FARGO — From Bemidji to Park Rapids and now Fargo, environmental activists are protesting by dancing in front of banks and other organizations they’re asking to divest from fossil fuel interests, specifically the Line 3 replacement project that runs through northern Minnesota.
Holding signs while swaying to modern pop songs, country and Native American music from groups like the Snotty Nose Rez Kids, five people showed up in front of the Wells Fargo bank in downtown Fargo Tuesday, May 18, for “Dance the Line Away," an event held every Tuesday.
The dancers' message to Wells Fargo was simple: honor Indigenous treaties, divest from fossil fuels and begin preparing for alternative energies.
“I’m here for everyone, for you, for your family,” said Gina Peltier of Grand Forks. “A lot of people don’t know what is going on, and a lot of people are misinformed. And this is a fun way to bring awareness, just people dancing on the streets.”
Staci Schiller, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, said the bank respects all people engaging in the conversation surrounding fossil fuel exploration and development, but didn't address activists' concerns directly.
“Wells Fargo is a leader in financing renewable energy, having deployed more than $10 billion in support of utility-scale renewable energy projects since 2005. As part of our goal to reach net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, including financed emissions, we have committed to continuing engagement with our customers, providing capital and sector-level expertise in support of their own low-carbon transition efforts," Schiller said.
The dancing events, which are organized partly by Honor the Earth, an environmental group opposed to Line 3, have been ongoing for months and have occurred five times in Fargo.
Peltier and others with her call themselves water protectors. Many have been or will be going to camps in northern Minnesota that are pitted against the pipeline, which threatens wetlands and waterways and enters Anishinaabe tribal lands, according to Honor the Earth.
“We are so nonviolent. We have little women out there who put their lives on the line," said Peltier, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. "This is everybody’s water, not just Indigenous water."
Ernest “Joey” Oppegaard-Peltier, a full-time caretaker, called upon Wells Fargo to divest from Enbridge's Line 3 project, a 1,097-mile crude oil pipeline from Edmonton, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin.
“It’s not a partisan issue. We’re looking at the short-term jobs Enbridge is pushing when we should be looking at long-term alternative energy projects. The next economy is not going to be fossil fuels,” said Oppegaard-Peltier, who was born in Grafton, N.D.
Passing cars honked at the sight of the dancers. “Honks and encouraging support outweigh the nasty comments,” said Oppegaard-Peltier, who's running for Congress in Minnesota's 7th District, which covers most of the western part of the state.
Hannah Cook of Moorhead said she dances to support Indigenous people and their fight in northern Minnesota against Line 3.
“I’ll be out here until it ends, doing whatever I can to stop it,” Cook said. “We’re not just about fighting pipelines, we’re about changing the way people view oil.”
Kendra Wolfe and her 3-year-old son Orin from Detroit Lakes danced together outside the bank.
“Line 3 goes through 1855 treaty lands, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to respect the water. I grew up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and they will be drilling dangerously close to the headwaters,” Wolfe said.
She became active in protesting the pipeline after the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, and has been to the camps protesting Line 3.
“When you realize they’re fighting that hard to protect a pipeline, you start to realize some things you were taught as a child might not be the right thing,” Wolfe said.
Tracey Wilkie was born in Fargo, but grew up on the Turtle Mountain Reservation. So far, she’s danced four times in Fargo.
“The U.S. has countless treaties it hasn’t honored with Indigenous nations, and we saw that at Standing Rock,” said Wilkie, referring to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in 2016 and 2017. “It’s my duty to stand up for water."
“Dance the Line Away” events are open to the public and take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Starting May 21, the events will also be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on Fridays and food will be served.