Throughout history, Native Americans’ rights have been repeatedly taken away by white Americans. Unless something is done to stop Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 pipeline, this pattern will continue.
Enbridge Energy wants to “replace” an oil pipeline (Line 3), but along a different route, plowing straight through the wild rice waters the Ojibwe people maintain the rights to use through the Treaty of 1855. The new pipeline will be built twice as wide and carry twice as much oil. In the era of climate change, a bigger pipeline is not what Minnesota needs.
Furthermore, the Line 3 pipeline is a breach of the treaty between the Ojibwe people and the United States, and if Line 3 is built it will further the divide between the Ojibwe people and the state of Minnesota. As descendants of the people who settled this land and took it away from native people, we can no longer ignore the repercussions of the abuse our ancestors perpetrated.
Right through tribal hunting and harvesting
The proposed pipeline would go straight through the land where the Ojibwe people have legal permission to hunt and harvest crops. A statement from the Ojibwe said that the pipeline “would have a long-term detrimental effect on tribal lands, resources, spiritual places, medicines, food and members.” This action is just another example of a Minnesota state agency ignoring the rights of the Ojibwe people. If Line 3 is built, it will be another historical broken promise against Native Americans.
As a white college student from the Midwest, it disheartens me to think of the historical injustices committed against Native Americans. Minnesota is no exception to such injustice. Fort Snelling served as a concentration camp during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Between its walls, more than 1,600 native people were held captive. During harsh winter months, it is estimated that 130 to 300 prisoners died from exposure to disease and harsh conditions. That death toll doesn’t even come close to the number of Dakota people we killed in that war.
After the war, we took their children. We stripped them of their culture, cut their hair, and made them confess faith to a god that was not their own. If they misbehaved or rebelled in any way we beat them. If they spoke their own language we made them eat soap. If the use of “we” is making you uncomfortable — good, that is how you should feel. We can’t right the wrongs of our ancestors, but we can stop injustice from happening again. If we, as white people, stand idly by while their rights are being taken away yet again we are no better than our ancestors before us.
A breach of the Treaty of 1855
Line 3 is a breach of the Treaty of 1855, in which the Ojibwe ceded land while still holding the rights to hunt, fish and gather wild rice. According to Angelique EagleWoman, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, “the treaty rights protecting wild rice and the traditional uses by the Chippewa Tribes are the law and permitting a pipeline through those lands would be in violation of that law.”
Line 3 threatens the culture and lives of the Ojibwe people as well as the environment. Enbridge’s oil pipelines have leaked before. The proposed pipeline would pass through Fond du Lac and set up the potential for environmental disaster.
Minnesota needs to own up to the long and painful history of Native American abuse. Only by working through and acknowledging our past can we begin to absolve ourselves in the present. Help stop Line 3 by educating the public, donating to Honor the Earth, or writing to your representatives. Stopping Line 3 won’t make up for the centuries of abuse against Native Americans, but it is a step in the right direction. Honor tradition, honor the people and honor the treaty.
Christine McCormick is a first-year student at Macalester College. She is currently majoring in environmental studies with an emphasis in environmental justice.
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