Nearly 600 water protectors have been arrested during ongoing protests in Minnesota against the construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline at the Shell River, which the partially completed pipeline is set to cross in five places.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.
We look now at the ongoing resistance to construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota along the Shell River, which the partially completed pipeline is set to cross in five places. Nearly 600 water protectors have been arrested during protests against the pipeline so far.
On Monday, authorities arrested Indigenous leader Winona LaDuke and at least six others. She was just released from jail yesterday and joins us now after three nights in jail. She’s executive director of Honor the Earth, her latest book, To Be a Water Protector, joining us from her home on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota.
Winona, welcome back to Democracy Now! Why were you arrested?
WINONA LADUKE: I was arrested because I wanted to stop Enbridge’s Line 3 from crossing the Shell River. I’ve been appointed guardian ad litem for Shell River by the 1855 Treaty Commission and by my tribe. And Enbridge is trying to finish this line. And along with — it’s now 600 people have been arrested. But we stood there in front of the police for quite a while with our people and, you know, our horses and our children. And they arrested seven of us.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain who owns Enbridge Line 3 and why you want it shut down.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain who owns Enbridge Line 3 and why you want it shut down.
WINONA LADUKE: Well, Enbridge Line 3 is owned by the Enbridge Corporation, the Canadian multinational that also owns the pipe under the Straits of Mackinac. And, you know, it’s a really risky Canadian corporation, 225 subsidiaries, with all the money kept in Canada. And they’re shoving this pipeline down our throat.
And about a month ago, the Minnesota DNR, which is probably the most corrupt agency in the state of Minnesota, allocated 5 billion gallons of water to Enbridge in the middle of a drought. They knew about the appropriation request in November. In December, they began under — studying it. And they didn’t even notify the tribes until May. And then they issued the permit in June — 5 billion gallons in the worst drought in history. You know, our rivers are down 50%, 75%, and yet this pipeline is marching ahead in the middle of this drought.
And, you know, ironically, you’re looking here, and, like, more and more money is being divested from the tar sands. I mean, the Saudi sovereign fund, you know, divested like $3 billion from the tar sands. And Chevron and a New York pension fund and Royal Dutch Shell, they’re all looking at doing this. It’s like the last tar sands pipeline, and Enbridge wants to shove it down our throats. And our Anishinaabe people and water protectors have been standing strong. And you’ve got to say, like, “Who wants to be the last — have the last tar sands pipeline?” It’s the end of the party.
But the Enbridge way seems to be to keep pushing ahead. They’ve — I think it’s called regulatory capture, when they take over your regulatory system and your police, because I think, as you know, Amy, the majority of the — Enbridge has been required by law to pay for the police forces in northern Minnesota required to put in their pipeline. And, you know, one has to ask, “If it was such a good idea, why do you need so many police?” But many, many —
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about the police. The Intercept reported Thursday that Minnesota police expected the Line 3 pipeline to help boost their budget to fund new weapons. The article reveals that a few weeks before Line 3 was approved for construction, Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron Cook bought a new assault rifle that cost $725. In a November 2020 email, Cook wrote to the gun seller, quote, “Our budget took a hit last week, so that’s all we will be ordering for now. … I’m hoping the pipeline will give us an extra boost to next year’s budget, which should make it easy for me to propose an upgrade/trade to your rifles rather than a rebuild of our 8 Bushmasters” — referencing another assault rifle. Your response, Winona?
WINONA LADUKE: That’s exactly right. They’ve been bankrolling the northern police departments. Some of the police departments, like Aitkin County, were saddened by COVID, because they had to let people out of prison or out of jail there and losing money on their budgets in that dysfunctional system. And so, you know, at this point, Enbridge has been financing all these northern police departments. And so you’re seeing 40 different squads show up from counties throughout the state to repress water protectors, who are just trying to protect the water in northern Minnesota, and arrest hundreds of us.
And, you know, it begins — it’s a civil crisis when a Canadian multinational controls your police force. You know, I thought the police were supposed to work for the people and not for the Canadian multinational, but that’s not what’s happening up here. A Canadian multinational has taken our civil rights, clearly, you know, myself, among many, being put in jail. I mean, that’s the Enbridge way: control the police of the state of Minnesota and shove your pipeline through. You know, it’s so wrong from every aspect.
AMY GOODMAN: Winona, talk about this related to the climate emergency. We’re talking to you as there are some 80 massive wildfires burning, something larger than the city of Los Angeles, all through the West — Montana, Oregon, Washington, California. You’ve got Salt Lake, the Great Salt Lake, at its lowest level ever. You’ve got the fires raging. In China, you’ve got this massive flooding in central China, which forced to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people. How does that relate to your arrest?
