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Resisting Enbridge’s Line 3 in the Great Lakes: GRIID interview with Anishinaabe activist Joe Cadreau

March 17, 2021

GRIID – Can you tell us when you will be going to Minnesota and why?

Joe – Yes, I will be leaving the Grand Rapids area on March 25th, heading to Red Lake Minnesota to stand in solidarity with fellow Indigenous people in demanding the shutdown of Line 3. For the last 6 years tribal nations, community and environmental groups in Minnesota have fought to stop Canadian oil giant Enbridge Energy from building the massive Line 3 pipeline in Northern Minnesota, to take oil from Canada’s tar sands region to Superior, Wisconsin.

The pipeline violates several treaties with the Ojibwe people that establish our rights to hunt, fish, and gather along the proposed route. The pipeline would cross 200 bodies of water, including the Mississippi River twice. If built, Line 3 would carry hundreds of thousands of barrels a day of tar sands crude oil — some of the dirtiest oil in the world — and would contribute the equivalent of 50 coal plants worth of carbon pollution to the atmosphere. Its carbon footprint would exceed the entire state of Minnesota’s.

GRIID – How long will you be there and are there any other members of the local indigenous community making the trip with you?

Joe – We will be there for 2-3 days to bring in some supplies and donations and to help uplift and amplify indigenous voices. There is a caravan that will be starting in the UP at the Bay Mills Indian Community and we will be meeting up in Grand Rapids and head to Minnesota as a group, kind of like back in the old days of AIM. As far as local indigenous community members from Grand Rapids, we have five tribal members that are going along with a group of allies. 

GRIID – How important is the resistance of Line 3 to Indigenous people?

JoeI think it is very important after the NoDAPL fight.  NoDAPL proved to us that we cannot rely or trust the federal government to do the right thing, in regards to Indigenous people and treaty rights. Line 3 would violate the treaty rights of Anishinaabe peoples and nations in its path — wild rice is a centerpiece of Anishinaabe culture, it grows in numerous watersheds Line 3 seeks to cross. It’s well-past time to end the legacy of theft from and destruction of indigenous peoples and territories. Add the fact that ALL pipelines leak, this is non-starter for us as Anishinaabe, as the Dakota Access line proved!

I also think it’s important to understand that historically, we Anishaabek people earned our livelihoods off these wetlands and water sheds, from fishing, and fur trapping, to wild rice harvesting and land conservation. A historical fact that is often lost, is that Anishinaabe people were the people who discovered and plotted the trade routes in every water way and river from the Mississippi River eastward. These lands are not only sacred to our life ways, but also hold significant cultural meaning. I cannot stress enough the importance of resistance to Line 3 and Enbridge as a corporation. 

GRIID – Why do you think that the resistance to Line3 hasn’t received the same kind of attention from both the news media and climate justice groups, as Standing Rock did?

Joe – I believe the lack of attention to Line 3 has several factors, the first being that this fight has been on-going in the courts for the last 6 years. Secondly, I believe that mixed messaging from state leaders, particularly the governor has played a major role, and never under estimate the power of money and influence that Enbridge utilizes. And lastly, the current social climate in Minnesota, with police brutality on Indigenous and Black community members, the George Floyd murder, and the missing and murdered indigenous women movements, people are pulled in many different directions. Add on the pandemic and coverage becomes even more thin. 

As legal cases continue to play out, long standing grassroots resistance to the pipeline have entered a new phase with public actions in multiple locations and dozens of arrests of peaceful water protectors. Native American Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) organizations have led the movement with groups like the Giniw Collective, Honor the Earth, Rise Coalition and Gitchi Gumi Scouts leading public actions along the construction route along with organizations including MN350 Action and Northfield Against Line 3.

GRIID – Are you able to talk about what you will be doing when you take part in the Line 3 resistance? If, so please share.

Joe We are basically going there to help uplift and support Indigenous voices in whatever way that they need and tell us. We have some supplies and donations that we are also bringing to the Red Lake Treaty Camp. However, actions are progressing as Enbridge was given a permit and as the ground thaws, they have begun to stage pipeline and equipment along the route for construction. Some actions that happened over the last 2 months, included Indigenous women (Ogichidda Kwe) chaining themselves to construction equipment, construction of a Medicine lodge along the planned route, and peaceful demonstrations at various sites, where protesters were arrested. 

GRIID – Can you talk about how the Line 3 project is just another form of Settler Colonialism?

JoeThis project Line 3 along with Line 5 right here in Michigan and The Dakota Access Line are living forms of Settler Colonialism. They perpetuate the legacy of colonization and imperialism in the forms of land theft and destruction of a people and life ways in the name of capitalist gains. An easier way to explain what these pipelines mean to me as a proud Ojibwa man would be to compare them to confederate monuments. Just as the confederate monuments were created as a means to demonstrate white supremacy over a group, the pipelines serve the same purpose to indigenous people. A trophy of accomplishment over a people and culture and a constant reminder of that victory. 

GRIID – What will it take for a similar kind of resistance campaign to happen in Michigan against Line 5?

Joe – Well, Line 5 is going to be interesting over the next couple of months. Governor Whitmer has demanded that Enbridge shut down Line 5. Through her office and by executive order it is supposed to be shut down by the first week of May.  In return Enbridge has been defiant and has now employed the powers of PM Trudeau and has promised to take the fight to Washington DC. 

Depending on what happens in May will determine what actions will happen not only in the courts and from the state, but also tribal nations and local grassroots. I believe that actions will only progress here in Michigan if Line 5 is not shut down. Over the last 2-3 years actions of resistance slowly increased over Line 5. From PR campaigns to activist filming and recording Enbridge workers, and even some had camps set up in areas on both sides of the Mackinac Bridge.  

GRIID – In what ways can non-indigenous people be supportive of the Line 3 resistance?

Joe – I have a quote from Winona LaDuke that I want to share, “Frontline leaders and climate activists have called on supporters to join in resisting Line 3. A leading opponent of the pipeline, Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth calls the battle over Line 3, “ground zero in the battle over climate change”. “This is the last pipeline. This is the last battle, and that battle is in Minnesota …We expect thousands of people to join us.“

They can also donate to the Red Lake Treaty Camp on Facebook, or you can donate and find ways to support by visiting, https://www.stopline3.org

I think it is important to remember that Standing Rock and the NoDAPL movement were not only effective and impactful because of the many tribal nations that united. Yes that was important. But, the fact that many different cultures, and people came and stood with those tribal nations and indigenous people, also contributed to the success of that movement.

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