Pearl River I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to visit with Gina Peltier, a self-described water protector on Wade’s World. Small problem, she was in jail, although she hoped to be released sometime on the day before the interview. When I asked her why she had been held, she told me that she had been arrested and charged with being a “public nuisance” for praying on a bridge to protect the land and water from pipeline construction.
Gina, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa, is an organizer, activist, and now veteran campaigner in the continuing struggle against the construction of the Line 3 pipeline running through tribal lands and water crossings in Minnesota. The line has been under construction for some years by a Canadian company Enbridge to bring the challenging tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to depots on Lake Superior and on from there for sale to China largely, and absolutely not for Minnesota or the United States. Besides the fact that the line crosses treaty lands dating more than 150 years, Gina underlines that part of the huge risk from the line involves its twenty-two river crossings. All pipelines have leaks. Two of the crossings are over the Mississippi River, so a spill there means that we also drink the problem all along the river in St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans.
But, why, so a Canadian company and some oil interests can make a buck, while we clean up and endure the damage, which seems inevitable? In a bitter irony, the Canadian government refused to permit the expansion, which is what led Enbridge to move to a more southerly route for Line 3 through the United States.
This is a tough fight, as Gina explained. It has been endless, it seems, and construction is almost 75% complete. Minnesota’s governor tried to stop it, but the permitting is federal. President Biden blocked the permit for the Standing Rock pipeline, but not Line 3. The StopLine3 campaign has been relentless but has not been able to attract the attention or national focus that Standing Rock generated. Civil disobedience leading to the arrest of nineteen on days before Gina’s recent prayer arrest are often unable to even generate media and public attention in Minnesota. Days before we visited, tribal and environmental lawyers had gone into court to try to block Line 3. Campaigners are hopeful that these lawsuits will raise the profile and odds of the fight.
Stopping Line 3 should not be a lonely fight, but a cause celebre. Gina, Honor the Earth, and other groups at the front lines in protecting our land and water deserve our support, and they need it now.