Report back from Dayna L and Tessa E
On Wednesday, August 25, Indigenous Water Protectors and supporters completed the final leg of their 256-mile Treaty People Walk for Water, which started at the Firelight Encampment in Northern Minnesota and ended at the Minnesota state capitol building in St. Paul. The walk opened a new chapter in the efforts to stop the construction of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy Company, though protests against Line 3 have been ongoing for years, and have escalated throughout this spring and summer as Enbridge rushes to complete the project. In an address to the crowd at the capitol, Joe Morales, who is Lakota and one of the organizers of the walk, explained that he and other organizers made the decision to take the fight to the capitol because they were “Tired of not being heard.”
“This is not an Indigenous problem. This is a human problem. When the pipeline leaks, everybody is screwed. Not just Indian people. Not just the people down river. Everybody. You cannot drink oil,” Morales said.
Earlier in the day, the walkers were joined by hundreds of supporters at a park roughly one-and-a-half miles away from the capitol, where the individuals who had made the entire sixteen-day journey were celebrated. After a song to honor the Indigenous children whose bodies were recently found buried at boarding schools throughout North America, Indigenous elders invited supporters to join them in completing their trek in respectful, prayerful silence for the lost children. The next thirty minutes were powerful and emotional. Roughly 1,500 people filled the streets of St. Paul and walked together without speaking until they reached the capitol building, where hundreds more supporters were waiting and where Indigenous grandmothers had been holding ceremonial space since the day before.
Shamefully, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, who has abandoned his previous position that “any line that goes through treaty lands is a nonstarter for me,” responded to this outpouring of opposition to Line 3 and support for treaty rights by locking down the state capitol building. The “people’s house” in St. Paul was surrounded by tall metal fencing and guarded by state troopers. But Water Protectors were not deterred. After songs and dancing to honor the walkers, supporters heard from a number of speakers including Sam Strong, tribal secretary of the Red Lake Nation, and Winona La Duke, director of Honor the Earth. Later in the afternoon, organizers decided to continue to occupy the space in front of the capitol building and an estimated 400 hundred water protectors and supporters stayed overnight on the capitol lawn.
Many speakers circled back to this central idea, “Don’t abandon us when you go home.” It’s great that so many people were able to make it out to the last miles of the water walk and the cemeromy and speakers, but we have to remember to stay active. After you go home from the protest what do you do? Well, leaders in the fight against Line 3 have many different answers for you. You can help bring visibility to the struggles of native people, follow their news, share, and show up. Please check out these sites for more information: