In late May, I traveled to Minnesota by train with three other local grandmothers — Janie Kesselman, Shirley Osgood, and Joyce Bantzaff — to join a 31-member delegation from the Bay Area 1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations.
Our goal was to highlight the intergenerational nature of the struggle to end the dirty tar sands Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. Together we visited and helped at the Water Defenders Camp, which serves as a reception center for Line 3 activists, hosted young indigenous activists from the front-line camp to commemorate the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death, and we held two public demonstrations, including one at the Governor of Minnesota Mansion in St. Paul.
The Bay Area delegation included Lakota grandmothers from South Dakota, two of whom were associated with the American Indian Movement and have fought for the rights of indigenous peoples and the rights of Mother Earth for over 50 years. We have all been driven by caring for today’s children, the natural world and our non-human relatives, as well as future generations.
Our grandmothers’ trip was a harbinger of the Treaty People’s Gathering in early June in support of the Anisinaabe people, whose treaty rights are threatened by this pipeline (see #TreatyPeopleGathering).
Mass demonstrations are taking place along the pipeline construction route. Thousands are participating, including indigenous leaders, celebrities, climate justice activists and others who understand what is at stake if the construction of oil and gas pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure continues to prolong the fossil fuel era. People participate in major public events, including non-violent civil disobedience at pipeline construction sites.
The Nevada County contingent stayed one extra day and participated in an Aboriginal youth protest in which two youths were arrested for trespassing and stopping workers from continuing construction as they climbed onto a newly laid pipeline. The four of us did not dare to be arrested and made it to the train to return that night. We returned home grateful that we were welcomed and included, sober with everything that we have learned and have not yet learned about respect for indigenous leadership.
The Enbridge Line 3 pipeline will run from Canada through the headwaters of the Mississippi and Minnesota Lake Country, threatening its pristine waters. It also passes through the sacred ancient wild rice beds traditionally harvested by the Anisinaabe people. This land is under a treaty with the Anisinaabe, who have the right to hunt, fish and collect wild rice threatened by this pipeline. Contractual rights are national law that prevails over federal or state law.
Canadian corporation Enbridge has a terrible safety record, with over 1,068 pipeline spills spilled until 2013, spilling 7.4 million gallons of oil. Catastrophic spills continue. Enbridge refers to the new Line 3 as a “replacement pipeline,” although it is building 300 miles of pipeline along the new route, abandoning the old pipeline due to its in situ collapse and doubling the amount of dirty tar sands oil.
Climate activists argue that long-term fossil-fueled infrastructure such as pipelines is forcing us to increase greenhouse gas emissions and raise global temperatures for decades. This project alone will impact the climate of 50 coal mines, countering Minnesota’s plans to reduce climate change through investments in renewable energies, green jobs, energy-efficient buildings and electric vehicles.
Since 2011, the United States has been a net exporter of fossil fuels. Our fossil fuel exports are not counted under the Paris Climate Agreements. Thus, even if we reduce emissions at the national level while continuing to increase our fossil fuel exports, we will nullify our stated intentions to reduce global climate change. The cessation of the construction of new oil and gas pipelines is a necessary step towards solving the problem of climate change.
Finally, solidarity with indigenous peoples in their struggle for a livable world is a way to reaffirm local wisdom and attitudes that take us away from a worldview that promotes market-based society organization to a worldview that fosters organization around caring for the entire community of life. It lays the foundation for actions that affect the future by promoting good and healing the past.
For anyone convinced that fighting Line 3 is an important endeavor, there are many actions we can take. Indigenous leaders are demanding that their supporters ask President Biden to cancel the pipeline. Find the petition here: https://www.stopline3.org/take-action… Go to https://www.stopline3.org/biden for more information on how to contact Biden and let him know there is a large and varied generational movement towards # StopLine3. Photos of our trip and more information can be found on the Earth Ministry of Justice Facebook page, accessed from earth-justice.org org.
Sharon Delgado is a grandmother, former United Methodist pastor, author and activist. Her blog is sharondelgado.org. To find out more visit https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/reports/dangerous-pipelines/. and https://www.oilandwaterdontmix.org/enbridge_safety_record…