PARK RAPIDS, Minn. -- Calling it a “gathering of grandmothers opposed to Line 3,” Indigenous women leaders – along with actor and activist Jane Fonda – assembled on the banks of the Crow Wing River Monday afternoon.

Fonda joined Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, and Tara Houska, founder of Giniw Collective, to support their effort to stop Enbridge’s pipeline project.

The news conference was held at Tree Farm Landing, where LaDuke said drilling will begin nearby. “So what you’re looking at is basically the scene of the crime that they want to have,” she said. “This is the river Enbridge wants to drill.”

Water protectors from other resistance camps along the Line 3 route attended the gathering. They hailed from White Earth, Palisade and Fond du Lac.
Water protectors from other resistance camps along the Line 3 route attended the gathering. They hailed from White Earth, Palisade and Fond du Lac. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)

Tribal rights, climate crisis

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LaDuke noted that the Line 3 project is “certainly within Ojibwe treaty territory and certainly Ojibwe women understand our responsibility to be water protectors, but it’s really all of our responsibility to be water protectors.”

Fonda said she was invited to stand with her Anishinaabe friends and bring attention to a pipeline that will go under 200 bodies of water, including the Mississippi River.

“We’re allowing a foreign oil company to bring the most poisonous oil across this sacred land and across our country to be exported at a time when science says we are confronting an existential climate crisis,” she continued. “We have very little time. We have 10 years, science says, to cut our fossil fuel emissions in half.”

Fonda said Line 3 is both an environmental crime as well as a tribal rights crime.

She thanked pipeline workers for doing dangerous, dirty work. A transition to other union jobs should be part of the conversation, she said.

Fonda mentioned that her friends were stopped by local law enforcement on the way to the event, causing her to be late.

“You better believe that the best Constitutional rights lawyers in the country, one of whom is standing right over there, are gathering information to litigate to stop this,” Fonda said.

She urged people to go to stopline3.org to demand that Pres. Joe Biden shut down this pipeline.

At $9 billion, LaDuke said Line 3 is the most expensive tar sands pipeline in history.

She called it a “bad investment in infrastructure. What we want is a just transition. What we want is water for people, not oil companies.”

“This is a violation not only of the Creator’s law that is happening by the Enbridge corporation. This is the idea that Canadian multinationals should take our public land and public waters to make a private benefit at the end of the tar sands era,” LaDuke said.

A giant black bear and water protector puppet, seen in the background, made an appearance at the March 15 event, held at Tree Farm Landing in Wadena County.
A giant black bear and water protector puppet, seen in the background, made an appearance at the March 15 event, held at Tree Farm Landing in Wadena County. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)

Minnesota’s legacy

Houska said the Giniw Collective, a resistance camp near Park Rapids, largely comprises young people under the age of 25 who are “fighting for their future.” Close to 200 people have been charged with trespassing and being a public nuisance in connection with their protests.

She praised those who are brave enough to take a stand “because we are not going to solve climate crisis comfortably. We are not going to just solar panel and wind turbine our way out of it. That is not possible. We don’t solve it by just replacing it with a different kind of energy. We have to fundamentally change the way we are connected to the earth.”

Houska said she is heartbroken that Minnesota will be known for the murder of George Floyd and for building one of the largest tar sands infrastructure projects in North America. “That is not a good legacy to have.”

The Biden administration is listening, she added, but more people need to “be brave, be bold.”

Line 3 protesters waved a variety of flags at the Monday, March 15, event.
Line 3 protesters waved a variety of flags at the Monday, March 15, event. Shannon Geisen / Forum News Service

Grandmas speak up

“You know when the grannies roll out, you’re really in trouble, right?” LaDuke said to a chorus of cheers.

She encouraged people to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Fonda said, “Line 3 will not be completed. I’d bet my life on it.”

Prior to the news conference, Mary Lyons, an Anishinaabe elder, led an offering of tobacco to the river, explaining tobacco is considered a precious medicine. As a water protector, she said, they protect all elements “because, you see, we’re caretakers. We’re not landlords. All we do is care for this land.”

Another elder, Sharon Day, oversaw a sacred water ceremony. She invited everyone to find a waterway and make an offering. “Listen to the earth. Listen to the water,” Day said, urging people to have a connection with the land.

Lyn Pinnick’s Twin Lake home, near Menahga, sits next to Line 3. “Our concern is the water and because of the fact that it’s going to flow into my water source,” she said. “The construction is going literally between Twin Lakes.” Pipelines leak eventually, she added.

Katie Grisamore and Wayne Eimers own property on Straight River, south of Park Rapids. Line 3 goes under their property and the river. “We’ve been strongly hoping and praying it wouldn’t go through. It’s a heartbreaking development,” Grisamore said. “We feel so strongly the Lord created this beautiful land and these pure water and we’re just stewards. We just echo Winona LaDuke’s sentiments, and all the protestors, that this is a wrong thing to do to our beautiful land.”

Ojibwe elders Mary Lyons and Sharon Day led a sacred water ceremony prior to the news conference.
Ojibwe elders Mary Lyons and Sharon Day led a sacred water ceremony prior to the news conference. Shannon Geisen / Forum News Service

State representatives reply

Construction on the 340-mile Line 3 is underway, with more than 5,000 workers working on it, Enbridge officials said last month. Once complete, the pipeline will replace the existing, aging Line 3 and ferry 760,000 barrels of oil (31.92 million gallons) per day from Alberta, Canada, to Enbridge's terminal in Superior, Wis., following a new route through much of northern Minnesota. The segments in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin are already complete.

State Rep. John Burkel (R-Badger), Deb Kiel (R-Crookston), Spencer Igo (R-Grand Rapids), Dale Lueck (R-Aitkin), Steve Green (R-Fosston) and Matt Grossell (R-Clearbrook) released a joint statement, which said, “The hypocrisy from Jane Fonda on this issue, opposing this project that will protect the environment by replacing aging infrastructure, is truly Oscar worthy. This project has been studied time and time again and found to be safe for the environment and good for the economy. It is time to follow the science. This project exceeds regulatory standards and has withstood six years of scientific review. It is already providing thousands of good-paying jobs and benefiting our communities that have been so heavily impacted by the governor's shutdowns of the last year.”