Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Community Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives. (Submission Guidelines)

Line 3 pipeline proposal: Yet another abuse against Native Americans

Enbridge Line 3, Public Utilities Commission designated route
State of Minnesota
Enbridge Line 3, Public Utilities Commission designated route

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.” T​his 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.

Christine McCormick
Christine McCormick
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.


If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, see our Submission Guidelines.)

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Paul Yochim on 05/06/2019 - 10:16 am.

    Christine, good article but you didn’t mention the mass execution of 38 Native Americans ordered by the Great Emancipator (Abraham Lincoln) without a hint of due process for the accused. That along with the lynching of African American circus workers in Duluth is a stain that Minnesota revisionists desperately continue to hide.

  2. Submitted by Misae Matoskah on 05/06/2019 - 11:14 am.

    You are condemning a group of people severely and absolutely based on the colour of their skin and the place they were born for terrible events and oppression they had no involvement in or any control over. That is racism. You are saying that the Native American Nations are not able to defend their own hard won rights or achieve equality without another race giving it to them, or helping to raise them up, specifically, white people. That is elitist, white supremacy. Does my use of the term “racism” to describe your point of view disturb you? Good. That is how you should feel. It is not your place to speak for Native Americans. Check your privilege and look harder for your own blind spots before casting your righteous ignorance onto the world causing only more resentment and division. By its very definition, true equality must apply to all, or it applies to none — we all live on the Treaty Lands. You have a lot more to learn and college is not the place you will learn it.

    • Submitted by Rema Loeb on 05/07/2019 - 06:55 pm.

      Your definition of racism seems a bit off the mark to me. As a matter of human understanding you should be applauding this wise woman. She is not talking about the color of someone’s skin but rather the treaties that continue to be ignored. This affects real people at this time. As we learned at Standing Rock, we can stand together, pray together, and recognize that it is the responsibility of all of us to protect our Mother. Instead of writing such heartless messages, you could join all of us who are acting for our children and grandchildren. I am not native by birth but by Lakota hunka ceremony and I have grandchildren from four sovereign nations.

  3. Submitted by Dave Eischens on 05/06/2019 - 03:32 pm.

    Thank you Ms. McCormick, for shining more light on both the environmental risks and continuing injustices to our fellow Minnesotans. It’s through your actions and the actions of many others that caring for the earth and its living inhabitants will overcome exploitation for dollars. Together is how we make a difference. Definitely looking forward to more of your writing!

  4. Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/06/2019 - 04:50 pm.

    Line 3 is actually not a breach of the treaty of 1855. That treaty gave the Ojibwe the right to hunt and gather outside the reservation land. That the treaty trumps state law in regard to these rights. But it doesn’t restrict what anyone else can do with the land. Professor EagleWoman’s interpretation does not have much, if any, merit.

    That’s a separate issue than whether Line 3 is environmentally safe. That’s the argument that is getting litigated.

Leave a Reply