Open Letter to Beltrami County

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BY WINONA LADUKE

In late February, the Beltrami County Commissioners approved the Sheriff Department’s request for a mutual aid agreement with various northern Minnesota agencies to beef up for their assessment of an imminent approval for Enbridge’s Line 3. Their decision is morally wrong.

I want to thank Commissioner Tim Sumner for his No vote on this matter on February 20th. It is nice to see courage. Tim Sumner is a Red Lake Tribal member and the only Commissioner who voted against the militarizing of the North.

In comparison, the city of Duluth, when deliberating on purchasing $82,000 worth of riot gear in 2018 and another $41,000 in 2019 decided not to militarize. That was a decision by the Duluth City Council. And, that was because people asked why the police would prepare to injure Minnesota citizens when there are so many other needs for a good police force in the north country.

It’s disturbing that Bemidji, a city with three reservations surrounding it, would begin militarizing for a “DAPL-like” summer. What if the state of Minnesota and the Beltrami County Commissioners decided that protecting Minnesota was more important than protecting a Canadian Pipeline Company? In short, Beltrami County Commissioners should rescind their vote.

Beltrami County’s decision sends a message that protecting the rights of corporations over the rights of people is acceptable. It is troublesome because many of us were at Standing Rock and experienced extreme violence at the hands of police, military, paramilitary and other forces. Northern Minnesota is not North Dakota; we neither have the oil interests slathering our politicians (one would hope), nor do we have the hatred for Native people that earned North Dakota the nickname “the Deep North”. Or do we?

Now is the time, Beltrami County, to decide if you are willing to seize people’s land and shoot at them, to insure the profits of a Canadian oil pipeline company. Now is the time to make a decision not to do that.

Let me remind Beltrami County of what happened. Hundreds of people were injured as they were attacked by dogs, and had rubber bullets and percussion grenades lobbed at them, as well as freezing water and a host of other propellants. People were sprayed with gases and had toxins dropped on them from planes. Tigerswan, a paramilitary security force, was brought in from the middle east to fan fires, and many people’s lives have been changed forever. The company which owned one third of the Dakota Access pipeline is Enbridge.

The Water Protector Legal Collective reports 854 people were arrested. These people, like the “Valve Turners”…aka Water Protectors, are teachers, librarians, doctors, movie stars, veterans, priests, and politicians. They are like us. And many of them are us, they are from Minnesota. They are Water Protectors.

Minnesota does not have to be North Dakota. In fact, it does not have to approve the permit for the pipeline. It is the decision of this state, no other entity, and that decision will be made by the Public Utilities Commission in June. No pipeline approval, no major encampment of Water Protectors, no need for guns, no need to shoot your neighbor or their children. That’s what this is about.

And for you Beltrami County, I need to ask you one more time if you want to shoot me to protect the profits of the Enbridge company? Do you want to shoot the citizens of Minnesota, Anishinaabeg people and our Water Protectors because we want to protect the water? That’s what this is about.