Dragonflies, Loons and the Black Snake

Reporting from the frontlines of Line 3

A loon puppet. (Credit: Gladys Delgadillo/.Center for Biological Diversity)

Dragonflies dart overhead in their thousands, slicing through the thick humidity to snap up mosquitos attracted to our camp from the nearby river. An Indigenous elder explains to one of us that the dragonflies are spirit guides, and that they are not usually present in these numbers. We feel that they are joining with Water Protectors who have gathered on Anishinaabe treaty lands to help defeat the “black snake” — the Line 3 tar sands pipeline — and are grateful for their presence.

I’m part of a delegation of workers from the Center for Biological Diversity who joined nearly 2,000 Water Protectors who traveled to the White Earth Reservation to participate in the Treaty People Gathering encampment in Northern Minnesota. Heeding the call of Indigenous women leaders, we’re standing with them to stop Line 3.

We’re here to defend native treaty rights from Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company backed up by U.S. law enforcement (Enbridge has been required to cover the costs of policing the pipeline protests in Minnesota). We’re calling on President Biden to stop Line 3 and reject all federal fossil fuel infrastructure approvals that stand in the way of environmental and climate justice.

If completed, the Line 3 pipeline would carry more than 3 million gallons of heavy crude oil per day from the Alberta tar sands through sovereign Anishinaabe treaty land in Minnesota and the Mississippi headwaters, crisscrossing rivers and wetlands, to refineries and export hubs on Lake Superior. A spill into these waterways would wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems and threaten the wildlife and communities who depend on them.

The hazards of the “black snake” are as small as a grain of rice and as large as the planet.

Line 3 threatens Manoomin, wild rice sacred to Anishinaabe people, and is in violation of the treaties signed between tribal nations and the United States government.

Pipeline construction camps or “man camps” are also notoriously and tragically associated with increasing rates of drug and sex trafficking that particularly target Indigenous women.

The pipeline would put the entire planet in peril, locking in the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of 50 new coal power plants. Like the recently defeated Keystone XL pipeline, Line 3 is a fuse to a “carbon bomb” that will blow us well beyond crucial climate targets needed to avoid irreversible climate catastrophe.

Native leaders are rallying with allies to physically slow Enbridge down, putting their bodies in the line of construction and even risking arrest if necessary.

With nearly 2,000 Water Protectors gathered at the camp, this is largest mobilization against the pipeline to date.

On June 7, hundreds put their bodies in between pipeline construction and the water, calling on Biden to defend native rights, protect our climate and stop permitting fossil fuel projects. At one site along the pipeline route, police arrested 150 Water Protectors after they peacefully shut down construction for the day.

As we left the gathering, nearly 200 Water Protectors set up a new encampment, Fire Light Camp, directly on the pipeline route at the edge of the Mississippi where Enbridge plans to drill beneath the river.

Over the next few days Indigenous leaders asserted their treaty rights at this camp by engaging in daily ceremony and prayer near what has long been a sacred site, the Mississippi headwaters. Assertions of these rights is a powerful challenge to the legacies of colonialism and extraction that continue to harm Indigenous communities and pose an existential threat to all of us.

Last Monday, Enbridge-funded police closed in on Fire Light Camp after presenting Indigenous leaders with an eviction order. The encampment disbursed with 50 Water Protectors receiving citations and its leaders resolved to continue the struggle throughout the summer. Behind them they left an enormous puppet of a Loon with the words “Protect the Water President Biden; You can’t drink oil, no water no life” printed on its wings.

President Biden can stop the pipeline before the situation escalates further. He has the moral and legal authority to revoke a key permit fast-tracked under the Trump administration.

Instead, the Department of Homeland Security under the Biden Administration sent in a helicopter which appeared to have attempted to sandblast Water Protectors into submission. They did not submit — and after having spent just a few days with them, we’re certain they won’t.

We returned from the gathering honored to have participated and humbled by the incredible leadership of the Indigenous women who have fought this pipeline for seven years. As we look to the future, we’re inspired to work alongside so many allies acting in solidarity to defend the water, the treaties and the climate. But we’re also steeling ourselves for what may be a protracted struggle over a long, hot summer.

Biden, too, needs to feel the heat. On Line 3, as with the entire toxic network of fossil fuel projects, the president has a choice to make. Biden can protect the water and wildlife, people and the planet — or he can allow fossil fuel executives to run roughshod over treaties, landscapes, lives and livelihoods.

To support this ongoing fight, tell President Biden to stop Line 3 and all new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Call the president today: 888–724–8946.

Line 3 Water Protectors continue the struggle against Line 3 on the ground. They’re inviting others to join them on the banks of the Mississippi, or to make donations.

Donate here: https://treatypeoplegathering.com/donate

Follow these accounts for regular updates: @HonorTheEarth @RiseAndEngage @GiniwCollective @ResistLine3 @IENearth

Theo LeQuesne is a Climate Organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity

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