Dawn Goodwin and 300 Environmental Groups Consider the new Line 3 Pipeline a Danger to All Forms of Life

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Leeches love Northern Minnesota. The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” (technically, the state sports more than 11,000, plus bogs, creeks, marshes and the headwaters of the Mississippi River) in early summer is a freshwater paradise for the shiny, black species of the unnerving worm. And that’s exactly the kind local fisherman buy to bait walleye. People who trap and sell the shallow-water suckers are called “leechers.” It’s a way to make something of a living while staying in close relationship to this water-world. Towards the end of the summer, the bigger economic opportunity is wild rice, which is still traditionally harvested from canoes by “ricers.” 

When Dawn Goodwin, an Anishinaabe woman who comes from many generations of ricers (and whose current partner is a leecher), was a young girl, her parents let her play in a canoe safely stationed in a puddle in the yard. She remembers watching her father and uncles spread wild rice out on a tarp and turn the kernels as they dried in the sun. She grew up intimate with the pine forests and waterways around Bagley, Minnesota, an area which was already intersected by a crude oil pipeline called “Line 3” that had been built a few years before she was born. Goodwin is 50 now, and that pipeline, currently owned and operated by the Canadian energy company Enbridge, is in disrepair. 

Dawn Goodwin, an Anishinaabe leader and co-founder of RISE (Resilient Indigenous sisters Engaging), by Lower Rice Lake on the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. "When ricing is in full swing, you can't even describe the beauty of this lake," she said. Credit: Audrey Gray
Dawn Goodwin, an Anishinaabe leader and co-founder of RISE (Resilient Indigenous sisters Engaging), by Lower Rice Lake on the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. “When ricing is in full swing, you can’t even describe the beauty of this lake,” she said. Credit: Audrey Gray
Local and Native Minnesotans still make their livings from the waterways and land throughout the Line 3 project area. They sell leeches, wild rice and a variety of vegetables depending on the season. Considered one of the cleanest lake regions in the country, the area draws tourists for swimming, fishing and boating as well. More than 150 species of fish swim in Northern Minnesota waters, and are considered safe to eat. Credit: Audrey Gray
Local and Native Minnesotans still make their livings from the waterways and land throughout the Line 3 project area. They sell leeches, wild rice and a variety of vegetables depending on the season. Considered one of the cleanest lake regions in the country, the area draws tourists for swimming, fishing and boating as well. More than 150 species of fish swim in Northern Minnesota waters, and are considered safe to eat. Credit: Audrey Gray
A tray of fresh ribbon leeches from the lakes of Northern Minnesota Saturday morning. There's a saying among Minnesota fishermen: "The blacker the leech the better." The darker, non-sucking leeches are most attractive to big fish like walleye and largemouth bass. Credit: Audrey Gray
A tray of fresh ribbon leeches from the lakes of Northern Minnesota Saturday morning. There’s a saying among Minnesota fishermen: “The blacker the leech the better.” The darker, non-sucking leeches are most attractive to big fish like walleye and largemouth bass. Credit: Audrey Gray

Enbridge has spent years gathering the necessary permits to build a new Line 3 (they call it a “replacement project”) with a larger diameter that will transport a different type of oil—tar sands crude—from Edmonton, Aberta, through North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, terminating at the Western edge of Lake Superior where the thick, petroleum-laced sludge will be shipped for further refining. Despite lawsuits and pushback from Native people in Northern Minnesota and a variety of environmental groups, Enbridge secured permission to begin construction on Line 3 across 337 miles of Minnesota last December. The region is now crisscrossed with new access roads, excavated piles of dirt, and segments of pipe sitting on top of the land, waiting to be buried. Enbridge has mapped the new Line 3 to cross more than 200 bodies of water as it winds through Minnesota. 

Goodwin wants the entire project stopped before a single wild rice habitat is crossed. 

“Our elders tell us that every water is wild rice water,” Goodwin said on Saturday, as she filled up her water bottle from an artesian spring next to Lower Rice Lake. “Tar sands sticks to everything and is impossible to clean up. If there is a rupture or a spill, the rice isn’t going to live.” 

Winona LaDuke, a Native leader, environmental organizer and former Vice Presidential Candidate for the Green Party, has been camping with other protesters at the public Shell City Campground near Menahga, Minnesota, this week. "We know it's possible to stop a pipeline," she said. "We just don't need it. It's a big waste of money. What we need is a just transition." Credit: Audrey Gray
Winona LaDuke, a Native leader, environmental organizer and former Vice Presidential Candidate for the Green Party, has been camping with other protesters at the public Shell City Campground near Menahga, Minnesota, this week. “We know it’s possible to stop a pipeline,” she said. “We just don’t need it. It’s a big waste of money. What we need is a just transition.” Credit: Audrey Gray
More than 2,000 protesters from around the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, registered to join the Treaty People Gathering near Park Rapids, Minnesota. They have been living close to the land and participating in trainings in preparations for Monday's direct actions, which are expected to include a march and the disruption of some Line 3 construction sites. Credit: Audrey Gray
More than 2,000 protesters from around the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, registered to join the Treaty People Gathering near Park Rapids, Minnesota. They have been living close to the land and participating in trainings in preparations for Monday’s direct actions, which are expected to include a march and the disruption of some Line 3 construction sites. Credit: Audrey Gray
LEFT: A portion of the Mississippi River’s headwaters along Highway 200 near Itasca State Park. The Line 3 pipeline project includes the crossings of more than 200 waterways in Minnesota, including the Mississippi. RIGHT: An Enbridge Line 3 construction site along U.S. 71 near Park Rapids, Minnesota. The original pipeline was 34 inches in diameter. The new pipeline is 36 inches in diameter and capable of transporting double the current amount of crude oil, according to Enbridge. Credit: Audrey Gray
Janine Gelsinger, Nicole Pressley, and Casey Clowes, all affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association, made the trip up to Northern Minnesota to be a part of the Treaty People Gathering. "Fundamentally, we need to preserve our environment and show up for indigenous communities," said Pressley. "The Mississippi River is part of my family's history. It needs to be protected." Credit: Audrey Gray
Janine Gelsinger, Nicole Pressley, and Casey Clowes, all affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association, made the trip up to Northern Minnesota to be a part of the Treaty People Gathering. “Fundamentally, we need to preserve our environment and show up for indigenous communities,” said Pressley. “The Mississippi River is part of my family’s history. It needs to be protected.” Credit: Audrey Gray
Paul Chiyokten Wagner, a member of the Sanish Nation, drove East from Washington State "to stand in solidarity with Anishinaabe relatives and families," he said. "The era of disrespect to the circle of life is finished, and the government and the corporations need to admit it." Credit: Audrey Gray
Paul Chiyokten Wagner, a member of the Sanish Nation, drove East from Washington State “to stand in solidarity with Anishinaabe relatives and families,” he said. “The era of disrespect to the circle of life is finished, and the government and the corporations need to admit it.” Credit: Audrey Gray

Last week, more than 300 environmental groups from around the world sent a letter to President Biden saying they consider the new Line 3 project a danger to all forms of life, citing the planet-cooking fossil fuel emissions that would result from the pipeline’s increased capacity. At Goodwin and other Native leaders’ request, more than a thousand people have traveled to Northern Minnesota to participate in a direct action protest at Line 3 construction sites today. They’ve been joined by celebrities as well, including Jane Fonda. The event is named the Treaty People Gathering, a reference to the land treaties of the mid-1800s that ensured the Anishinaabe people would retain their rights to hunt, fish and gather wild rice in the region. 

“I’m not asking people to get arrested,” Goodwin said, “Just to come and stand with us.”

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