Volunteer Update from the Treaty People Gathering to #StopLine3
By Annie, 350PDX Volunteer
Until this month, I had never gone out of state for a protest. Neither had I ever slept at a protest site. But when I found out that the Treaty People Gathering site was just 30 minutes from an Amtrak station (I don’t have a car); I knew it was time to experience something new. Luckily, I was able to do it without getting arrested, or even getting bit by a tick.
On June 3, I headed east on the Empire Builder train with my backpack, tent, and lots of granola bars. Two days later, I arrived at Pure Bliss camp, on White Earth Nation land, next to the meandering White Earth River. (For those who know Minnesota, we were north of Waubun.)
On my first day as a Water Protector, we painted banners in preparation for the direct action. As we painted, hundreds of dragonflies flew around us and we got to know people from all over the US. “How far did you come?” “Have you been arrested before?” “Do you have an affinity group?”
We heard lots of inspiring and enlightening words throughout the weekend. Most of the speakers were Indigenous people; many were woman leaders. (I wish I had been able to get all their names.)
The master of ceremonies, whose native name is Everlasting Wind, shared a great metaphor: “it’s like Mother Earth is stuck in a car with the windows up. We need to roll down the windows.”
As we were training for the direct action — some preparing for arrest — one of the members of RISE (Resilient Indigenous Sisters Engagement) told us: “This action is not criminal. It is not a crime to exercise our inherent treaty rights.”
Another speaker told us: “Treaties are the last big environmental tool available to all of us.”
We even got a few laughs. One trainer likened the protest structure to an ecosystem. “I won’t call it a well-oiled machine ‘cuz that shit breaks.” She also explained what the different protest colors meant: Green people leave after the first dispersal order. Yellow people leave after the second dispersal order. Red people don’t leave. “We don’t know what dispersal means.”
We were continuously reminded how important we were, whether, or not, we planned on getting arrested. The point of the gathering was to get eyes and ears — especially President Biden’s — focused on the Anishinaabe people’s 7-year struggle to stop Line 3. As the leader from RISE told us: “If I go to jail tomorrow by myself, my story will not be communicated…I really need our non-native partners to hold space with me.”
The famous activists who attended (Jane Fonda, Bill McKibben, Winona LaDuke…) also helped bring attention to the trampling of the treaties and the dangers of the pipeline.
On Monday morning, June 7, as we lined up near the Mississippi headwaters to start our march, it was very powerful and gratifying to see the media scrambling up the hill, trying to get the best shot of the crowd. We were being noticed! We were being heard! Even before anyone was arrested, the story was spreading beyond Minnesota.
After the sweaty march on Highway 9 holding up the black snake/hydra, I decided to ignore the tick risk and walked through the tall grass so I could wade in the cool waters of the Mississippi, the very water that was threatened by a pipeline crossing. While the Mississippi is a cultural and ecological icon, 66 other American waterways will also be at risk of oil spills, if Line 3 goes through.
Later, after hearing the news of the many arrests, and of the DHS helicopter flying low and kicking rocks and dirt over the protestors, my “green” affinity group decided to increase our personal risk a little and join the overnight occupation on the Enbridge boardwalk (the wooden road laid along the pipeline route for the heavy machinery).
We returned to the Mississippi headwaters at dusk, just in time to be attacked by mosquitos, but also in time to see the fireflies, which were truly magical. The lightening was also cool (though I could’ve done without the wind and rain that arrived later.) Ironically, as we scrambled over the locked gate, we saw signs with the Enbridge logo reminding us to protect the wetlands!
So many things made the Treaty People Gathering a beautiful experience: the generosity and sharing of resources among strangers; the creativity, which was evident not just in art, but also in problem-solving and strategizing; the diversity in ages, colors, genders, abilities, religions, etc; the willingness to face arrest to support the Anishinaabe people, and the outright success of the action!
While we haven’t (yet) convinced Biden to shut down Line 3, we were successful in shutting down construction for at least one day, we drew great attention to the issue, we experienced solidarity with people all over the US and even the world and we exerted treaty rights over the land and the water. Of course, this was just one battle in a long war. More people are needed in Minnesota to hold space, to stand in solidarity and to honor the treaty obligations we all share. Indigenous leaders are already calling it a Summer of Resistance.
As I look back, events are already blurring together. Oddly, it seemed like I was there longer than four days, because we accomplished so much, while at the same time, it seems like it all happened in a flash. Even as the memories and emotions from my new experiences fade, one thing for sure is going to stick with me: I am ready to do in Portland what I didn’t dare to do in Minnesota: get arrested during a protest.
Missed the Treaty People Gathering? The fight isn’t over, and now the RISE coalition are extending the call to continue the occupation. Over 200 people who attended the gathering are occupying the Mississippi headwaters. They are camped in the exact spot where Enbridge plans to begin drilling for Line 3 by July 1st.
Led by the RISE Coalition, this occupation will continue — and the call has been made for allies and accomplices to join them in exercising their treaty rights.
If you are able to join the camp at the headwaters of the Mississippi please contact Rise Coalition at RiseCoalition@protonmail.com.
If you can’t join, please donate to support the camp. The time has come to mobilize to protect the sacred.