Sleeping with the Wiindigo, and how to wake up


By Winona LaDuke

Way to go Fond du Lac. First you all throw us under the bus over a pipeline. All Minnesota Chippewa Tribes opposed the pipeline formally, but then, you went rogue on us. We all sort of get it, after all it was a difficult decision, sort of a Sophie’s Choice decision forced upon you by the rogue Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approval of Line 3. Honestly, $250 million is a good selling price for a tribe, if you’re gonna take it.

Now Step Two. Fond du Lac is hosting educational workshops. The first is on sex trafficking and the impact of pipelines on Native women and others facing trafficking. The second workshop is on all you need to know about Native people in Minnesota. Much of it will be helpful for Law enforcement. The third workshop should be called How to Taze your Gramma Lite.

It’s aimed at repressing Native people who are protecting our water. The workshop, Law Enforcement Active Diffusion Strategies Plus Tactical Options L.E.A.D.S. + T, according to their description, “is a classroom based combat-confrontation avoidance course. Based upon the L.O.C.K.U.P.® Police Combat system, it teaches within a classroom setting how to recognize aggression and to not stimulate aggression. Students learn Active Diffusion Strategies that can avoid or resolve interactions by employing effective de-escalation methods. The course also adds distraction techniques that promote successful tactical applications. The course also discusses tactical responses when diffusion tactics are inappropriate or ineffective. Instruction uses lectures and demonstrations. No special equipment is required”… Good to know. Keep that taser in the squad car.

Arguably, Fond du Lac, whose Chairman Kevin Dupuis went to Standing Rock NoDAPL, does not want to see $38 million worth of military repression on Native people. However, the event, sponsored by the Fond du Lac Police Force and the TRUST project, is called “Meeting the Challenge” and is geared towards police officers in northern Minnesota. It’s held at the Black Bear Casino. Almost half of those on the contact list are sheriffs from North Dakota and Minnesota.

It turns out that money can buy you love in a few places. After all, Enbridge spent $11 million this year, the largest amount of any corporate interest, to lobby the PUC to issue a Certificate of Need for that dirty oil pipeline that no one really wants except Enbridge. That means that the citizens and the tribes had to sue.

See You in Court
First, the White Earth Nation, together with Mille Lacs and Red Lake, sued the PUC in the state court of appeals, arguing that the environmental impact statement (EIS) for Line 3 was inadequate. As Paul Blackburn, Counsel for Honor the Earth explains, “If the Minnesota courts overrule the PUC, they would send the EIS back to the PUC and require supplementation so that it complies with law. But then the PUC would need to reconsider its approval of Line 3 in light of a proper EIS.

Second, a number of organizations, including Honor the Earth, sued the PUC in state court of appeal on the basis that its route permit approval violates state law. If the court overturns the route permit, it would send the decision back to the PUC for reconsideration in accordance with law.

Third, a number of tribes and environmental groups and possibly the Minnesota Department of Commerce are likely to sue on the PUC’s grant of a certificate of need on the basis that it failed to comply with a number of legal requirements. The question is, who needs this pipeline? And it’s a good question.

“Rather than consider a forecast need of Minnesota consumers as well as consumers throughout the country, for more gasoline, diesel and other fuels, as required by law,” Blackburn said, “the Commissioners based their decision on the oil industry’s forecast plans to drill more oil wells in Canada.”

That’s all changed. There are not new oil wells in Canada – there’s an 8% cut in production in the Alberta Tar Sands Fields, and new investors are not flocking in, they are bailing out. As well, Minnesota’s petroleum fuel consumption has dropped 19% since 2004. Even nationally, the increase in demand for petroleum fuels is limited and far below the huge increases in US extraction of oil through fracking. The US is flooded with crude oil, exporting oil and doesn’t need any more. Instead, the oil industry wants to increase oil exports, which are now over 8 million barrels of oil per day. That’s three times more than all of the crude oil currently imported by Enbridge from Canada.

Enbridge has even invested in the Texas Colt Offshore Loading Terminal in the Gulf of Mexico of Freeport, Texas. This terminal would be able to load super tankers that can carry up to 2 million barrels per day to foreign oil buyers. That’s where Line 3 is going, most likely for export.

Fourth, Enbridge still needs to get water quality permits from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which regulates water quality protection, along with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. If these agencies fail to follow the related water laws, including impacts of climate change and grant permits, they too will be sued after their final permit decisions late this year. The Red Lake Nation has asked the Army Corps of Engineers to be a participating agency in this process.

Things are not Swell
U.S. oil production is responsible for the largest increase in this year’s global record greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a problem. Tar sands are the dirtiest oil in the world. That’s another problem.

The truth is that citizens are making a difference. Gasoline sales in Minnesota have been dropping since 2016. Hybrid and electric cars are popping up everywhere, and sales are rapidly increasing. Citizens are doing their part to protect our environment by cutting back on use of oil. But American industry is far behind, shackled by fossil fuels. Now it’s the Chinese that are miles ahead of the U.S. in electric vehicle technology and sales.

Times are changing, but the Enbridge and PUC are political, economic dinosaurs. We don’t need a new pipeline – we need more electric vehicle charging stations and wind and solar farms to power them. That’s the future.

This past month Enbridge announced that the company expected a one year delay on the pipeline construction, which until late February had been scheduled for completion at the end of 2019. There are no tar sands pipelines moving ahead – anywhere. They have all been stopped in courts. That makes Enbridge pretty desperate, and in fact, makes Canada desperate. As Oil Price and Industry publication noted, “advisers from the oil province (are) saying the lack of pipeline capacity and the continuing uncertainty about when – if ever – this capacity will get a boost is discouraging potential buyers from expanding their presence in the oil sands.” Makes you almost want to cry, how sad we feel for those oil companies.

Gotta Buy some Love
Still trying to get more friends, Enbridge’s new forays into Indian Country includes the hiring of White Earth’s former Secretary Treasurer Robert Durant as the latest tribal liaison for Enbridge. Durant follows other tribal liaisons, aka Indian Whisperers, who had limited success in discussions with tribes. He also follows some prominent Canadian political leaders who decided to dine with the Wiindigos.

Meanwhile, Gordon Construction, led by White Earth’s Matt Gordon, always a supporter of Enbridge, has landed some big bucks to watch pipe yards, and do other “cool” things for Enbridge.

In late March, I went for a ride to look at my territory and there were Gordon Construction trucks, taking up most of the road in front of the pipe yard. I have to say that I had a flashback to the checkpoint at Standing Rock. If it ever gets to the Civil War in the North Country, I am really sure that Matt Gordon will be doing double duty against tribal people. Sad to say.

Risky Business
There are a number of state and federal permits still not issued. There are legal challenges to not only the route, but the certificate of need itself. It’s not clear that there will be any final approvals. It is clear that there will be a lot of litigation. And Line 3 is just part of Enbridge’s latest problem. In late March, the Michigan Attorney General issued an opinion that Enbridge’s end run to get a new pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac was likely unconstitutional. That means that Enbridge has a lot of problems, and that also means that no one really wants a new tar sands pipeline.

I think that Enbridge CEO Al Monaco’s Indian name is Ataage Inini (Man who Likes to Gamble), because this is for sure a gamble. We refer to this as the Last Tar Sands Pipeline, or the Most Expensive Pipeline Never Built.

No time like the present to move on, I’d say. We need more solar, the corporations to clean up their messes, and for them to not be rewarded with new pipeline routes.

* Update: The Minnesota DOC filed the appeal on the Certificate of Need on March 30th.