operations of the Keystone XL, Line 3, and DAPL fossil fuel pipeline projects, including the construction of temporary housing for workers, also known as “man camps.”
Take executive action requiring federal agencies to engage in a process of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of American Indian and Alaska Native Indigenous Nations, as laid out by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“We have been conquered, colonized, killed, dehumanized, and yet we continue forward,” said signatory Christina Valdivia-Alcalá, who is Mexican Indigenous/Chicana, founder and director of Tonantzin Society, and a city councilwoman in Topeka, Kansas. “President Biden, help make right the injustice set upon our Indigenous Peoples.”
As Ashley (McCray) Engle of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma/Oglala Lakota Nation put it: “Joe Biden, we are asking you to stand on the right side of history and humanity by putting an immediate end to the deadly pipelines destroying our Earth, our communities, and all life.”
“We are asking you to honor the treaties, tribal sovereignty, and our shared commitment to being good future ancestors,” said Engle, also an IEN Green New Deal organizer and Stop the Plains All American Pipeline founder. “We are counting on you to be the climate president we all need. Future generations are depending on each of us to do what’s right. The time is now to do your part.”
This post has been updated with comment from Tara Houska, Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe and founder of Giniw Collective. Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.
You may recall the #NestlePledge we launched a couple years back — asking you to denounce the company’s practices by refusing to buy Nestlé products. As water protectors, we follow generations of our fellow organizers in this opposition, from child rights activists in the ‘70s to rainforest defenders. I’ve personally been boycotting Nestlé for seven years now, and we hear from folks who’ve done so for 40-plus. Maybe it can offer some comfort that, even amid the mayhem in D.C. and all the other things we can’t control, we can still support the right companies to help make things better for future generations.
Water protectors in 2019 at a “Protect Ginnie Springs” action. Photo by Sum of Us.
Recently, Nestlé made headlines in a court case brought forth by former child slaves who allege that Nestlé, along with Cargill, knowingly allowed and enabled slavery in cocoa supply chains. A brief from Nestlé’s defense hideously argues it should not be held liable for the use of forced labor in chocolate manufacturing — just like the companies that made gas for concentration camps weren’t punished at the Nuremberg trials.
Meanwhile, down in Florida, environmentalists have mounted a separate fight against Nestlé after it requested a permit to pump more than one million gallons of fresh water per day out of the state’s sensitive and already overexploited Ginnie Springs. In true water protector fashion, “kayaktivists” have taken the protest straight to the spring for floating sit-ins, paraphrasing our Lakota saying by chanting, “Water for life! No to Nestlé!”
We know here on Standing Rock that extractive billion-dollar corporations are not friends to the people or the planet. Our many struggles against Nestlé’s deplorable behavior exemplify how interrelated we are and demonstrate how we can build power across generations, distance, and demographics to resist assaults on our common home. It is our hope that the courts and the regulators will hold Nestlé accountable, and that you’ll feel empowered to join us on the Boycott Nestle bus.
Mni Wiconi — water is life!
Honorata Defender Standing Rock Organizer Lakota People’s Law Project
I hope you’re staying safe as we begin this new year. It’s been a wild election season, culminating with Tuesday’s Senate races in Georgia and Wednesday’s insurrection at the Capitol. Sadly, it’s inevitable that many of Trump’s (mostly white) followers will get away with their seditious actions in D.C. — meanwhile, a pair of young, Native activists here at the Cheyenne River Nation face charges after nonviolently protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.
Also on Wednesday, police arrested Cheyenne River tribal member Oscar High Elk (30 years old) and charged him on 12 counts, including felony aggravated assault, though he committed no acts of violence. Now, he faces a maximum of 23 years in prison. How wrong it would be should either one of these young water protectors serve time for standing against a Canadian pipeline which would provide little economic value to Americans and threaten Unci Maka.
This glaring disparity in our country between how law enforcement treats us Natives and other people of color as opposed to whites underlines the urgency of our struggle. We must take every opportunity to secure justice for Black and brown communities as the Trump era comes to an ignominious end. If you have not already done so, please sign our petition to the Biden transition team telling the president-elect: It’s time to end KXL and DAPL once and for all. We hope you’ll stay with us — and with our young activists — in the fight for environmental justice.