WINONA LADUKE: Well, you know, Enbridge’s Line 3 is the equivalent of adding 50 new coal-fired power plants. You know, you don’t get a tiara for putting this one in. And, you know, so what’s happening is that every day now you see the haze from the Canadian wildfires. We see our rivers are parched. But yet we see Enbridge and the DNR, Minnesota DNR, guarding hoses as they suck millions of gallons of water out of our river to put in this Canadian tar sands pipeline, in the worst disaster of a drought, you know, and these massive fires that are to the north and west of us. It’s really a devastating time for all of us as climate chaos descends upon us. And then, yet you see Governor Walz decide to sell us all out, to sell out the Anishinaabe people and the people of Minnesota, so it could get 23 jobs, at the end of this, 23 jobs from a Canadian multinational. It’s really — you know, it’s so wrong. It’s so wrong.
And the Biden administration is just sitting by and watching it happen. I mean, I’m watching river after river get frac-outs on them in northern Minnesota. These are pristine river systems. You know, I’m watching things get destroyed as Enbridge ravages through our country. And then I’m watching hundreds of people get arrested trying to protect our water and to stop the climate disaster that Enbridge’s Line 3 represents.
You know, we’re looking for more divestment in that. You know, it’s a $9 billion pipeline right now, the most expensive tar sands pipeline in the world. And as I said, that’s like a great gamble at the end of the fossil fuel era, the most expensive tar sands pipeline in the world. And, you know, it’s brutal. It’s brutal out here. I didn’t like my three days in jail, but that’s the Enbridge way.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what a frac-out is. And have there been leaks?
WINONA LADUKE: You know, this is a new pipeline project going in, but they’re crossing like 69 rivers, and 22 of them with this thing called the HDD, which is a super phallic, horrible drill system, the high direction drill — horizontal direction drill. And so, what happens is that they’re drilling like underneath the rivers, and they hit an aquifer, and they shoot out into — or they hit a seam that shoots out into the river, in some spring that they didn’t know about, and all of a sudden you’ve got a bunch of, like, toxic bentonite, all kind of crazy stuff at the bottom of the river.
And, you know, the thing is, is like the Shell River is a pristine river, crossed five times by Enbridge, hit by industrial agriculture like R.D. Offutt. And it has the largest mussel population in the Upper Mississippi River. It has this huge and beautiful mussel river, hence the name Shell River. And those guys don’t last through frac-outs, you know? Just the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Interior, you know, all of these agencies are looking aside as Biden seems to approve the tar sands pipeline. And you can’t do both.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, that’s interesting you mention —
WINONA LADUKE: You can’t be a climate president and do this.
AMY GOODMAN: — Department of Interior, because it’s a Native American — first Native American secretary of the Department of Interior, Deb Haaland. She actually was at the protest in North Dakota against DAPL. About 200 major activists, celebrities, Democratic donors and environmentalists sent a letter demanding that President Biden stop Enbridge’s pipeline project, like he did with Keystone XL, and to firmly establish the principle, they said, that we will move forward toward real climate solutions. But the Biden administration has not done this. Has Deb Haaland weighed in — not only not done this for Enbridge, but not done it for DAPL, where she was there protesting the Dakota Access pipeline?
WINONA LADUKE: Yeah, sadly, Deb Haaland has not stepped up on this. And the Biden administration certainly has chained her to their position. You know, it’s tragic. You know, there’s no federal environmental impact statement on this project. It wouldn’t pass the climate test. It’s exactly — it’s even bigger than Keystone. So, if Keystone wouldn’t pass the climate test, why would this pipeline pass the climate test, let alone the water impact? This is a fifth of the world’s water. Enbridge is in the middle of the water wealth of our territory, you know, the heartland of the water. And the Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Interior, no agency has stepped up to protect the waters of the people of Minnesota, the Anishinaabe, trust responsibility, nor any of the waters of this territory.
And, you know, it’s so disappointing that the Biden administration is throwing Indigenous people under the bus, the water under the bus — you know, there’s no new water — and that everybody is tolerating more and more arrests, as if, you know, that’s how it goes these days — we just keep arresting people because we think our project’s a great thing. You know, I’m so disappointed in the Biden administration, in Deb Haaland, you know, in every agency. I’m so disappointed that they are destroying our planet so a Canadian multinational can make a buck at the end of the tar sands era.
AMY GOODMAN: Winona LaDuke, I want to thank you for being with us, longtime Anishinaabe activist who’s been organizing for years to block the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, executive director of Honor the Earth. Her latest book, To Be a Water Protector.
As we continue with these arrested developments, we’ll go to another woman who was arrested this week, in Washington, D.C., the Reverend Liz Theoharis of the Poor People’s Campaign. Stay with us.