You can also share our call to action via social media by clicking the buttons below:
Wopila tanka — thank you for supporting our struggle! Mni wiconi.
Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
As a violent mob backing President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday with what appeared to be relative ease, many in Indian Country took to social media to point out drastic differences of past treatment by law enforcement of water protectors and other peaceful protestors.
In a chaotic scene in Washington, D.C., that lasted for hours, dozens of Trump supporters rushed the famous building, causing lawmakers to scramble for safety and the building to be locked down.
Videos posted on social media show a violent mob, many wearing Trump gear, knocking down police barriers and damaging building property. The mob even reached the Senate floor and posed for photos, while one video showed police taking a selfie photo with members of the mob.
One person was shot and killed at the Capitol, The Associated Press reported, citing sources familiar with the situation. Police eventually used tear gas and percussion grenades to clear people from the grounds ahead of a curfew in Washington.
The district’s police chief said at least 13 people were arrested, and five firearms had been recovered during the pro-Trump protests. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee, of Oklahoma, told ABC News that he was inside and spoke with some of the Trump supporters. A photo posted on social media shows Mullin behind civilian-dressed law enforcement with guns drawn and aimed at the door. “It’s fortunate that a lot more civilians didn’t get shot because (Capitol) police showed a great restraint by not doing so. A great restraint.”
Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, of Oklahoma, said he was outraged by the “lawless protests,” and it’s not the “American way.”
“While Americans have the right to passionately voice their views & peacefully dissent in protest, I strongly condemn the perpetrators of this destructive & violent activity,” Cole said in a tweet.
Critics, including Black, Indigenous and people of color, say at least some of the scene was a stark contrast to what water protectors and treaty defenders have faced over the years, specifically at Standing Rock in 2016, where law enforcement repeatedly used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.
More than 760 arrests were made in southern North Dakota during the height of protests in 2016 and 2017. At times, thousands of pipeline opponents gathered in the region to protest the $3.8 billion project to move North Dakota oil to Illinois, but the effort didn’t stop the project.
NDN Collective CEO and President Nick Tilsen, who was arrested during a rally against Trump’s visit to the Black Hills in July, didn’t hold back on Twitter.
“If these were Black, Brown and Indigenous people they would of killed us already; read between the lines people,” Tilsen, Oglala Lakota, said in a tweet.
Everett Baxter, Omaha Tribe of Nebraska chairman, said Natives speaking their mind get arrested, while the Trump supporters in Washington, D.C., “will probably get pardons.”
Baxter also questioned Nebraska state leaders in their involvement at Standing Rock.
“The Nebraska State Patrol sent officers to aid North Dakota’s law enforcement against the water protectors during (the) Standing Rock standoff,” Baxter posted on Facebook. “Will Nebraska do the same to aid the law enforcement of the Washington D.C. riots? Not likely.”
On Twitter, writer, actor and producer Azie Mira Dungey, Pamunkey, called out law enforcement’s response at the Capitol.
“Police literally worked harder to make sure a private company could build an oil pipeline on Native land, and to stop black people from walking through their own neighborhood asking politely not to be murdered, than to stop a few hundred white men from taking over the US Capitol,” Dungey said in a tweet.
Nick Estes, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, is a college professor and host of “The Red Nation” podcast. He responded to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s tweet criticizing the violence. Her post included the comment, “We are all entitled to peacefully protest.”
“What? You pushed laws to criminalize protest in SD and pushed conspiracy theories about stolen election,” Estes said.
Comedian Lucas Brown Eyes, Oglala Lakota, tweeted photos of water protectors being attacked by law enforcement at Standing Rock.
“As we watch Trumpers storm the capital with guns. Just a reminder, this is what America did to Native protesting for clean water,” Brown Eyes said.
2020 was a very difficult year personally and world-wide. There was some very excellent progress as we kept up the effort to end fracking and oil pipelines. Let 2021 be an even better year. Even in the face of great adversity, we will keep fighting for peace, health, and WATER.